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Abstract

A computerized survey instrument was developed to estimate the economic value of riparian restoration along the Little Tennessee River in western North Carolina. Restoration benefits were described in terms of five indicators of ecosystem services: abundance of game fish, water clarity, wildlife habitat, allowable water uses, and ecosystem naturalness. An iterative sequence of dichotomous choice contingent valuation questions were presented to local residents to assess household willingness to pay increased county sales taxes for differing amounts of riparian restoration. Our results showed that the benefits of ecosystem restoration were "super-additive". That is, the total value of conducting many restoration projects exceeded the sum of the value of projects evaluated independently or at too small of a spatial scale. We also estimated the costs of riparian restoration activities by collecting and analyzing data from riparian restoration projects in the study area. After adjusting our estimated valuation function for socio-economic characteristics of the population, the benefit/ cost ratio for riparian restoration throughout the entire watershed was about 2.2 to 1.

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