Measuring public values and priorities for natural resources: An application to the Peconic Estuary system

Marisa Joan Mazzotta, University of Rhode Island


This study focuses on measurement of public values and priorities for protecting and enhancing natural resources of the Peconic Estuary system; and explores issues related to economic valuation methods, including theoretical validity and a comparison of model specifications.^ A contingent choice survey was administered to 968 residents of the area surrounding the Estuary. Respondents were presented with sets of hypothetical alternatives, described in terms of their effects on natural resources and the cost to each household, and asked to select their preferred alternative. The baseline was represented by a "no new action" alternative, which was compared to two different programs to protect or enhance natural resources. Five natural resources were included--farmland, undeveloped land, wetlands, shellfishing areas, and eelgrass.^ Three model specifications are compared: the conditional logit model with and without alternative-specific constants, and the nested logit model. The two latter models allow for effects related to the options themselves rather than their attributes, and their results indicate that choices between the two protection/enhancement alternatives are correlated, and that, ceteris paribus, respondants are more likely to select Program A than Program B.^ Although dollar value estimates vary, estimated ordinal priorities and relative values of resources are robust to different specifications. Estimated priorities for protection or enhancement of resources are: farmland, eelgrass, wetlands, shellfish, and undeveloped land. For an infinite time horizon, and the official 7.625 percent discount rate, present values range from around $90,000 to \$168,000 per acre of farmland; $17,000 to \$32,000 per acre of undeveloped land; $54,000 to \$128,000 per acre of wetlands; $32,000 to \$71,000 per acre of shellfishing areas; and $64,000 to \$157,000 per acre of eelgrass.^ Tests of hypotheses related to theoretical validity indicate that estimated economic values pass basic tests of consistency with economic theory, with mixed results for the most rigorous tests. Thus, although respondents may not be able to express their values precisely enough to pass the most rigorous tests of economic rationality, responses provide robust estimates of people's priorities and relative values for the natural resources, which is most important for policy analysis that aims to prioritize actions. ^

Subject Area

Economics, General|Economics, Agricultural|Environmental Sciences

Recommended Citation

Marisa Joan Mazzotta, "Measuring public values and priorities for natural resources: An application to the Peconic Estuary system" (1996). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9723566.