Amenity Values of Proximity to National Wildlife Refuges: An analysis of urban residential property values
The National Wildlife Refuge system is a network of permanently protected open space encompassing more than 150 million acres across 50 states. Maintaining such a large network of permanently protected open space can put the federal government at odds with local communities when management priorities differ from the local community’s objectives. This can be especially true in rapidly urbanizing areas where local jurisdictions voice concerns over the loss of property tax revenues and economic activity resulting from lands’ protected status. While refuge recreation and ecosystem benefits have been identified, we know little about the property value benefits accruing to local homeowners. This research quantifies the property value benefits of all refuges on the east coast that are near urban areas. Our approach is made possible through access to confidential U.S. Census data identifying property values surrounding all refuges with high geographic resolution. Results from hedonic property value models suggest that the amenity values of refuges located near urbanized areas are capitalized into the value of homes in very close proximity, averaging $11 million per refuge. These capitalized values add directly to the local tax base and are considerable complements to the annual economic value created by the refuge system.
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