Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

The Impact of Agriculture onWaterfowl Abundance: Evidence from Panel Data

Academic journal article Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics

The Impact of Agriculture onWaterfowl Abundance: Evidence from Panel Data

Article excerpt

Because there are potential externality benefits, it is important to specify an appropriate statistical model when analyzing the conflict between agriculture and migratory waterfowl in Canada's pothole region. Unlike non-spatial panel models, our use of a spatial autoregressive panel model identifies indirect impacts of agricultural activities on wetlands and waterfowl. In particular, we find that programs to restore wetlands in one location will result in enhanced duck productivity of wetlands and habitat in other locations within the study region. Even so, costs of protecting ducks could range from $107 to $204 per bird.

Key words: GIS; land use conflict; migratory waterfowl; spatial econometrics; wetlands protection

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Canada's Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) represents a mere 10% of North America's waterfowl breeding habitat (figure 1), but produces over 50% of the continent's ducks (e.g., Baldassarre, Bolen, and Saunders, 1994). As this region also accounts for roughly 60% of Canada's agricultural output (Statistics Canada, 2006), intense competition exists between private economic interests and public benefits. Not surprisingly, therefore, wetlands and waterfowl numbers have declined. North American waterfowl populations have fallen by at least 40% since monitoring began in the mid 1950s (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010).

Already in the early 1970s, it was shown that wetlands area and waterfowl populations were less than optimal, even if wetlands only provided benefits to U.S. duck hunters the situation has deteriorated (Brown and Hammack, 1973; Hammack and Brown, 1974).1 For instance, van Kooten, Whitey, andWong (2011) found wetlands and duck numbers to be well below socially optimal levels, with climate change (higher temperatures and less precipitation) and efforts to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions through biofuel policies exacerbating the problem (Withey and van Kooten, 2011). Duck populations continue to experience periods of sharp decline and limited recovery.

To arrest declines, various wetland conservation activities have been undertaken by public and private agencies since the 1890s (e.g., see Porter and van Kooten, 1993), with the establishment of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) in 1986 constituting the first continental effort to restore waterfowl populations. By providing funds for NAWMP, the United States explicitly recognized that American hunters benefitted from waterfowl habitat and wetlands protection in Canada (e.g., van Kooten, 1993). A major objective of NAWMP is to restore wetlands (CWS, 2004).

Despite having spent more than $800 million on conservation efforts in Canada's Prairie Provinces, wetlands remain below the NAWMP target (NAWMP Committee, 2009). A key reason is the large overlap (as high as 91% in the PPR) between waterfowl habitat and agricultural lands (Bethke and Nudds, 1995). The primary strategy of establishing long-term land conservation agreements are expensive and fraught with pitfalls related to the principal-agent problem of contracting. As a result, less upland habitat and wetlands are protected with programs often targeted at habitat of poorer quality and wetlands that are less likely to be developed (e.g., van Kooten and Schmitz, 1992; van Kooten, 1993).

Key to the success of any programs that aim to tradeoffagricultural use against waterfowl protection is an understanding of the relationship between land use and waterfowl density. Our goal is to contribute to this understanding. We use a spatial panel econometric model to investigate the extent to which agricultural intensification negatively impacts waterfowl populations. A crucial aspect of our study is that our models allow for the fact that migratory waterfowl can choose to breed where wetlands are more plentiful if wetlands at one location are lost or reduced. This suggests that wetlands conservation or restoration in one location can impact wetlands productivity at another location. …

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