Using valuation functions to estimate changes in the quality of a recreational experience : elk hunting in Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6w924f14x

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  • Public agencies need information on the value of recreational activities to assist in managing fish and wildlife species. Over the past two decades economists have developed and applied techniques to measure the value of such non-marketed commodities. The contingent valuation method (CVM) is one technique used by economists to measure net benefits associated with a change in the quantity or quality of a non-marketed commodity. Unlike other techniques such as the travel cost and hedonic methods, which use market data to infer willingness to pay (WTP), CVM directly elicits willingness to pay or willingness to accept (WTA) information. CVM is used in this thesis to estimate the use value of changes in the quality of the elk hunting experience. The focus of the study is elk hunting on the Starkey Research Forest in eastern Oregon. Since 1988, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the U.S. Forest Service have collected data on big game hunting on this area. The Starkey data sets provide unique research opportunities because of the enclosed nature of the Starkey Research Forest (25,000 acres surrounded by 38 miles of fence) and the duration of the survey effort (10 years). Although the surveys contain questions specific to an analysis by both the contingent valuation and travel cost methods, only the contingent valuation method is considered here. Specific objectives of the thesis research include: (1) derivation of valuation functions for the two dichotomous choice WTP and WTA elicitations, (2) estimation of changes in WTA and WTP for changes in significant explanatory variables, and (3) suggestions for improvements in future Starkey surveys. Valuation functions, as used here, provide increased flexibility over point estimates. The explanatory variables in a valuation function can be changed to obtain estimates of the corresponding changes in WTP and WTA values. The valuation functions can then be used to derive estimates of central tendency for the contingent scenarios. Results include an estimated median value of $113 per hunter for access to hunting and an estimated mean value per trip of $287 per hunter for increases in the elk herd (to ensure an opportunity to shoot at an elk). Additionally, the flexibility of valuation functions is demonstrated by showing how changes in the values of significant (at the .05 level) explanatory variables affect WTP and WTA values. Four policy and three methodological implications are gleaned from the results. The four policy implications are that: (1) the elk hunting recreational experience is providing substantial benefits to Starkey hunters, (2) willingness to pay values are sensitive to the size of respondents' incomes, (3) respondents are willing to pay more to increase the elk herd to the point where they would be virtually certain of having an opportunity to shoot at an elk and (4) Starkey hunters object to the tradeoff between their right to hunt and private goods. The three methodological implications are (1) a demonstration of the flexibility of WTP functions, (2) a confirmation of the importance of using specific and unambiguous wording in the contingent scenarios, and (3) a confirmation of the importance of pretests to determine the initial ranges and number of bids in dichotomous choice surveys. Two problems with the current surveys are the loss of efficiency due to the low number and narrow range of bids and the lack of specificity and ambiguous wording used in some of the contingent scenarios. Suggestions include increases in the number and range of the bids, the inclusion of an additional question and the inclusion of a "not for sale" category.
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