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Seminar: Environmental Targeting: Some Spatial Estimates of the Costs and Benefits of Restoring and Protecting Wetlands

Date(s): June 25, 2014, 1:30-3:00pm

Location: Room 4128, William Jefferson Clinton West Building, 1301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC

Contact: Carl Pasurka, 202-566-2275

Presenter(s): LeRoy Hansen

Description: The wide spatial variation in the quantity and quality of wetland ecosystem services is not unlike the spatial variation in the productivity and output of agricultural lands. Variability is driven by climate, human influences, soil type, landscape characteristics, and other factors. Values of amenities also vary spatially due to variations in the preferences and size of affected populations. The objective of our research was to generate spatial estimates of the environmental benefits and costs of new wetlands that can be used to cost-effectively target wetland restoration and conservation funding. We estimated cost models using USDA’s Wetland Reserve Program contracts as our primary data source. We found that, at the county level, the cost of restoring and preserving wetlands ranges from $150 to $6,100 per acre. To value wetland ecosystem benefits, it was necessary to account for differences in biophysical impacts and amenity values. We found limited availability of biophysical and economic data and models which, consequentially, limited the number and spatial resolution of the benefits estimated. Even so, our results illustrate where benefit-cost ratios of wetlands’ impacts on greenhouse gases and duck hunting are greater than one, that the cost-effectiveness of wetlands’ nitrogen removal varies by more than 100 fold, the majority of wetlands do not recharge groundwater, and that the number of Federally-list threatened and endangered species within counties ranges from zero to 70. Though not comprehensive, our results provide policy makers, government agencies, and private-interest groups a perspective of the size of the variations in benefit-cost ratios hence the economic advantages of targeting.

The presentation is based on research coauthored by LeRoy Hansen, Daniel Hellerstein, Marc Ribaudo, James Williamson, David Nulph (all of the Economic Research Service, USDA), Chuck Loesch (Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior), and William Crumpton (Iowa State University).

Seminar Category: Environmental Economics