Friday, August 11, 2017

Voluntary Contributions to Hiking Trail Maintenance: Evidence From a Field Experiment in a National Park, Japan

• We examine the effects of information provision on donation behavior.
• A field experiment was conducted to in Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan.
• Announcing seed money is superior to showing the amount of others' contribution.

Donation is one of the most important solutions to inadequate funding for protected area management; however, there has been little agreement on the measures to be used to encourage visitors to donate. We conducted a field experiment in Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan, to examine the effect on donation behavior of providing information about two types of initial contributions. The first type of contribution is toward the fundraising campaign for trail maintenance and the initial amount of government funding (i.e., seed money) and information is provided about the target amount. The second type is for trail maintenance and information is provided on the value of one day's contribution by other participants. We found that announcing the seed money amount and the target significantly increased the probability of a positive contribution and raised the average contribution, compared with the control treatment of no additional announcements. When the participants knew others' contribution beforehand, the likelihood of a positive contribution increased; however, the average contribution tended to decrease. In conclusion, announcing the seed money and the fundraising target is superior to the other measures studied in this paper to raise funds in this specific context of protected area management.
With increased demand for biodiversity conservation and maintenance of ecosystem services, the coverage of protected areas expanded rapidly. By 2030, protected areas are likely to reach 15–29% of the surface area of the earth (Chape et al., 2005; Li et al., 2013 ;  McDonald and Boucher, 2011). However, most protected areas do not receive sufficient funding for their management, even though their value has been realized (Emerton et al., 2006). Although these insufficient situations are mostly reported in developing countries (Emerton et al., 2006), other countries also face the challenges of sustainable park management because of poor funding. For example, Olympic National Park in the U.S. needed $13.3 million to operate the park; however, only $7.8 million was available (NPCA, 2015). The Japanese national parks face the same problems, and the government declared a law in 2015 that allows local communities to collect an entrance fee to resolve these problems (Ministry of the Environmental, Japan, 2015). Especially, insufficient funding has significant impacts on the maintenance of trails, visitor centers, and other facilities, and leads to a lack of development of new protected areas even if the costs are relatively small. Although donation or voluntary contribution is one of the most important options to aid in sustainable management of protected areas (Emerton et al., 2006 ;  Thur, 2010), there is still much room to improve fund raising measures in most countries.
The surveys were conducted at the Numameguri Hiking Trail (NHT) in the Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan, in mid-September 2015. This is the largest Japanese terrestrial park, receiving approximately 5 million visitors per year (Ministry of the Environmental, Japan, 2016). Visitors are not charged any entrance fee. The NHT is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park because of the beautiful color of leaves in fall. However, visitors face a high risk of bear attacks; thus, they are requested to attend a lecture at an information center at the trailhead before hiking (for detail, see Kubo and Shoji, 2014). In addition, they need to be registered before hiking and are required to report their safety after hiking using a logbook. The NHT faced the risk of an insufficient management budget, especially due to reduced government funding over the last few years. A donation box at the information center was provided to cover the budget shortfall; however, it accumulated only a few thousand JPY1 per year until 2015 (personal communications with park staffs in July 2015). Thus, it was necessary for park authorities to find new measures to encourage park visitors to donate to the park management.
The questionnaires that participants in the PREV treatment received had the same information as the control treatment; however, participants were shown the amount that other participants had contributed during the first day of the experiment (40,088 JPY) by using a transparent box and bags, instead of a white box. Thus, participants were able to see a variety of contributions from 1 JPY coins to 1000 JPY notes.
Of the 934 participants, 707 participants positively donated and raised a total of 32,5045 JPY. In the control treatment, 67.5% of participants donated. Furthermore, the sample average contribution was 311.3 JPY and the average conditional contribution was 461 JPY. In the SEED treatment, the share and the sample average contribution significantly increased to 81.6% (F = 16.2, p = 0.00) and 396.7 JPY (z = − 3.66, p = 0.00), respectively. The conditional average contribution of the SEED treatment (486.1 JPY) was not statistically different from the control treatment, although it was higher than the control treatment. As for the SEED treatment, the share and the sample average contribution of the PREV treatment also significantly increased to 78.0% (F = 8.56, p = 0.00) and 336.3 JPY (z = − 2.14, p = 0.03), respectively. However, the average conditional contribution of the PREV treatment (431.4 JPY) was smaller than the control treatment, even though the difference was not statistically significant.
File:Daisetsusan national park 2005-08.JPG

We note some interesting findings from the field experiment that also have important implications for the understanding of actual donation behaviors. First, all treatments have three peaks in the distribution of their contributions—0, 500, and 1000 JPY—as described in Fig. 1. A possible explanation is that it is easy for people to choose these donations because 500 and 1000 are round numbers and because there are 500 JPY coins and 1000 JPY bills in Japan. Next, the findings from the regression analysis show that older and non-local participants contributed more than others. This is not surprising and supports previous studies (e.g., Johnston et al., 2006)—older people's income tend to be higher than that of younger people, and the higher travel costs of non-local tourists imply that they have greater motivations to hike on the mountains.
Appendix 2. Questionnaire
Through sharing of responsibilities and cooperation, administrative agencies and private organizations carry out the maintenance and management of mountain trails in the Kamikawa district of Daisetsuzan National Park, including the Numameguri Hiking Trail. Administrative agencies and private groups are assigned an annual budget of over 10 million JPY for patrolling and upkeep of activities; however, as the total length of trails is considerable, adequate maintenance and management cannot be performed.

Therefore, beginning in 2015, the “Liaison Council for the Maintenance and Management of Mountain Trails”—formed by administrative agencies and civilian organizations—began seeking donations and conducting fundraising through the establishment of the “Mountain Trails Maintenance Account.” Its purpose is to strengthen nature conservation initiatives by mountain trail maintenance through allotting funds for the purchase of sufficient trail maintenance materials. For example, this year, ten wooden walkways were installed on the Numameguri Hiking Trail using these funds, as countermeasures against mud [while funds of over 500,000 JPY have been raised this year, the goal for total donations and fundraising stands at one million JPY].
Takahiro Kubo 1, Yasushi Shoji 2, Takahiro Tsuge 3, Koichi Kuriyama 4
1. Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies, National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan
2. Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University, Japan
3. Faculty of Economics, Konan University, Japan
4. Division of Natural Resource Economics, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan
Ecological Economics via Elsevier Science Direct
Volume 144; February, 2018; Pages 124–128; Available online 8 August 2017
Keywords: Donation; Field experiment; Information provision; National park; Park management; Voluntary contribution

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