Impacts on Socioeconomics
Regional Economy. The affected area primarily encompasses two
Throughout the Greater Yellowstone Area, public lands provide the basis for much of the economic activity in the region (recreation, mining, forestry, and agriculture). The area’s overall economy has been changing for more than 20 years. The economy has shifted from commodity-extraction dependence to a more diversified economy based on recreation, tourism, and service industries. For example, between 1969 and 1989, more than 96% of all new jobs in the Greater Yellowstone Area came from sectors other than timber, mining, and agriculture (Rasker, Tirrell, and Kloepfer 1992).
Approximately 10% of
Recreation and tourism are significant to the economic viability of the area. Retail trade and services accounted for approximately 40%–45% of each county’s earnings. These sectors, along with the government sector, have a strong tie to the region’s resources and would likely continue to be important in sustaining segments of the economy of the Greater Yellowstone Area.
The alternatives described in the environmental impact statement would have the potential to affect jobs and income primarily through changes in visitation levels to
EXPENDITURES RELATED TO RECREATION
A 1994 report on snowmobiling in
Resident elk hunters spent $54 per day while resident deer hunters spent $41 per day. Nonresident hunters expenditures associated with elk and deer hunting are $252 and $115 per day, respectively (Duffield 1988). Expenditures related to bison hunting in alternatives 3, 4, and 7 would add to this base, by as much as $440 per day. Since a maximum of 85 hunting permits for any alternative would be expected, expenditures related to it would be only a negligible benefit to the regional economy.
EXPENDITURES RELATED TO WILDLIFE VIEWING
Although alternatives resulting in a higher number and greater distribution of bison may lead to increased visitation to the park and associated expenditures in the area, the probability or extent of this is unknown. The converse is also true – that decreases in the population, particularly large-scale decreases such as would occur under alternative 5, may have adverse impacts on the number of visitors to the area and consequently on spending. However, the probability or extent of this impact is unknown. Surveys of visitors during 1999 indicated no clear relationship between the number of bison seen on a trip and the value placed on the value of the trip. However, while marginal changes in the number of bison in the park may not impact visitor trip values, a significant number of respondents indicated that seeing bison was one of their reasons for visiting the area.
The management of bison would involve killing through agency shooting, transport of seropositive animals to slaughter, hunting, and other actions that some would find objectionable. People who do take offense might object for any number of reasons: e.g., the killing of any animals is inappropriate, human management of wildlife is not needed, or bison do not need to be controlled to prevent brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. All alternatives would involve bison management, and thus each would have some potential for adverse public reaction that might result in the call for a tourism boycott, although the potential would likely vary among alternatives. The potential for such a call and the effectiveness of such a boycott would be difficult to judge.
Minority and Low-Income Populations. As of the 1990 U.S. Census,
Several area tribes have expressed interest in receiving bison carcasses, or, more importantly, live bison as seed stock from the
Under the interim management plan, a total of 1,084 bison were killed outside the park in
Alternatives 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and the modified preferred alternative all would include slaughter and the distribution of carcasses, and all alternatives would include provisions for shooting bison if they crossed boundary lines (and the subsequent gutting, cleaning, and distribution of carcasses, hides, and heads). The estimates for numbers of bison to be sold or donated for consumption would range from an incidental number per year in alternative 3 to 720 over four years under alternative 5. These numbers would represent a very minor portion of the total
The release of live bison would require quarantining captured seronegative bison for the completion of a lengthy quarantine protocol. Quarantine facilities would be proposed for alternatives 3, 4, 7, and the modified preferred alternative, and live bison completing the procedure would be available to tribes and other requesting organizations. Live animals received after quarantine would have substantially more value to tribes than would carcasses.
Social Values. Bison are symbolically an icon for the independent, wild, and free American way of life, and are considered by some people to be “a unique symbol of the strength and determination of the people of
Bison embody the culture of many native Plains peoples. They are a link to the spiritual world, spiritual power concentrated in physical form, the “great provider,” and ultimately a symbol of power and strength. Bison skulls are used as altars, bone is used on traditional dress, and they are at the heart of the continuing sun dance.
Bison are important to other groups as well. To hunters, they are a trophy animal; to cattle ranchers, bison have historically represented competition with livestock for limited forage; and to many animal rights activists, they are an aesthetic and historic resource.
Written comments collected from the Interim Bison Management Plan/Environmental Assessment in 1995 indicated the public was strongly against the slaughter of bison. Ranchers also indicated strong feelings on the need to protect cattle from brucellosis. These are moralistic-humanistic and utilitarian values, respectively (see the “Affected Environment: Socioeconomics – Social Values” section in volume 1 for definitions). No systematic surveys have been conducted, but it appears that alternatives relying on slaughter (1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and steps 1 and 2 of the modified preferred alternative) would have a minor to major adverse impact on those having strong moralistic-humanistic values toward animals.
Attitudes in the
Nonmarket Values. People place value on knowing a species is maintained in a viable state or has been augmented in some way. This “nonmarket” or “existence” value of the bison population was calculated based on results of three 1999 surveys of park visitors, regional residents, and national residents.
National results were not used, as the return rate failed to exceed an established threshold. This means actual nonmarket benefits would likely be significantly higher than those reported.
The benefits of having additional winter range outside the park and of improving bison health were estimated using survey results. Measurable benefits associated with the additional winter range were conservatively calculated to be about $4.43 million under alternatives where bison were allowed on additional purchased winter ranges outside the park (alternatives 2, 3, 7, and the modified preferred alternative). A separate analysis of the nonmarket value associated with aggressively reducing seroprevalence through parkwide capture, test, and slaughter (of seropositives) or vaccination (of seronegatives) like that under alternatives 5 and 6 found that resident and nonresident visitor values represent an estimated total nonmarket value of $3.57 million.
Costs and Benefits. Analysis performed in response to comments received on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement showed that the costs of the alternatives evaluated in the environmental impact statement would exceed the economic benefits in every case. To the extent that alternatives depend on capture, test, slaughter, quarantine, and/or vaccination, they would be increasingly expensive. Benefits were measured as the extent to which each of the objectives in the environmental impact statement were achieved. The alternative with the lowest costs for bison management was alternative 2; however, land purchase anticipated for phase 2 of this alternative would increase costs significantly. Alternatives 5 and 6 both have large costs associated with parkwide capture, test, slaughter, and vaccination operations. These costs would greatly exceed benefits, even when nonmarket benefits described above were included. Costs of implementing the modified preferred alternative would exceed benefits by about $7.4 million. This is about $1.8 million higher than the excess of costs over benefits in alternative 1.
Did You Know?
Yellowstone contains approximately one-half of the world’s hydrothermal features. There are over 10,000 hydrothermal features, including over 300 geysers, in the park.