Three Essays on the Valuation of Natural Resources in Recreation and Tourism
Type of Degreedissertation
Forest Economics and Policy
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This dissertation examines the demand behavior of recreational participants, their preference for resource attributes and their valuations of nature-based outdoor activities and related natural resources. The results are presented in the form of three separate chapters (2, 3 and 4) in journal publication formats. In the context of a recent controversy over the trend in nature-based recreation demand, Chapter 2 estimates the demand for and welfare value of consumptive nature-based recreation (CNR) in the United States and examines if this value changed between 1996 and 2006. Demand is estimated using the travel cost model framework and the standard, truncated and zero-inflated count data models. The hypothesis that the demand for CNR trips was identical in the two sample years is rejected. A demand-supply model shows a downward shift in demand for CNR trips along a negatively sloped long-run supply curve between the two study years implying that CNR is a decreasing cost industry. Although total participation declined between 1996 and 2006, results suggest that per capita willingness to pay (WTP) for CNR, in 2006 constant dollars, was higher in 2006. However, declined participation offset the higher per capita WTP in 2006 and resulted in an aggregate economic value of CNR not significantly different from that in 1996. An important unresolved issue regarding inconsistencies in welfare measures from truncated and untruncated count data models is also addressed in this paper. Results suggest that welfare estimates from truncated models may not be appropriate for extrapolating to the general population and justify efforts in collecting additional data on nonparticipants. Chapter 3 examines the influence of state attributes on the choice of destination states by freshwater anglers. Using revealed preference data on anglers who participated in freshwater fishing in twelve southeast states in 2006, this paper estimates the values that anglers place on social, infrastructural and environmental characteristics of states and examines how these values vary by angler characteristics. Estimated mixed logit models suggest that anglers are less likely to participate in freshwater fishing in states where toxic releases to surface water and air, crime rate, and the extent of urbanization are high. On the other hand, anglers prefer states with more sunshine and greater recreational and forest acreages. Willingness to pay for state attributes varies significantly in the population of anglers. Although angler characteristics do not fully explain this variation, results suggest that urbanites and males place higher values on state attributes than their rural and female counterparts, respectively. Willingness to pay also increases with income. Finally, Chapter 4 estimates the monetary value of urban forests’ non-price benefits to tourists. Data collected by face-to-face self-administered survey of urban tourists in Savannah, Georgia is used to estimate tourists’ willingness to pay (WTP) for urban forests by the contingent valuation method. WTP is found higher among tourists with graduate school education and higher income. Results also suggest that tourists with family are willing to pay less, likely because of lower disposable income in larger households. Positive perceptions about the importance and quality of urban forests increase WTP. Loyal tourists are found to be willing to pay more for urban forests. The estimated annual value of urban forests to tourists in Savanna ranges from a minimum of US $62 million to a maximum of US $117 million.