Natural Resource and Environmental Economics Research
Many faculty and students in DARE are engaged in cutting-edge research in the fields of environmental and natural resource economics, with an emphasis on non-market valuation, water economics, natural resource economics and policy, recreation economics, public lands management, and invasive species. Our location along the
Colorado Front Range provides exceptional opportunities for applied local and regional analysis of environmental and resource issues, and we partner closely with the U.S. Forest Service and other state and federal agencies to develop research projects that help inform decision-makers and shape public policy.
Non-market valuation is a sub-field within environmental economics that deals with theoretical and practical aspects of estimating monetary values on non-marketed environmental goods and services. Research in this area typically involves statistical analysis of primary data collected via survey methods to quantify the welfare gains or losses associated with change in levels of environmental quality. Through these methods, economists recover the economic benefits of goods not traded in formal markets, thereby providing essential information for environmental policy and management decisions. Specifically, techniques include the travel cost method of recreational demand, the hedonic property pricing model, averting behavior analysis, contingent valuation, contingent rating/ranking, and stated choice experiments.
Dr. John Loomis is a leading scholar in the field, and has completed a wide range of valuation projects on such diverse resources as rivers, recreational fisheries, public lands, endangered species, water quality, and forest fires. Dr. Craig Bond, Dr. Dana Hoag, and co-author Dr. Gorm Kipperberg have done similar research on farmers' preferences for private and public good attributes of irrigation systems. Other faculty in DARE have applied these techniques to attributes related to food products, such as the valuation of organic beef or nutritionally-enhanced foods (see Dr. Dawn Thilmany, Dr. Jennifer Bond, and Dr. Craig Bond).
At its most basic level, economics is simply the study of how scarce resources are allocated among competing uses. With regard to water, societies must make choices involving how to allocate existing supplies, as well as determining the level of resources that should be dedicated to expanding the quantity, quality, and access to existing supplies. Understanding the impacts of these choices has become increasingly important in the face of severe drought, rapid population growth and the future uncertainty associated with climate change.
Economists who study water resources apply standard economic tools to, for example, estimate the costs and benefits associated with various water supply projects (e.g. dams, water re-use, etc.); determine the effectiveness of particular water demand management programs (e.g. price, restrictions, etc.); and identify the value of improving water quality.
The work of Dr.’s Christopher Goemans and James Pritchett provide examples of ongoing water resource related research within the department. Dr. Goemans is currently conducting research relating to municipal water demand management and understanding the potential effects of climate change on municipal water systems. In collaboration with the City of Parker, Dr. Pritchett is part of a project aimed at developing alternative irrigation strategies for farmers faced with limited water supplies. For more information on ongoing research within the department specific to water, contact Dr. Christopher Goemans.
Natural resource economics is traditionally concerned with the allocation of natural capital used as inputs into production systems. Examples include non-renewable resources such as minerals and petroleum, renewable resources such as forests and fish, and more specialized resources such as land, water, biodiversity, wildlife, and other ecosystem services. In addition, the relationship between developing countries and resource use is a major area of study. A key component of many natural resource allocation problems is that decisions are linked from period to period; in other words, the decision environment is dynamic, rather than static.
Much of Dr. Craig Bond's research is in this field, with a focus on numerical dynamic modeling and management implications. More specifically, he has written articles on sustainable management, the relationship between governance and pollution, and agricultural abatement costs, and is currently working on projects involving forest management and invasive species and adaptive resource management, as well as several valuation studies.
Environmental economics is the study of flows of residuals from economic activities (both production and consumption) into natural environments. These residuals, often called pollution, have negative effects on human welfare in the forms of reduced environmental quality to be enjoyed by society and adverse health impacts. The field of economics that studies the cost of environmental damage and pollution abatement, and the benefits and costs of environmental policies and management regimes, is called environmental economics, and includes both theoretical and empirical research.
Dr. John Loomis is a leading scholar in the environmental economics. His body of work in this field includes over 175 peer-reviewed publications on benefits of protecting natural environments. Dr. Craig Bond, Dr. Dana Hoag, and Dr. Gorm Kipperbeg have worked on farmers' preferences for private and public good attributes of irrigation systems. Other DARE faculty members conducting research in this field include Dr. Dawn Thilmany, Dr. Jennifer Bond, Dr. Andy Seidl, and Dr. Craig Bond.
Almost everyone in the department is involved in agricultural and resource policy in some way or another. Research interests cover a broad spectrum of contemporary issues from the local level to the national level. CSU is uniquely situated near the headquarters or hubs for several Federal agencies like the US Department of Agriculture, the US Geological Survey and US Forest Service, which expands the range of projects we work on. Dr. James Pritchett, Dr. Andy Seidl, Dr. Dawn Thilmany, Dr. Greg Graff and Dr. Dana Hoag, for example, conduct research on the national farm policies including commodity support programs, conservation, food and nutrition, research, technology and development, and rural development. Working locally with USDA, Dr. Dustin Pendell looks at animal identification systems. In cooperation with the State Department of Agriculture and USDA, Dr. Dawn Thilmany has a research program about product labeling and farmers markets. Dr. Jennifer Bond is interested in how Cooperatives function, and Dr. Steve Koontz is concerned about whether cattle markets need government intervention to stay competitive.
Since there is an emphasis in the department on natural resources and the environment, several faculty also work on policy issues where agriculture has an impact on or is influenced by the environment. Dr. Chris Goemans, Dr. Marshall Frasier, Dr. James Pritchett, Dr. Craig Bond, Dr. Dana Hoag, Dr. John Loomis, and Dr. Andy Seidl have looked at water use and conservation, organic foods, wildlife (e.g. prairie dogs, elk, deer), ecosystem function, sustainability, public and private land use, water pollution from agriculture, conservation easements and agricultural preservation. Our department cooperates with faculty in several other departments including Soil and Crop Science, Animal Science, Natural Resources, Engineering, Sociology, Psychology, and Family and Consumer Sciences.
Tourism and recreation are among the fastest growing and most important economic activities across the globe. They are of particular importance to a state with abundant and relatively unique natural features such as Colorado. Our national parks and protected areas, our fish and wildlife, our wild rivers and streams and, of course, our mountains attract millions of visitors per year and increase the well being of Coloradoans in at least two ways: (1) direct enjoyment citizens of Colorado receive from visiting these areas; (2) employment, income and taxes generated by non-resident visitors to Colorado.
Market signals are inadequate to reflect the societal value of most outdoor recreation and tourism experiences. As a result, indirect and nonmarket valuation techniques including hedonic pricing, contingent valuation, contingent behavior, and travel cost methods on recreation and tourism issues more accurately illuminate these issues relative to activites whose values are better reflected in markets.
Dr. John Loomis has invested the better part of three decades investigating the economic issues surrounding recreation, most often on Colorado and the West’s abundant public lands including our National Parks, National Forests, and BLM managed lands. In particular, his research has valued hiking, mountain biking, fishing and other recreation activities as well as the public lands they depend upon. Recent research includes valuation of recreation in Puerto Rico’s Caribbean National Forest, Wyoming and Idaho. Dr. Dawn Thilmany’s recent work looks at agritourism as a part of alternative enterprises for Colorado farms and ranches as well as industry level analyses of the golf and wine industries as drivers of local economic activity. Dr. Andy Seidl’s research combines valuation methods with regional economic analysis in order to better inform community scale decision making. He works on land use planning and the valuation of working landscapes in Colorado communities where natural resource based tourism, second home development and “amenity migrants” are important drivers of local economic development. Internationally, he has used valuation methods at parks and protected areas in Albania, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Honduras to facilitate understanding of nonmarket values created by their natural heritage.
Public land management research focuses on the allocation of natural resources
among competing multiple uses on federal National Forest and lands
administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Research focus on National
Parks and National Wildlife Refuges includes valuation of recreation and
wildlife. Research on ecosystem management focuses on the coordinated planning
of natural resource use on not only these four federal lands but also state
and county lands as well. The overall goal is to ensure that these lands
provide the mix of public and private goods that meets the demands of current
generations without compromising the ability to meet new demands of future
generations (i.e., the public lands are used sustainably).
Dr. John Loomis has conducted research on how visitors to Rocky Mountain National
Park respond to changes in natural resources influenced by climate change. He
has researched how visitation to Grand Teton National Park and the National
Elk Refuge change with different numbers of elk and bison. A major focus of
his research is how much visitors and the general public would pay to reduce
risk of catastrophic wildfires on public lands through use of prescribed
burning and mechanical fuel reduction. Dr. Andrew Seidl has conducted research on how visitors to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico, Glaciers National Park in Argentine Patagonia and cruise tourists visiting marine and terrestrial parks and archeological sites in Central America and the Caribbean respond to changes in the quality and costs of tourist services. A major focus of his research surrounds the distribution of the financial returns of tourism development and the incentives for natural resource stewardship in developing countries and communities.