A Model Estimating the Economic Impacts of Current Levels of Acidification on Recreational Fishing in the Adirondack Mountains
The purpose of the project was to estimate the parameters of an economic model that can be combined with information on the current extent of fresh water acidification to produce economic estimates of damages in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. One traditional approach for estimating the economic value of recreational sites has been to use the travel and on-site costs incurred by visitors as proxy measures of the price paid to use that site. Early travel costs studies focused on changes in the supply of sites, i.e., the addition of a new site or the loss of an existing site. However, the estimation problem faced by this project is different. Acidification not only changes the number of sites available for fishing, but also changes important characteristics of fishing sites. As there are approximately three thousand lakes and ponds in the Adirondack Ecological Zone, a lake by lake analysis was not possible. Instead, each site was viewed as a geographic area containing a number of lakes. Sites were characterized by the number of lakes they contained with certain characteristics. Possible site characteristics include the number of acres of cold water, two story, or warm water lakes. In this framework, acidification could change the area of cold water lakes able to support fish populations. The estimation problem is to determine how a change in these site characteristics will affect the value of a site as a recreational fishery. Both a site characteristics based travel cost model and a simpler participation model were used to obtain estimates of the use values of recreational fishing in Adirondack lakes and the reduction in use values due to acidification were also estimated. The estimates of damages resulting in current levels of acidification ranges from approximately $1 million to $12 million. It should be emphasized that travel cost models are only able to estimate use values. Reviews of the possible magnitude of non-use values indicates that non-use values may be larger than use values.
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