Economic Analysis of the Spatial Dimensions of Species Preservation: The Distribution of Northern Spotted Owl Habitat

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Because conservation of species necessarily involves economic tradeoffs, it is desirable to achieve particular conservation goals at least cost. This study examines the efficiency of a spatial constraint on the distribution of populations of vertebrate species on national forests--that they be "well-distributed in the planning area" as required by the National Forest Management Act--in the case of the northern spotted owl. The cost of the distribution constraint is estimated under two hypothetical scenarios describing the effect of removing the constraint; one in which there is no effect on owl population dynamics and one in which survival and fecundity rates are more volatile when the constraint is removed. While the study draws no conclusion about the efficiency of the distribution constraint, two bounds are defined. An upper bound on the potential cost savings from removing the constraint is estimated in the "no impact" scenario. If large, the desirability of further study of the contribution of the constraint to owl species survival is indicated. A lower bound describing the minimum impact to owl survival necessary to make the constraint efficient is also estimated. This study illustrates the potential for informing policy through interdisciplinary cooperation between natural scientists and economists and shows how analysis can be used to identify areas in which such cooperation may be particularly useful--where potential cost savings are great. For. Sci. 41(1):67-83.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Assistant Professor, School of Forests, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812

Publication date: February 1, 1995

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