Modeling biodiversity benefits and external costs from a keystone predator reintroduction policy
In this paper, an economic model was constructed to determine the optimal wolf population and distribution across the Northern Rocky Mountains. Both ecological and economic concepts were incorporated in an implicitly spatial social welfare maximization problem. This interdisciplinary model relies on multiple data sources, including current wolf population and distribution information, opportunity cost to local landowners, and contingent valuation studies to determine willingness-to-pay for wolves. Economic models tend to externalize ecological concerns and ecological models often omit the complex human dimensions of conservation policy. Accordingly, this model can serve as a guide for integrating best practices from both fields. The model presented here is sufficiently general to apply to wolves in other ecosystems and to other highly interacting species such as beavers and bison. The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf was used as an example of how this economic model works, but this model can be applied far more broadly.
KeywordsWolf Economics Biodiversity Ecological economics Opportunity cost Conservation policy Endangered species
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