The Fort Collins Science Center’s Social and Economic Analysis Branch provides unique capabilities in the U.S. Geological Survey by leading projects that integrate social, behavioral, economic, and natural science in the context of human–natural resource interactions. Our research provides scientific understanding and support for the management and conservation of our natural resources in support of multiple agency missions. We focus on meeting the scientific needs of the Department of the Interior natural resource management bureaus in addition to fostering partnerships with other Federal and State managers to protect, restore, and enhance our environment. The Social and Economic Analysis Branch has an interdisciplinary group of scientists whose primary functions are to conduct both theoretical and applied social science research, provide technical assistance, and offer training to support the development of skills in natural resource management activities. Management and research issues associated with human-resource interactions typically occur in a unique context and require knowledge of both natural and social sciences, along with the skill to integrate multiple science disciplines. In response to these challenging contexts, Social and Economic Analysis Branch researchers apply a wide variety of social science concepts and methods which complement our rangeland/agricultural, wildlife, ecology, and biology capabilities. The goal of the Social and Economic Analysis Branch's research is to enhance natural-resource management, agency functions, policies, and decisionmaking.
Valuing morbidity from wildfire smoke exposure: a comparison of revealed and stated preference techniques
The Fort Collins Science Center’s Policy Analysis and Science Assistance (PASA) Branch is a team of approximately 22 scientists, technicians, and graduate student researchers. PASA provides unique capabilities in the U.S. Geological Survey by leading projects that integrate social, behavioral, economic, and biological analyses in the context of human–natural resource interactions. Resource planners, managers, and policymakers in the U.S. Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), State and local agencies, and international agencies use information from PASA studies to make informed natural-resource management and policy decisions. PASA scientists’ primary functions are to conduct both theoretical and applied social science research, provide technical assistance, and offer training to advance performance in policy-relevant research areas. Management and research issues associated with human-resource interactions typically occur in a unique context, involve difficult-to-access populations, require knowledge of both natural and biological science in addition to social science, and require the skill to integrate multiple science disciplines. In response to these difficult contexts, PASA researchers apply traditional and state-of-the-art social science methods drawing from the fields of sociology, demography, economics, political science, communications, social psychology, and applied industrial organization psychology. These social science methods work in concert with our rangeland/ agricultural management, wildlife, ecology, and biology capabilities. The goal of PASA’s research is to enhance natural-resource management, agency functions, policies, and decisionmaking. Our research is organized into four broad areas of study.
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
The Fort Collins Science Center’s Policy Analysis and Science Assistance (PASA) Branch is a team of approximately 22 scientists, technicians, and graduate student researchers. PASA provides unique capabilities in the U.S. Geological Survey by leading projects that integrate social, behavioral, economic, and biological analyses in the context of human-natural resource interactions. Resource planners, managers, and policymakers in the U.S. Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA), State and local agencies, as well as international agencies use information from PASA studies to make informed natural resource management and policy decisions. PASA scientists’ primary functions are to conduct both theoretical and applied social science research, provide technical assistance, and offer training to advance performance in policy relevant research areas...
Regional economic analysis of current and proposed management alternatives for Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge
The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 requires all units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to be managed under a Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan must describe the desired future conditions of a refuge and provide long-range guidance and management direction to achieve refuge purposes. The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (refuge) is in the process of developing a range of management goals, objectives, and strategies for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge must contain an analysis of expected effects associated with current and proposed refuge management strategies.
The purpose of this study was to assess the regional economic implications associated with draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan management strategies. Special interest groups and local residents often criticize a change in refuge management, especially if there is a perceived negative impact to the local economy. Having objective data on economic impacts may show that these fears are overstated. Quite often, the extent of economic benefits a refuge provides to a local community is not fully recognized, yet at the same time the effects of negative changes is overstated. Spending associated with refuge recreational activities, such as wildlife viewing and hunting, can generate considerable tourist activity for surrounding communities. Additionally, refuge personnel typically spend considerable amounts of money purchasing supplies in local stores, repairing equipment and purchasing fuel at the local service stations, and reside and spend their salaries in the local community.
For refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan planning, a regional economic assessment provides a means of estimating how current management (no action alternative) and proposed management activities (alternatives) could affect the local economy. This type of analysis provides two critical pieces of information: (1) it illustrates a refuge’s contribution to the local community; and (2) it can help in determining whether local economic effects are or are not a real concern in choosing among management alternatives.
It is important to note that the economic value of a refuge encompasses more than just the impacts of the regional economy. Refuges also provide substantial nonmarket values (values for items not exchanged in established markets), such as maintaining endangered species, preserving wetlands, educating future generations, and adding stability to the ecosystem. However, quantifying these types of nonmarket values was beyond the scope of this study because of time and budget constraints.
USGS developing diagnostic tool for choosing the appropriate social & economic analysis for land and resource management
Over the last several decades, increases in human population, recreational activities, and industrial and residential development have dramatically changed the social and economic context within which public lands are managed. Today, we recognize that people are part of the ecosystem, and a comprehensive understanding of human-ecosystem relationships across a range of spatial and temporal scales is essential for effective natural resource management. Consequently, socioeconomic research and data in relation to biological and natural resource management have grown in importance and application. The USGS Biological Resources Discipline is home to a unique group of scientists with the expertise to integrate human knowledge, values, and perceptions of ecosystem management into practical management strategies.
Diagnostic tool for choosing appropriate socioeconomic analysis for land management planning [poster presentation]
Montag, J.M., L. Koontz, and N. Sexton
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Planners’ Rendezvous: Forging a partnership between recreation and wildlife planners. Missoula, MT. Doubletree Hotel. May 13-15, 2008