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Wilderness Makes Cents! How Much Are People Willing To Pay for Wilderness?

This article is from Issue Wilderness Benefits - Vol. 7 No. 1.

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One of the ways that social scientists determine how much benefit people receive from something is to find out how much they would be willing to pay for it. In this study, the scientists wanted to know how much money people would be willing to spend to receive recreation use benefits from wilderness. They also wanted to know how much money people would be willing to spend to receive passive use benefits from wilderness.

Welcome to the Wilderness Benefits edition

Note to Educators

Wilderness Benefits Lesson Plan

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Forest and Grassland Use (Educators)
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)
  • Protecting Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Forest Products Lab
  • Intermountain
  • International Institute of Tropical Forestry
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
To discover new information, scientists must have one of two things. They either need new data, or they need a new way to examine existing data. Data are representations of the things that scientists want to understand. Most of the time, we think of data as numbers that represent measurements or counts of the things being studied. Data can also be words or pictures that represent the objects being studied. In this study, the scientists were interested in some of the benefits that people receive from wilderness. To understand those benefits, the scientists examined existing data in new ways. The data they used were numbers, and those numbers came from research that had been done by other scientists.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Wildernesses are places that are legally protected from human development. As areas that are not developed, people enjoy unique benefits from them. One type of benefit that people receive from wilderness is the chance to do things like hike, camp, and canoe in a totally natural area, away from things like roads, electricity, and buildings. This type of benefit is called a recreation use benefit by social scientists. Another type of wilderness benefit identified by social scientists is called a passive use benefit. There are three types of passive use benefits. One of these is appreciation felt because of having the option to visit a wilderness in the future. A second type of passive use benefit is appreciation of being able to pass along to their children the opportunity to use wilderness in the future. A third type of passive use benefit is just knowing that wilderness exists, even if the person never plans to visit them. In this study, the scientists considered both the recreation and the passive use benefits of wilderness.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Benefit of natural resources to local economy
  • Ecosystems
  • Value of natural environments

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Constancy and Change
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Habits of Mind: Values and Attitudes
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life