Andrea Scarfo Elective 2

EREC 708: Environmental Economics


In EREC 708, I learned about the different categories of economic values that are provided by a critical habitat. We looked at the study “Economic Benefit of the Protection Program for the Stellar Sea Lion”, done by Kelly Giraud, Branka Turcin, John Loomis, and Joseph Cooper to better understand these economic values and how to measure them. The direct use value is the first category of economic values that are provided by a critical habitat. Direct use value is the direct use of an environmental asset, for example the costal habitat of the Stellar sea lion attracts many people. The next is the value placed on having the option to someday visit the Stellar sea lion’s habitat and possibly see the Stellar sea lion at a future time. The third category of economic value is simply knowing that this endangered species is existing in its own habitat and is healthy and will continue to prosper. Lastly, the benefit from knowing that the preservation of sea lion habitats will leave these habitats and Stellar sea lions for future generations.


In the study examine willingness to pay for the Stellar Sea Lion, an endangered species found in the northern pacific coastal areas. Alaskan Stellar Sea Lion populations had seen significant decline—as much as 80%—in the years between mid-1970’s to 1988. The authors note the popular theory held by many scientists who believe Stellar Sea Lion populations have been greatly impacted by environmental change and commercial fishing competition. In efforts to help support increased population growth, Stellar sea lion advocates had been scrutinizing fishers and trawlers. For this study, the economic analysts use the Contingent Valuation Method analyzing three samples, to determine willingness to pay to help the Stellar sea lion. The three samples were taken from (1) boroughs that contain critical habitat for the Stellar sea lion, (2) the state that contains these boroughs, and (3) the entire United States. They conduct a thorough and thoughtful survey of these sample groups to find the willingness to pay per household for the Stellar sea lion.


Guiraud, Turcin, Loomis, and Cooper used the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) to find willingness to pay (WTP) or how much consumers would be willing to pay to help preserve and protect Steller Sea Lions. The CV method uses survey questions to elicit people's preferences for public goods by finding out what they would be willing to pay, in dollar amounts, for improvements to or protection of the specified public good. The Contingent Valuation Method is so unique because it circumvents the absence of markets for public goods by presenting consumers with hypothetical markets. Respondents are presented with material, often in the course of an interview including--a detailed description of the goods being valued, questions which elicit the respondents WTP, and questions about respondents characteristics, their preferences relevant to the good being valued, and their use of the public good.  I really enjoyed working on this case study as I feel like I was able to tie a lot of the economic theory I had learned in my principles of economics classes to a real world sustainablilty challenge. 


Return to my About Me page!