Benefits and Costs of Natural Resources Policies Affecting Public and Private Lands: USDA W2133 Regional Research Project Legacy and Current Contributions

Article excerpt

In 1967, a group of resource and environmental economists from across the nation got together under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form a multistate collaborative research project. The goal of this research initiative was to bring together natural resource and environmental economists from across land grant and non-land grant institutions in order to advance natural resource benefit and cost methods, collect primary data on pertinent natural resource policies, and develop applications for extending the usefulness of primary data on the benefits and costs of natural resource policy. Initially given the USDA project identification number WM-59, the Western Regional Research Project: Benefits and Costs of Natural Resources Policies Affecting Public and Private Lands has been a productive intellectual, professional, and policymaking endeavor for more than forty-two years. While the project indentifying moniker has been changed from time to time (fromWM-59 toW133 toW1133 toW2133) and there has been the loss, sometimes untimely, of project participants over the years, the group continuously provides opportunities for some of the nation's most engaged resource and environmental economists to work together, share their ideas, provide feedback and support, and advance the state-of-the art in valuation methods and applications.

Although labeled as a Western Regional Project, the group has always included participants from across the United States. Current W2133 members are from the University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; University of Connecticut; Cornell University; University of Delaware; The University of Georgia; University of Illinois; Iowa State University; University of Kentucky; University of Maine; University of Massachusetts; Michigan State University; University of Minnesota; University of Nevada; University of New Hampshire; University of North Carolina; North Dakota State University; The Ohio State University; Oregon State University; The Pennsylvania State University; University of Rhode Island; Texas Tech University; Utah State University; Washington State University; West Virginia University; and University ofWyoming. The project also includes economists from other universities, private firms, and governmental agencies as "friends" of W2133. Each year, W2133 members and friends get together to share their current research, work in progress, and ideas for future endeavors. Often W2133 meetings highlight collaborative efforts among group members and their institutions. Invariably, the W2133 meetings and the professional relationships provide opportunities for some great, friendly feedback that helps advance individual and collective goals and objectives. In fact, the proceedings from W2133 annual meetings, agency publications, and coauthored journal articles evidence the ongoing success of this group in advancing theory and applications in resource and environmental economics, important refinements, and new empirical applications.

The Policy-Research Connection

As would (or should) be expected from a USDAsponsored research project in the spirit of the land-grant university system,W2133 research has always been responsive to practical problems and policy needs. In a recent Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) newsletter article, Bergstrom and Loomis (2006) review the close connection between natural resource and environmental policy and the W2133 (and its earlier manifestations) research agenda. We summarize the primary connections in this article to show the reader how present W2133 research, including the articles in this special issue, relate to the historical, policy-driven W2133 research agenda.

In the early days,W2133 research focused primarily on outdoor recreation and, in particular, use values associated with outdoor recreation trips taken to public land and water resources. …

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