Exploring the Adequacy of Willingness to Pay in Wilderness Values and Valuation

EPA Grant Number: U915189
Title: Exploring the Adequacy of Willingness to Pay in Wilderness Values and Valuation
Investigators: Trainor, Sarah F.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 1999
Project Amount: $68,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Economics


The objective of this research project is to understand how members of the public conceive of their values for environmental protection in its extreme form, as wilderness preservation. Scholars from backgrounds in philosophy, economics, and psychology have described and begun to investigate the complexity of values and their role in environmental policy. This study examines the relationship between values as captured by the methods of economists working in the utilitarian tradition and multiple wilderness values. Specifically, we seek to understand if, in the mind of the wilderness user, spiritual and intrinsic values are adequately reflected in willingness-to-pay statements.


Using a multidisciplinary approach, we investigated the relationship between descriptions of spiritual and intrinsic wilderness values and statements of willingness to pay as expressed in contingent valuation scenarios and as fees for wilderness use. Data were collected via standardized, semistructured interviews that were designed to learn how people think of these three forms of wilderness value (willingness to pay, spiritual, and intrinsic) and the relationships between them. Interviews had three components: (1) a discussion of economic values including structured contingent valuation questions and open-ended willingness-to-pay fees; (2) a discussion of spiritual and intrinsic values; and (3) a discussion of the relationship between these economic and noneconomic values. Interview protocol alternated components 1 and 2. Demographic data and responses to willingness-to-pay questions were analyzed. Narrative responses were coded in three iterations, and emergent themes were identified. The values and opinions expressed in the semistructured interviews support the existence of a plurality of wilderness values, and suggest that neither willingness to pay for use fees nor willingness to pay in a contingent valuation context adequately represent a complete expression of wilderness value. Some values that may be important for consideration in policy and land management decision making cannot be measured in a single aggregate metric.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, wilderness values, wilderness user/use, land management policy, land management decision making, wilderness preservation, willingness to pay, spiritual wilderness values, intrinsic wilderness values., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, POLLUTION PREVENTION, sustainable development, Resources Management, Ecology and Ecosystems, decision-making, Urban and Regional Planning, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, contingent valuation, ecosystem valuation, wilderness values, policy making, valuation, environmental decision making, valuing environmental quality, decision making, conservation, environmental values, socioeconomics, environmental policy, public values, environmental protection, public policy, willingness to pay, land management fees

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • Final