Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y092250

    Valuing low-elevation old growth forests of the southwestern British Columbia mainland: an application of the contingent choice and production function techniques
Project lead: Haider, Wolfgang (Simon Fraser University)
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
[The following is in addition to previously submitted material]

Several important environmental values are absent from earlier studies of the economics of conserving old growth forests (see Knowler and Dust 2007). The research activities in Year 1 of the project address the lack of information about one of these, the existence (non-use) values for old growth forest and habitat for endangered species such as the spotted owl. The existence value is being measured with a contingent choice survey using a random sample of the population of the Lower Mainland in BC. The study is being designed to estimate the existence value of old growth forest separately from the existence value of spotted owl, which represents a novel innovation in such studies. The survey design is now almost complete and data collection will happen in January 2008 by means of a web-based survey. Analysis and report writing will be completed by March 31, 2008 as stipulated in the initial proposal.

In Year 2 of the project, we propose to fill the gap in our knowledge of the opportunity costs of harvesting old growth related to the loss of ecosystem services. We will examine the effects of timber cutting on ecosystem services related to watersheds in the Fraser Timber Supply Area (TSA), to coincide with an earlier but more limited analysis by Knowler and Dust (2007) that did not include any watershed values. We plan to examine two watershed values for possible consideration: (i) value of human water use affected by cutting of old growth (e.g. drinking or industrial use) and/or (ii) impacts of old growth harvest on fishery values downstream.

The BC Ministry of Health manages drinking water in the Fraser Timber Supply Area through the Fraser Health’s Drinking Water Program. Fraser Health currently serves approximately one-third of the BC population (~1.47 million people), thus indicating a large demand for clean water. Yet there is a persistent concern about source water contamination due to cutting old growth and its associated land destabilizing effects (i.e. road creation) causing landslides, despite improvements in recent years associated with the Forest and Range Practices Act. Water uses in the Fraser Timber Supply area that are at risk of potential contamination include domestic use, nurseries, land improvement, waterworks, bottle sales, irrigation, enterprise, greenhouse, power, frost protection, flood harvesting and storage. Due to the diversity of end users, concerned governmental bodies have set up an interagency committee to discuss future water protection strategies in the event of source supply contamination. We will model the effects of logging and road construction on water quality (and perhaps quantity) as indicated by changes in water treatment costs (water quality) or flooding (water quantity) downstream. We have been investigating water use data sources and have discussed the issue with water management officials to get a preliminary understanding of the problems and potential for our analysis.

For the analysis of fisheries impacts, we will concentrate on the potential impacts of logging on fish that spawn within the concerned catchments. Salmon populations in BC have been under pressure and some species that make use of the Fraser TSA (e.g. sockeye, coho, chinook and pink salmon) are particularly vulnerable. Yet relatively little study of the terrestrial-freshwater linkages has been carried out in this region, although there is a limited economic and more extensive scientific literature from other Pacific Northwest locations. One important pathway for possible impacts is the effect of logging and road construction on stream temperatures and their influence on productivity of salmon populations. This has been investigated in other parts of BC by colleagues at SFU (Nelitz et al. 2007), and we propose to build on this experience in applying similar methods to the Fraser Timber Supply Area.

We plan to obtain data on logged area and road density in an attempt to model changes in fish abundance. We have identified some possible watercourses that could be used in the analysis and we are continuing to examine the data availability with our fisheries colleagues at SFU.
Since we cannot know the full data situation until we proceed further, we are remaining flexible on the scope of the analysis (water use and/or fisheries) and we have discussed a fall-back modeling approach involving use of parameter/model information from the literature if the primary data are not sufficient for the task.

As discussed in the original work plan, we then propose to incorporate the newly estimated environmental values within a cost-benefit analysis that will assess the net benefits of pursuing a conservation of old growth strategy versus one of harvesting these areas. This activity is a longer term activity that will benefit from the valuation work undertaken in this project.
Related projects:  FSP_Y081250

Executive summary (61Kb)

Updated August 16, 2010 

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