An Economic Perspective on Values and Natural Resource Policy

This CAE working paper considers the applications of normative and positive economics to natural resource problems. It concludes with a light hearted "users guide" for the effective involvement of economists in natural resource management. As a normative science, economics can help reveal how resources should used. As a positive science, economics provides a useful set of concepts and analytical tools that help predict patterns of resource use within a defined set of market and decision rules. Economists can be particularly effective participants in multi-disciplinary teams involved in both management and analysis of public and private resources if the author's "user's guide" is followed. Areas of high priority for natural resource economists include: 1) working towards a better understanding of the policy process as a precursor to improved natural resource policy; 2) developing ways to infer intensity or extent of effective demand for natural resource attributes that are not captured in a market price e.g. charging individual citizens for the perceived benefits of endangered species habitat; 3) more work on the economics of cooperation to aid developing better, more practical systems for managing common property resources like rangeland; and studying the effect of changing incentives on the choices made by rangeland users.

Lawrence W. Libby
DeKalb, IL: American Farmland Trust
Page Numbers: 
Publication Date: 
February 1, 1997
Literature Category: 
Reports and Studies