Category: Sociopolitical Research
Title: Estimating willingness to pay for watershed restoration in Flagstaff, Arizona using dichotomous-choice contingent valuation.
Author: Mueller, J.M.
Subject: Watershed, Flagstaff, Willingness to Pay
Abstract: Ecological restoration can play a pivotal role in restoring forest health and mitigating catastrophic wildfire potential (Allen et al., 2002). The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) seeks to restore .970 000 hectares of Ponderosa pine forests across four National Forests in Arizona. Restored forests maintain a more resilient structure that encourages natural surface fire regimes, discourages tree seedling recruitment, overstocking and thus reduces the consequent threat of stand-replacing wildfire (Mast, 2003). After treatment areas are initially thinned, maintaining this forest condition requires follow-up management such as frequent burning or restoration monitoring.Without large-scale intervention, fire suppression and rehabilitation costs will continue to grow, impeding the ability to maintain forest conditions into the future (Covington, 2000; Snider et al., 2003). Costs, however, remain a significant barrier to restoration. Despite high restoration costs and the scale of the challenge, numerous economic analyses confirm that it is more cost-effective to restore forests than to pay the costs associated with severe wildfire (Snider et al., 2003; Berry, 2010; Wu et al., 2011). Funding exists for the initial treatment for 4FRI; however, future funding for monitoring and maintenance is uncertain. One potentialway to mitigate the funding issues from4FRI is to charge the beneficiaries of the restorationand use thepayments to fund monitoring and maintenance. An essential step in devising potential payments is to estimate the potential non-market benefits of the 4FRI restoration. A large body of research exists investigating the non-market values of catastrophic wildfire and the values of reduction in wildfire risk in high-risk areas. In addition, many researchers have estimated the non-market values of wildfires, wildfire risk and reduction. For example, Mueller et al. (2009) find that proximity to wildfires has a statistically significant decrease in sale price of homes using a hedonic property model. Donovan et al. (2007) also apply a hedonic property model to estimate the value of wildfire risk on home values. They compare house prices before and after information on wildfire risk is provided online for 35 000 homes in Colorado Springs, CO. Wildfire risk has a positive correlation with home value before the information is provided, however, afterwards there is no positive correlation. Contingent valuation (CV) methods have also been applied to estimate values of wildfire reduction (Loomis et al., 2009), values for different treatment options including thinning and prescribed burning (Walker et al., 2007) and prescribed fire (Kaval et al., 2007). This study differs from previous because it focuses on estimating the benefits of forest restoration in a municipal watershed. I estimate Willingness to Pay (WTP) for forest restoration in the Lake Mary and Upper Rio de Flag watersheds. The 4FRI landscape-scale restoration initiative plans to restore all of the ponderosa pine forests in the Lake Mary watershed and 11 500 acres in the Rio de Flag watershed. Both the Lake Mary and Upper Rio de Flag watersheds provide municipal water for residents of Flagstaff, Arizona. Thus, Flagstaff residents are key beneficiaries of the restoration through potential increases in the quantity and quality of their municipal water supply; Flagstaff residents will also benefit from reduced catastrophic wildfire and consequent post-fire flood risk. This study contributes to the current body of research about the benefits of forest restoration in severalways. First, while previous studies have estimated the WTP for various types of forest restoration and wildfire risk reduction, fewstudies have estimated the WTP for additional water-related ecosystem services following a change in forest restoration. In addition, this study investigates residential water users’ WTP in the arid Southwest, an area with a rich body of research into the science of forest restoration, yet lacking in studies estimating the non-market values of restoration. Finally, I use uncommonly applied Bayesian estimation techniques to obtain WTP.
Identifier: 87(2): 327-333
Publisher: Advance Access publication