Can environmental attributes influence protected area designation? A case study valuing preferences for springs in Grand Canyon National Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Springs in Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA) provide water to over 6 million visitors per year. In addition to use value for visitors, springs have cultural value to indigenous peoples and provide critical habitat for plants and animals. Finally, base flow to the Colorado River is dependent upon springs and they also provide an important water source for backcountry recreation. Climate change, uranium mining, and increased groundwater pumping threaten the continued viability of Grand Canyon springs. Springs protection is at the forefront of proposed national policy to protect the area of the aquifers contributing to springs of the Grand Canyon outside of the designated boundaries of the national park. To date very little research on the non-market values of springs has been conducted, and no research has estimated non-market values of springs within Grand Canyon National Park using a Choice Experiment (CE). We conduct a nationwide online Choice Experiment to determine willingness to pay (WTP) to protect backcountry springs and attributes including; accessibility, suitability as a back country water source, suitability as habitat for species of concern, aesthetics, and significance to Indigenous Nations. We estimate a Bayesian mixed logit, and find an average willingness to pay of $32.60 per household for a spring with the presence of all five attributes. The habitat attribute produces the highest WTP of $14.80. We find WTP of $4.50 for springs with cultural significance. Results from our study could be instrumental in designation of the Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument. In addition, our results indicate that careful consideration of watershed services on public lands is essential for efficient decision-making regarding protection of public lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-205
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017



  • Choice experiment
  • Grand Canyon
  • Groundwater
  • Non-market valuation
  • Springs
  • Uranium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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