Conservation of old growth forests has been a contentious issue in B.C. in recent decades but surprisingly little effort has been devoted to economic analysis of this issue. Even more pronounced is the absence of valuation studies concerned with non-market values of coastal old growth forests. For example, the most recent study of recreation values on public forest lands in B.C. dates from 1991, and it is still frequently cited (Ministry of Forests, 1991). The study by Van Kooten and Bulte (1999) is a rare attempt to subject conservation of B.C. old growth forest to a benefit-cost analysis. Yet they were forced to use data from U.S. studies on non-market values associated with old growth since little was available for B.C. A similar analyses by Stone and Reid (1997), devoted primarily to preservation of spotted owl, made no estimates of non-market values associated with spotted owl or old growth at all. The issue of spotted owl preservation raises an important point with regard to old growth valuation. Spotted owls are an attribute of the coastal old growth forest, whose habitat more-or-less coincides with the remaining areas of old growth within their geographic and ecological range. As a result, attempts to value spotted owl are misdirected since they ignore the many joint benefits associated with preserving spotted owl habitat, such as conservation of over twenty other endangered species (Yezerinac and Moola, 2006). In other words, the benefits of spotted owl conservation must be seen as nested within the larger context of old growth conservation.
Many valuation techniques have difficulty in dealing with such complex valuation problems. As Stone and Reid point out with respect to the use of the contingent valuation method (CVM) (a survey-based expressed preference valuation approach), 'there is a wider range of values associated with protecting spotted owls and other endangered species than is estimated by CVM studies' (1997, p80) Important management questions arise as to what action should be undertaken to protect the few existing spotted owl pairs, as well as the other endangered species of the old growth forest. Further, to what extent should the essential habitat structures of the coastal rain forest be maintained to permit reintroduction of endangered species where they are no longer present?
Old growth rain forest features is valued for reasons other than species preservation too. From a valuation perspective, the situation is clearly dynamic. How important is the presence or absence of endangered species (e.g. spotted owls) to individuals? willingness to pay (WTP) for old growth preservation? How does this WTP change as the chance of reintroduction varies? The valuation of non-market values for old growth forest must recognize these complex dynamics. This research question can be pursued in part through the investigation of the opportunity cost associated with protecting old growth forest and its species or habitat, as is currently being done and will be expanded in a separate study by Knowler and Lertzman. The other crucial information which is so far not known about old growth and its key attributes (e.g. spotted owls, other non-use values) in BC is the existence value related to preserving biodiversity. Ideally, both sets of information would be required in the societal debate about spotted owls, since ultimately society faces a trade-off between more timber harvesting and preservation of biodiversity. Existence value summarizes a large suite of non-use values and have public good qualities. Whether these values should be considered in decision processes remains a political question. Its measurement requires the application of economic techniques such as contingent valuation or contingent choice.
The FSB Sustainability program clearly calls for the valuation of non-timber economic values (Theme / Topic 3.3), and if such a study is designed properly, it would also contribute to Topic 3.4. We propose to u ...
Haider, Wolfgang. 2008. Valuing low-elevation old growth forests of the southwestern British Columbia mainland: an application of the contingent choice and production function techniques. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2008MR100
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), British, Columbia
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