Recreation Fees in the Context of Wilderness Values


  • Sarah Fleisher Trainor
  • Richard B. Norgaard


Wilderness, spiritual value, intrinsic value, use value, willingness to pay, wilderness use fees


Scholars from backgrounds in philosophy, economics and psychology have described the complexity of values and their role in natural resource policy and management. Using a multidisciplinary, hermeneutic approach and semi-structured interviews, we investigate the relationship between statements of willingness to pay fees for wilderness use and descriptions of spiritual and intrinsic wilderness values. Specifically, we sought to understand if, in the mind of the wilderness user, spiritual and intrinsic values are adequately reflected in statements of willingness to pay fees. Our findings provide empirical evidence for an incongruity between the understandings of value presented by economists and the narratives of wilderness users.Furthermore, our findings show the possibility of simultaneous pragmatic support for wilderness fees and conceptual disapproval of treating the wilderness as a commodity. This indicates a need for further research regarding the relationships between willingness to pay and multiple wilderness values so that the design and implementation of wilderness fee programs can achieve cost recovery without offending users who disapprove of commodifying the wilderness resource.





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