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Research Mission

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) Strategic Framework (2003) identified five research and development focus areas expected to guide research efforts with the RMRS. The most germane focus area for this research work unit is “Conflicting Values: Effects on Resource Use and Management.”

"Our research will assist planners and managers to better understand social values and how to manage among conflicting values" (RMRS Strategic Framework, p 19).

To address the RMRS research mission on social and economic values, we focus on four research problems.

Problem 1: Theories, Methods, and Institutions for Valuation and Understanding Value Conflicts

Problem 2: Recreation and Related Non-commodity Values

Problem 3: Value of Water and Other Ecosystem Services

Problem 4: Values and Value Conflict in a Changing Landscape


Problem 1: Theories, Methods, and Institutions for Valuation and Understanding Value Conflicts

Incorporating public preferences into land management decisions is an essential part of managing national forests and other public lands. Failure to consider public values often results in contentious lawsuits. If values are to be used in planning and policy they must be credible and defensible. Basic research is needed to understand the validity of the theory and methods used to measure values. The three subproblems address important aspects of the theory and methods.

A: Validity and reliability of nonmarket valuation methods needed to support and inform forest planning and policy.

B: Suitability of economic measures of value in public land planning and policy deliberations.

C: Effect of institutional settings, practice, behaviors, values and value conflicts.

Problem 2: Recreation and Related Non-commodity Values

The large increase in recreation (both in amount and variety) and other expressions of amenity value on a fixed land base, combined with changing demographics and changing expectations for public land, greatly increase the complexity of managing public land and the likelihood of conflict between uses and users, between users and managers, and between managers and the public.

A: Cconsequences of recreation fees on different types of public land users.

B: Documentation and understanding of people's values and objectives for public land use and management.

C: Place specific meanings and attachments, how they are formed, and how they color people's values related to natural resources and public lands.

Problem 3: Value of Water and Other Ecosystem Services

Federal lands are the source of nearly 70 percent of the water supply of the Western states in the contiguous US, and national forests account for most of that contribution. As economic development continues, pressures to divert water for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses will increase at the same time as pressures mount to protect in-stream flow. The inevitable conflicts will increase the need for an improved understanding of the value of water in different locations and uses and of the tradeoffs among different water allocation alternatives.

A: Cumulative watershed effects of upstream changes on in-stream and off-stream water uses and values.

B: Measurement of the marginal values of streamflow put to in-stream and off-stream uses.

C: Estimation of past, current, and future water demand and supply in the US, and of the contribution of the national forests to the nation's water needs.

D: Economic values of ecosystem services, and the opportunities for and implications of marketing ecosystem services from public land.

Problem 4: Values and Value Conflict in a Changing Landscape

Greater social diversity produces greater diversity in values and expectations resulting in conflicts over the management of public lands and resources.

A: Role of values and value conflicts in aggravating and/or mitigating social and ecological disturbances.

B: Assessing and monitoring the social, spatial and temporal patterns of values at a variety of scales.

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