We mailed a contingent value survey to 1600 randomly selected residents of Coos County, New Hampshire during Spring, 1994 to determine the willingness to pay (WTP) to protect forest benefits with conservation easements and the extent to which attitudinal and socioeconomic characteristics influence WTP.
We had a 21% response to our survey. The mean WTP value estimated by logistic regression and numerical integration was $31.23 per county resident. The county as a whole is willing to pay $228,000 to $1,000,000 annually to a voluntary land and water conservation fund to protect forest benefits.
Respondent income had a positive influence on WTP while years of residency, children living at home, and bid price offered in the dichotomous choice elicitation format had negative influences. Socioeconomic variables that were not statistically significant included: prior knowledge of conservation easements, participation in a conservation easement program as well as respondents' age, gender, and education.
Survey respondents expressed attitudes about awareness of conservation easements, concern about forest loss and development at state, county and local levels, perceptions of problems that interfere with enjoyment of local forests, and beliefs about effectiveness of various groups to protect forest values for the future. Respondents indicated that protection of wildlife habitat and water resources were the most important values to protect with conservation easements.
Key words: conservation easements, contingent valuation, dichotomous choice.
Correspondence: Theodore E. Howard, Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA