Policy

The Value of State Parks

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Science  26 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6046, pp. 1072
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6046.1072-c

State parks in the United States can be a refuge for wildlife, a reservoir of plant diversity, or a source of untamed water. They are also a popular destination for recreation. But recent economic belt-tightening means that budgets for state parks are going under the knife. By analyzing data from five national surveys conducted between 1975 and 2007, Siikamäki attempted to assess the value of one aspect of state parks: recreation. About a third of the time people currently spend on nature recreation in the United States is accounted for in state parks. Although use of state parks has declined over the time period covered in the surveys, the cost of running the parks remains easily outdistanced by the recreation value derived from the parks. Following the conventional approach of valuing recreation time at one-third of paid wage time, the value of nature recreation in state parks reaches about $14 billion annually, whereas annual operation costs total about$2.3 billion. Thus, these sometimes unassuming parks build a network that delivers ecosystem and economic value, as well as just giving us a nice day.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108, 10.1073/pnas.1108688108 (2011).