Would County Residents Vote for an Increase in Their Taxes to Conserve Native Habitat and Ecosystem Services? Funding Conservation in Palm Beach County, Florida

Elizabeth F. Pienaar, José R. Soto, John H. Lai, Damian C. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the 1990s, residents of Palm Beach County, Florida, voted in favor of two bonds to finance the acquisition and restoration of lands of environmental concern. In total, 31,445 acres of native habitat were conserved to create the Natural Areas Program. These lands protect both biodiversity and ecosystem services, including open space amenities, outdoor recreation, and flood protection in urban and peri-urban areas. In 2015, county staff determined that a dedicated source of funding (~$6.4 million per year) is required to maintain these natural areas. These funds would pay for continued revegetation of natural areas, removal of invasive plants, maintenance of recreation infrastructure, parking lots, fences, and signs, the provision of educational materials for visitors, and the monitoring of habitat, plants and animals to maintain ecosystem health. Palm Beach County's Department of Environmental Resources Management asked us to determine what value residents place on the Natural Areas Program and ecosystem services it provides. In 2017, we administered a stated preference choice experiment to residential property owners in Palm Beach County. Taking preference heterogeneity into account, we determined that allowing the natural areas to become degraded would likely reduce the welfare of 82% of respondents. Respondents were heterogeneous in terms of the value they placed on habitat conservation and ecosystem services. Our results suggest that Palm Beach County should hold a referendum on continued financing of the Natural Areas Program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Economics
Volume159
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ecosystem services
  • Flood risk
  • Habitat
  • Latent class analysis
  • Random parameters logit
  • Recreation
  • Stated preference choice experiments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics

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