Measuring Forest Resource Values: An Assessment Of Choice Experiments And Preference Construction Methods As Public Involvement Tools
Human values arising from forests include market and non-market values. Timber values and values of non-timber forest products traded in markets (berries, wild rice, etc.) are considered market values. Among non-market values are recreation values and values associated with wildlife harvesting by Aboriginal People. These are considered non-market because participation in these activities does not require the purchase of market based permits; prices do not function as rationing devices in these activities. In addition to non-market values arising from activities, individuals may also have values associated with forest conditions (biodiversity, etc.). These are referred to as passive use values since the value is not associated with any specific use of the resource or activity related to the forest. Since forests in Canada are largely on public land, these passive use values are particularly relevant to Canadian forest management. These values reveal the preferences of the public for components of forest management. Eliciting these values is a form of public involvement in that the public is engaged in assessing forest management options and providing opinions and sentiments regarding these options. Ideally, values arising from forests would be collected from a broad range of the public and examined to provide guidance to forest managers. However, values over forest outputs and conditions may be very poorly formed when people have little experience with the range and complexity of forest ecology and management. In addition, eliciting values without framing them in a trade-off setting can result in misleading estimates. In this project we attempt to elicit passive use values in a manner that allows for poorly defined initial notions of value through an approach known as preference construction. Preference construction essentially provides for education and information processing in the development of passive use values. These estimates are also developed using a trade-off approach (choice experiments). The project focuses on the values of the local public within the NorSask forest. More formally, the objectives of this research are to: 1) ascertain the passive use values held by local people associated with forests in the NorSask Forest Management License Area; 2) explore differences in preferences based on the degree and frequency of formal preference construction exercises; and 3) evaluate this approach as a method of public involvement. A total of 43 individuals from the local community were involved in the valuation exercise. They participated in 3 groups or treatments, each with a different level of involvement in the valuation assessment. The first group was involved in three separate sessions, allowing for significant preference construction and information acquisition. The second group was involved in only one session and the third group was involved only minimally through a telephone contact and the completion of a survey delivered through the mail. The hypothesis being examined was that the degree of involvement in the exercise would affect the responses either in terms of the variances of the responses or the actual preferences. Not all forest values can be examined in a single valuation task. In this case values associated with key game species (moose), wildlife species reflecting biodiversity or threatened species (caribou), old age classes of forest, protected areas and local employment were assessed. These were selected based on the preference construction sessions with the first group. A general trend was found in the ranking of forest values. The values were highest for increases in older forest age classes and protected areas and lower for caribou and moose levels (expressed in percentage changes relative to current levels). The lowest value arose from the local jobs generated by forestry activity. Monetary measures of these values were also developed. The scenario choices made by the individuals revealed that a 5% increase in moose and caribou populations would be worth approximately $10 and $12 per year. A 5% increases in old age classes or protected areas was worth approximately 4 to 5 times as much. They were willing to pay approximately $7 per year in increased taxes for increases in local employment. The hypothesis that the group preferences would differ was not accepted. The preferences of the first and third groups, while expected to be very different, were in fact quite similar. The second group did appear to be different from these other two but it is possible that significant variation in demographic characteristics was driving that difference, rather than the level of preference construction effort. The sample in the third group did however exhibit more resistance to completing the exercise and registered more protests to the value assessment. In conclusion, the approach employed was successful in eliciting passive use values for components of forest management. These values alone provide interesting information for managers to consider in the development of management plans. Evidence supporting the hypothesis that preference construction approaches improve these valuation exercises was not found in this study although this result must be tempered by the limitations arising from sample size and demographic composition of the study groups.
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