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Ecosystem services -- Oregon -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Forest Park (Portland, Or.), Natural resources -- Oregon -- Management, Willingness to pay, Natural resources -- Oregon -- Public opinion


Objective: This initial phase of research lays the foundation for a survey using contingent valuation (CV) and choice experiment (CE) methods. We asked select Portland residents what they care about most in Forest Park, their willingness to pay (WTP) for improving ecosystem services and how they generally think about the value of those goods and services. These results will help us narrow the experimental design of the forthcoming CV/CE study.

Approach: We conducted a focus group in each of Portland’s 5 “quadrants.” We chose each location - Skyline, St. John’s, Cully, Foster-Powell and Hillsdale - based on either its proximity to Forest Park or its centrality within each respective quadrant. All but one focus group (Cully) session consisted of two portions: a broad conversation about what participants value in Forest Park and a group appraisal of a “dummy” CE survey that we presented to each group. We had to rely on translators in Cully, because most of the participants were not conversant in English, which precluded us from discussing the survey. (For more see METHODS).

Results: Perspectives on the “most important” services differed across focus groups. Participants consistently identified top benefits were ecosystem health and recreational experiences, while prioritizing park access and educational opportunities less often. Our “dummy” survey drew questions about current ecological conditions, management goals and funding levels, which we use to inform our experimental design. While many participants were comfortable with an annual tax, almost every focus group considered the merits of alternative financing mechanisms. With the exception of Skyline participants, some of whom expressed higher values, most of the participants who shared their maximum WTP stayed within the range of values we presented - between $20 and $40 dollars. (For more, see NARRATIVE SYNTHESIS and FOCUS GROUP SUMMARIES.)

Next Steps:

Assuming that respondents to our future CV/CE study share some of the views expressed in these focus groups, our next step must be to construct our CE and CV scenario so that it provides a cogent and comprehensive narrative. This should consist of a serviceable baseline (including ecological condition, management context and funding streams) and attribute/outcome descriptions that adequately describe the following:

  • The proposed set of interventions
  • The impact of those activities
  • How those impacts might affect visitors or residents in general.

Acquiring this information will likely require additional consultation with managers and experts. More consultation and research may also be required in narrowing the range of tested WTP values. Due to the relatively limited number of possible outcomes that we can test in the CV/CE, it may worthwhile to construct internal narratives that help researchers and possibly participants clearly understand underlying tradeoffs. (For more see CONCLUSION.)


This report is part of an ongoing joint study by Portland State University and Forest Park Conservancy (FPC) in order to understand the value of Forest Park ecosystem services to local residents in Portland, Oregon. The principal investigator is Professor Randy Bluffstone of the Department of Economics. A cross-disciplinary team of recent and current graduate and undergraduate students in the natural resources economics, policy & administration, urban studies and planning, sustainability and eco-psychology programs supported every phase of this project, including institutional review, literature review, planning and conducting focus groups, survey development, data analysis and report writing.

Principal Investigators: Randy Bluffstone, Renee Meyers, Fletcher Beaudoin

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