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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Economics of Annual Grass Invasion
2009 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To conduct an economic analysis of efforts to reduce the risk of invasive annual grasses on selected Great Basin watersheds.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Watershed management strategies are assessed according to the expected value of their long-term outcomes relative to the cost of implementation. The types of outcomes we will investigate include changes in the costs of fire suppression, changes in flows of values from ecological goods and services,and changes in productivity for livestock and wildlife, as these affect human populations today and in the future. The expected outcome from a decision to "do nothing" for a given watershed is taken as a baseline. Expected outcomes from treatment alternatives, as those outcomes are expected to unfold over time, are described as differences from that baseline. In order to predict how benefits and costs would unfold over time, team ecologists will be consulted for their expertise in interpreting the expected ranges of ecological outcomes from management strategies modeled for predicting outcomes of the EBIPM. Methods and data collection will focus on the expected differences from the baselines induced by management decisions. Differences that can be shown to induce a corresponding change in social welfare are identified as candidates for inclusion in the economic analysis. While these will likely vary by watershed and demonstration site, general methods will be developed for replication at any site in the Great Basin. Some ecological differences may not affect social and economic values directly. But if any indirect effects are significant, these will be indicated as values to measure and include in the economic analysis. Changes in values that are identified to be included in analysis must be quantified. Methods for quantifying these changes will depend in part on the nature of these values. For changes that can be measured as market-valued changes in expenditures, or revenues, standard economic approaches can be used that rely on data collection and econometric modeling. For changes that are not easily valued with market data (such as the value of a loss of 200 big game hunting days per years, or the value of losing habitat that would result in half as many sge grouse in the watershed), non-market valuation methods will be used. Ultimately, the value of a management strategy will be expressed as the expected value of these measured differences in values from the baselines. An optimal management strategy is defined as one that achieves the highest present valued expected net benefits to society. Documents SCA with U. of NV-Reno.


3.Progress Report

• Designed “non-market valuation” survey to estimate the economic benefits of the ecological services provided by Great Basin rangeland (e.g., habitat for wildlife, water quality, wildfire suppression, recreational opportunity). The non-market survey has been designed in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Reno. A pre-testing survey is set to begin in August, 2009. • Implementation of an “expert opinion” survey to systematically collect the opinions for scientists and other rangeland professional on the impact of invasive weeds on several ecosystem services. The expert opinion survey was conducted to insure that the descriptions of the ecology in the non-market valuation survey (mentioned above) are accurate. • Model development and assessment of data availability were performed for hedonic pricing analysis of the economic impact of invasive weeds on Great Basin ranchers. However, it was determined that the difficulty in obtaining the required ranch sales data from the Farm Credit Services poses a significant obstacle to the proposed research. The model development and data requirements are described in a grant proposed together with the University of Nevada, Reno, as part of the Nevada Arid Rangeland Initiative (NARI). • Conceptual work towards adapting the investigators non-market valuation estimates, which are at the watershed level, to smaller, more policy relevant spatial scales has been initiated. This research builds towards the goal of developing a decision support tool that can appraise the relative efficiency of competing treatment options (particularly, prevention versus control), within a watershed. This conceptual work was written up and submitted as an EPA STAR grant application. • Investigators have begun analyzing how rancher’s incentives for land management are influenced by the complex private / public land ownership arrangements in the west. A theoretical paper entitle “Optimal Regulatory Design for Ecosystem Management in the Great Basin” was submitted and accepted to the American Agricultural Economics Association annual meetings in July, 2009.


Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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