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Valuing attributes of forest restoration in a semi-arid watershed
- Mueller, Julie M., Soder, Adrienne B., Springer, Abraham E.
- Landscape and urban planning 2019 v.184 pp. 78-87
- Bayesian theory, cost benefit analysis, ecosystem services, forest restoration, forests, groundwater recharge, habitats, landscapes, logit analysis, metropolitan areas, risk, risk reduction, rivers, surface water, surveys, threatened species, water quality, watersheds, wildfires, willingness to pay, Arizona
- Approximately 1.5 M residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area rely upon the Salt Verde River watershed in central Arizona, USA, to meet their water demands. However, the health of the semi-arid watershed is at risk. Densely populated forests increase the probability of catastrophic wildfire and threaten the watershed’s integrity. Restoration reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improves the health and productivity of the watershed. While current research indicates public support of watershed restoration, little guidance exists for land managers regarding the relative benefits of restoration projects. We estimate benefits of watershed restoration projects in the Salt-Verde River watershed using a choice experiment. The survey focuses on residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area as beneficiaries of watershed restoration and includes public access, surface water quality, groundwater recharge, critical habitat, and cultural significance as attributes. Willingness to pay estimates are obtained using a Bayesian mixed logit model. Respondents have a positive and statistically significant willingness to pay for all attributes. The highest willingness to pay is a one-time fee of $41.92 for restoration projects that protect critical habitats for endangered and threatened species. Our results also provide one of the first estimates for groundwater recharge as an attribute of watershed restoration. The benefit estimates obtained can directly inform land managers regarding restoration in semi-arid landscapes and assist in clearly delineating difficult to quantify environmental benefits in cost-benefit analyses of proposed future projects.