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Abstract

The economic impact of changing land-use policies has traditionally been estimated using the standard economic model of profit maximization. Ranchers are assumed to maximize profit and to adjust production strategies so as to continue maximizing profit with altered policies. Yet, nearly 30 years of research and observation have shown that family, tradition, and the desirable way of life are the most important factors in the ranch purchase decision - not profit. Ranch buyers want an investment they can touch, feel, and enjoy, and they historically have been willing to accept relatively low returns from the livestock production. Profit maximization appears to be an inadequate model for explaining rancher behavior, describing grazing land use, and estimating the impacts of altered public land policies. In this paper, we investigate the relative importance of livestock production income and desirable lifestyle attributes in determining the market value of western ranches, and we explore what this means for economic models and policy analysis.

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