Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Natural Resources

Major Professor

Donald G. Hodges

Committee Members

David M. Ostermeier, Bruce E. Tonn, J. Larry Wilson

Abstract

Rural landscapes in the United States have changed substantially in recent years due to increased urbanization, and an ever-increasing demand for consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of natural resources. At the same time, we are facing new challenges regarding the socio-economic well-being of people and the ecological significance of resources in the landscape. Previous research in natural resources economics and management has failed to recognize the role of natural resources amenities in fostering economic growth, human values, and public welfare. Applying various non-market valuation techniques to real world observations, the findings from the essays in this dissertation add to the valuation aspects of natural resources economics literature, and reveal some policy implications for local, state, and federal governments.

The first essay investigates the potential of promoting natural resource amenities as a rural economic growth engine. The second investigates how the variation, spatial distribution, and configuration of landuse features are valued in urban neighborhoods. The third essay estimates the demand for public lands in urban areas and analyzes the anticipated economic welfare gain of policies supplying such public lands. The fourth essay extends the existing model of the life expectancy production function to evaluate the role of environmental amenities in promoting public health. The final essay assesses the effects of the ongoing landuse changes and urban sprawl on the demand for wildlife hunting and related nature-based recreation in rural America.

Since the recent approaches of conservation and development emphasize passive employment of natural resources for sustainable development; the essays in this iv dissertation present some insights into recognizing the value of natural resources in economic growth, human values, public health, and recreational prospects in the United States. In addition to providing policy implications, essays in this dissertation extend or improve some of the existing models and methodological frameworks of non-market valuation.

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