Environmental economists routinely use travel cost methods to value recreational services from protected areas, but a number of limitations remain. First, most travel cost studies focus on a single protected area or a small handful of protected area sites; value estimates that relate to a protected area network across a larger geographic area or jurisdiction are rare. Second, most protected area travel cost studies use on-site sampling techniques that bias value estimates towards those reported by frequent visitors. Values derived from such studies are unlikely to be representative of those held by the broader community, and as such they are of limited utility for strategic land-use planning. We have overcome these limitations to estimate the total value of tourism and recreation for a network of 728 protected areas across 800,000 km2 in New South Wales (NSW) in south-eastern Australia. This is one of the largest studies of its kind undertaken to date, drawing on data from a stratified random phone-survey of more than 62,000 individuals in which interviewers collected detailed information on the number of visits to any and all of the 728 protected areas within NSW. Our study provides new insights into protected area visitation through the use of a random effects ordered logit model, which allows explicit examination of the distribution of recreational value amongst households. Our modelling estimates the value of tourism and recreation services provided by the NSW protected area network at $AUD 3.3 billion per annum. Most of this value accrues to frequent users from within NSW, particularly those from regional areas. The comparative values presented in our study indicate that the recreational services provided by protected areas and other sites can be a similar order of magnitude to, and perhaps even greater than, the extractive uses that are traditionally assigned economic values. It follows that land-use decisions that fail to account for these values are unlikely to optimise societal benefits from land-use allocation.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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