W2133: Benefits and Costs of Natural Resources Policies Affecting Public and Private Lands
Statement of Issues and JustificationNatural resource agencies and institutions at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as private landowners, attempt to balance economic growth and environmental quality. Emphasis on environmental quality is evident in provisions of the most recent Farm Bills; in agricultural land preservation programs at the local, state and federal levels; and in legislative mandates to federal agencies to justify their decisions regarding how natural resources are to be managed, including protecting environmental quality, providing wildlife habitat, and providing access for recreation.
In federal regulatory impact analyses, agencies use a benefit-cost analysis framework, which requires quantification of the monetary value of all natural resources, including those not traded in markets and thus lacking market prices. The need for valid and reliable economic estimates of non-market resources continues to grow as management philosophies and people's demands for environmental quality change. For example, federal land management agencies have adopted ecosystem management as a guiding principle, which requires information on environmental, social, and economic aspects of the quality of, and / or project impacts on, natural resources. The objectives of this regional research project are designed to provide non-market benefit and cost information needed by decision makers in the public and private sectors. The rechartered project will address important stakeholder issues such as recreation access to public and private lands; the valuation of ecosystem services; and effective management of natural hazards such as invasive species and forest fires.
Public and private agencies / institutions have expressed significant interest in the information provided through W1133. Stakeholders, such as USDA Forest Service and DOI Bureau of Land Management personnel, who participate in workshops on economics and social analyses, have requested information on non-market valuation of wildlife and other non-marketed attributes of natural resources. Stakeholder interest is directly evident from the frequent and extensive participation by them in W1133 annual meetings, including USDA Forest Service, USDA Economic Research Service, NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, US Environmental Protection Agency, and private consultants, among others. W1133's research results help shape plans and policies (USDA Forest Service Strategic Plan and Resource Planning Act values, NOAA type A damage assessments), and direct future grant solicitations (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2005).
Experiment Stations gain several advantages from participating in W1133. This project brings together experts from across the country while avoiding duplication of effort in the development, design, and application of statistical models and survey methods. W1133 combines complementary specialized expertise at different experiment stations and federal agencies to leverage advancements in methods and applications, such as integrating quantitative methods (Nevada, New York and Iowa) with empirical applications (Colorado, Georgia and Michigan).
The organizational infrastructure created by W1133 generates synergies in non-market valuation research, which would likely dissipate should this research project not be rechartered. Without a regional project, there will likely be duplication of research effort and fragmented gains in information due to limited resources at individual Experiment Stations. Failure to conduct proposed research will leave many federal and state agencies without information needed to evaluate the economic effects of natural resource policies and management plans for public and private lands.
Proceedings from W1133 annual meetings, agency publications, and co-authored journal articles document the sustained collaboration of and contributions by participating Experiment Stations. Prior advancements in theory and applications of environmental economics made by this project have built a sound foundation for important refinements and new empirical applications by this group and other Experiment Stations and agencies over the next five years. Given many members of participating Experiment Stations have formal extension appointments and work closely with collaborators within and outside of W1133, broad dissemination of research results to various stakeholders occurs through public and agency workshops and cooperative extension publications.
This regional research project creates and maintains human and network capital infrastructures that can rapidly respond to requests of local, state and federal resource managers and policy makers for evaluating emerging policy issues. Often similar management and policy issues arise in different states. The ability of each Experiment Station's scientists to leverage the expertise of their fellow members in W1133 enables their rapid response to emerging issues through applications of the methods, survey instruments, and information originally developed by other W1133 members to address similar issues in their states. Note too that state membership has grown in the past decade, which indicates increasing interest in policy relevant non-market valuation and further expansion of the portfolio of researcher expertise.
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