A new study from Northern Arizona University shows Phoenix residents are willing to pay for forest restoration projects that protect the Salt and Verde watersheds, but they value some benefits of restoration more than others. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.
Survey respondents prioritized projects that protect wildlife habitat or improve surface water quality. They were willing to pay about $40 as a one-time fee for those projects, compared to just $1 for projects focused on groundwater recharge.
Adrienne Soder is one of the study’s authors. She says more research is needed to understand that disconnect between surface and groundwater resources. "Phoenix residents are drilled with: you’re water comes from the Salt-Verde Rivers and from the Colorado River," she says. "In their mind their water resources come from surface water, so that could be an explanation."
The study also found support for preserving culturally significant areas, and for forest closures during wildfire season, even though a majority of respondents said they use the forest for recreation. Soder says, "I think that just ties back to being connected to something and caring about something, you're willing to sacrifice to protect it."
Soder says this research puts dollar numbers on benefits that aren’t normally thought of in economic terms. The researchers plan to create a map with the findings so land managers can pinpoint areas where restoration is valued.