The Economics of Natural Environments: Studies in the Valuation of Commodity and Amenity Resources

By John V. Krutilla; Anthony C. Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
HELLS CANYON: ASYMMETRIC IMPLICATIONS OF TECHNICAL CHANGE FOR VALUE OF ALTERNATIVE USES

1. INTRODUCTION

A particular natural environment may represent a stock of resources, or a flow of resource services of both a production and a consumption variety. The extractive industries are typically involved in converting resource stocks into the intermediate goods or services that form the industrial raw materials from which final consumption goods are produced. A given tract of land, or reach of river, may also at times provide an unusually aesthetic natural setting and related at-site amenity services that enter directly into the utility function of ultimate consumers. Through logging, mining, and developing complementary logistic support facilities essential to their operations, extractive undertakings often alter the original environment significantly, producing irreversible adverse consequences for the amenities otherwise available from the site. In this way they tend to foreclose an option in perpetuity. The nondestructive alternative use of the amenity services, however, does not foreclose any future options which are not reflected in the opportunity returns forgone by precluding extractive use. There are some asymmetric implications of alternative uses of such areas, of which the Hells Canyon is a prime example. We shall analyze these in detail in this and the following chapter, but perhaps this point should be elaborated before the Hells Canyon case is addressed in specific detail.

Extractive activities typically result in outputs of goods and services which are both producible and intermediate in nature. Because the activities are intermediate, there are more possibilities for substitution in the production of final consumption goods and services. Advances in production technology contribute to a broad spectrum of substitute intermediate inputs for the production of final consumer goods. For example, printed circuits and

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