The non-market benefits of early and partial gains in managing threatened salmon
Threatened species are increasingly dependent on conservation investments for persistence and recovery. Information that resource managers could use to evaluate investments–such as the public benefits arising from alternative conservation designs–is typically scarce because conservation benefits arise outside of conventional markets. Moreover, existing studies that measure the public benefits of conserving threatened species often do not measure the benefits from partial gains in species abundance that fall short of official recovery, or the benefits from achieving gains in species abundance that happen earlier in time. We report on a stated preference choice experiment designed to quantify the non-market benefits for conservation investments aimed at threatened Pacific Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) along the Oregon Coast (OC). Our results show that a program aimed at increasing numbers of returning salmon can generate sizable benefits of up to $518 million/y for an extra 100,000 returning fish, even if the species is not officially declared recovered. Moreover, while conservation investment strategies expected to achieve relatively rapid results are likely to have higher up-front costs, our results show that the public attaches substantial additional value of up to $277 million/y for achieving conservation goals quickly. Our results and approach can be used to price natural capital investments that lead to gains in returning salmon, and as inputs to evaluations of the benefits and costs from alternative conservation strategies.