Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Econometric Analysis of Private Decisions on Renewable Natural Resources

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  • Natural resources play a crucial role in human society by providing both market value and non-market value. Effective management of these resources is necessary to achieve a balance between economic value and other non-market benefits. Econometric studies focusing on natural resource management help us understand the costs and benefits of conservation, the impact of policies, and the factors that influence decision-making in renewable resource management. However, conducting econometric analyses in this field is relatively rare due to challenges associated with quasi-experimental designs and data limitations. This dissertation aims to contribute to this area by examining the efficiency of conservation efforts, unintended consequences of carbon policies, and the key factors driving the management of natural forests and plantations. The dissertation consists of three econometric analyses. The first analysis evaluates the efficiency of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in their endeavors to restore endangered and threatened salmon populations in the Pacific region. Using a unique panel dataset with detailed salmon population data, this analysis provides empirical evidence of the positive influence of NGOs' expenditure on salmon population recovery. Furthermore, the cost-benefit estimation demonstrates significant benefits outweighing the costs for one particular species. The second analysis investigates whether the expansion of the wood pellet industry has led to the unintended conversion of natural forests into plantations in the Southeastern United States. By utilizing Forest Inventory and Analysis and wood pellet industry data, this study examines the relationship between proximity to wood pellet mills and land use changes from natural forests to plantations. Applying traditional two-way fixed effects models and Callaway and Sant'anna estimators, consistent evidence of unintended consequences stemming from this expansion and its impact on natural forest conversion is revealed. The third analysis focuses on identifying the key factors influencing landowners' decisions regarding broad land uses, including plantations, natural forests, agricultural land, and urban land. Utilizing 20 years of observational Forest Inventory and Analysis data, a comprehensive forest land rent factor is constructed, incorporating variables such as stand age, forest type, timber price fluctuations, soil quality, and regeneration type. A nested logit model is employed to analyze landowners' decision-making processes, encompassing both broad land use choices and choices within forests (plantation and natural forest). The results indicate that higher hardwood sawtimber prices incentivize landowners to preserve a greater proportion of natural forests, particularly those dominated by hardwood species.
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