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Research Successes - Environmental Change
Strategic Planning Document -
Environment and Natural Resources
Identifying Social and Economic Impacts
of Resource Management Decisions
Marine fisheries are a primary domestic natural resource under stress. When fishery resources become limited, fishermen lose their
jobs and families suffer. Domestic fishery management approaches need to be evaluated and redesigned. Social science research is helping
identify social and economic impacts of the current trends to move from open access fisheries to limited access fishery management with quasi
property rights associated with the right to fish. Social scientists have identified the distributional effects of cutbacks in harvesting and limited
access management, and have projected effects on industry consolidation and processing sectors. Federal and academic economists have identified
the rationalizing effects that limited access is projected to have on fisheries, as well as the impacts differentiated by ethnic group,
community, vessel size, and other factors. The data and findings are being used by Fishery Management Councils and by federal offices in
order to form programmatic decisions about social and fishery programs for hard-hit regions.
Advancing the Science of Valuation
More sensitive methodologies for valuing natural resources are being developed by federal agencies in cooperation with university scientists.
A leading candidate in environmental economics methodologies is the development of more refined contingent valuation methods, particularly
for use in damage assessments of natural resources (litigation applications). A panel of nationally-known economists was convened to
inform the development of regulations for performing NRDA under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The Panel concluded that CV can produce
estimates reliable enough to be presented in a judicial or administrative determination of natural resource damages, including passive use value,
provided that such studies adhere closely to guidelines described in their report. The Panel also identified issues for further research, in part
to explore whether alternative procedures, such as generic (rather than incident-specific) studies, could provide reliable estimates at a lower cost.
Humans Adapt to Changes in Climate
Improved forecasts of climate patterns aid agricultural production. But recent research shows a more intricate relationship between climate
change and farming than had been assumed. The evidence comes from a study on climate, farm prices, and type of crop for nearly 3,000 counties
in the United States. The study discovered that higher than normal temperatures in all seasons except the fall reduced crop prices. Greater than
normal precipitation in winter, spring, and fall increased those prices. These patterns resulted from the active response that farmers made to the
environmental variations. The repertoire of responses included the introduction of new crops or new technologies, and conversion of the land
to other activities. The study reinforces a theme found in other research on human activity and the environment: environmental forces do not
invariably produce identical social and economic outcomes, given the interventions that human beings can make.