A Hedonic Travel Cost Analysis for Valuation of Multiple Components of Site Quality: The Recreation Value of Forest Management

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Place: Cascade Mountains

Overview

This study found that wilderness trail users are willing to travel farther (and therefore spend more) to reach trails with campgrounds, old-growth forests, and views. Conversely, they avoid trails with long dirt road approaches and clear-cuts visible from the trail.

Relevance

The findings would be of use to those interested in users’ perceptions of the relative appeal of different forest management actions or trail sites. The study is old, but of high quality and one of the few looking at the relative value of specific trail characteristics.

Location

This study looked at four Wilderness areas throughout the Cascade Mountains of Washington State: Pasayten, Glacier Peak, Goat Rocks, and Mt. Adams.

Trail Type

The authors estimated models for overnight hikers on wilderness trails approaching or in the four Wilderness areas.

Purpose

The primary purpose of this study is to develop a methodology that allows researchers to measure the value of changes in natural resource characteristics, particularly in regard to how forests are managed. The results can be used by non-economists to understand the effect of clear-cuts and old-growth on recreational enjoyment, and also to estimate how changes in these variables affect how many people visit a trail. This study was funded by the U.S. Forest Service and the Sloan Regulation of Natural Resources grant through the University of Washington.

Findings

Measured by looking at the additional distance traveled to reach sites with these characteristics, the authors found:

  • The average person will spend $7.10 extra for a trail near a campground.
  • The average person will spend $2.61 for every extra mile of old-growth forest.
  • The average person will spend $6.27 for views along the trail.
  • The average person will spend $1.08 to avoid an additional mile of dirt road to the trailhead.
  • The average person will spend $0.58 to avoid the presence of a clear-cut visible from the trail.
  • The specific characteristics users prefer (or avoid) the most differ between eastern and western Washington users and urban versus rural users. Due to those differences, it is important for managers to understand the region from which users originate.

Methods

The authors compiled data from overnight camping permits held by visitors to four Wilderness areas in 1982. To avoid small sample sizes, they constrained the sample to residents of Washington State and Portland, Oregon. The authors use a statistical model called a hedonic travel cost model, which incorporates information about people visiting sites (such as how far they traveled and which trail they would visit) and information about trail characteristics (such as the presence of old-growth forests and campgrounds). From this model the authors estimate individual expenditures for the trail characteristics and willingness-to-pay for the individual site characteristics.

This study relied on the same data as Englin and Shonkwiler (1995), but estimated spending for users on different trails rather than factors affecting levels of trail use.

Citation

Englin, J. and R. Mendelsohn. 1991. “A hedonic travel cost analysis for valuation of multiple components of site quality: the recreation value of forest management.” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 21(3): 275-290.