The economic value of rare, threatened and endangered species to citizens of the USA has been measured using the contingent valuation method for 18 different species. Annual willingness to pay (WTP) range from a low of $6 per household for fish such as the striped shiner to a high of $95 per household for the northern spotted owl and its old growth habitat. A regression analysis of WTP values shows that over half of the variation in WTP is explained by the change in the size of the population, whether the payment is one-time or annual, whether the respondent is a visitor or non-user and whether the species is a marine mammal or bird. This illustrates that the contingent valuation method can provide meaningful estimates of the anthropocentric benefits of preserving rare and endangered species. Thus, economic techniques are available to perform broad-based benefit-cost analyses of species preservation. However, the Safe Minimum Standard approach is offered as an alternative for endangered species preservation decisions. The values reported in this paper are most useful to assess whether the costs are likely to be disproportionate to the benefits. To date, for even the most expensive endangered species preservation effort (e.g., the northern spotted owl) the costs per household fall well below the benefits per household found in the literature.
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