Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #33 - No Survey

When properly conducted, the "value" part of "functions and values" is inseparable from an effort to quantify them via economic valuation methods. As suggested by the National Research Council and the published literature, "values" can refer to use and nonuse values. Use values can consist of consumptive uses and non-consumptive uses. A list of "values" might look something like the following:
Use Values
Consumptive Uses
1. Harvesting
2. Fishing
3. Water Supply
4. Logging
5. Genetic Resource
Non-Consumptive Uses
1. Recreation - boating/swimming/hiking/birdwatching
2. Transportation
1. Habitat support
2. Flood control
3. Erosion prevention
4. Pollution control
Nonuse Values
1. Existence
2. Species preservation
3. Biodiversity
4. Cultural heritage
Once listed, the values of our community can be quantified using a valuation method. When markets exist for goods and services, valuation is a relatively simple matter. However, when there are no markets, an alternative benchmark is needed, and the leading valuation method for those situations is called "Contingent Valuation" (CV).

Contingent Valuation is a method of estimating the value that a person places on a good. The approach asks people to directly report their willingness to pay (WTP) to obtain a specified good, or willingness to accept (WTA) to give up a good, rather than inferring them from observed behaviors in regular market places.

Because CV creates a hypothetical marketplace in which no actual transactions are made, contingent valuation has been successfully used for commodities that are not exchanged in regular markets, or when it is difficult to observe market transactions under the desired conditions.

Many applications of CV deal with public goods such as improvements in water or air quality, amenities such as national parks, and private non-market commodities such as reductions in the risk of death, days of illness avoided or days spent hunting or fishing.

Before your eyes glaze over too much, the main point to recognize is that CV is survey based. "They" were supposed to ask us to quantify our values, using sample sizes of stakeholders ranging between 200 and 2500 people.

Were you part of a survey of community values? ... Didn't think so. Then how do "they" know the proposed CAOs are protective of them?

Our proposed CAOs seem to be placing an awful lot of emphasis on values related to indirect non-consumptive use and nonuse. Where is that coming from? Who is telling us what our community values are? Is it the Department of Ecology? Is it Dr. Adamus? Shireene? The Friends?

There is no supporting evidence that the proposed CAOs are actually reflective of broad-based values within our community, and there has been no quantification (or even a list) of community values implicit in our CAO protection scheme.


  1. The Friends of the San Juans shared with all of us, their determination of our rural character in 2004. Its all laid out in their really pretty report thingee that they print and mail at great expense to each and every one of us, whether we are a card carrying member or not. How did the Friends arrive at their conclusions of contingent value and rural character? The Bullitt Foundation gave them a big grant to "influence land use policy in the San Juans." What else do you need?

  2. When are we going to face the fact that the CAO has nothing to do with what our community wants or thinks? And that the County Council is not representing the people of San Juan County? This is not by us or for is only being done to us. We need to go up the food chain and look at the bigger picture.

  3. Can the Council be taken to court for not doing the survey?