Thursday, October 27, 2011

News Flash - Mainland Taxpayers Willing to Pay for Hawaii's Reefs!

Now that I have your attention, I should probably qualify this. They did not say that they would pay additional taxes, just that they felt that some of their taxes should go this direction, even if it meant that other programs would get less. I like the sentiment.

The study by NOAA (our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) found that mainland folks would put an average of $287.62/ year of their taxes to conserving Hawaii’s reefs. If you multiply this by the 116.7 million taxpaying US households you get $33.57 billion as the value of Hawaii’s reefs.

Not bad I am thinking, but a couple of key items here to think about. Putting $(dollars) to natural resources is very difficult.

You can do intrinsic value. Consider coral reefs. They have value for snorkelers, value for the fish they provide and value for the protection they give to our coastlines. They increase our property values, provide new medicines, clean our coastal waters (absorb nutrients) and have spiritual values as well.

To put dollars to this, you can see what people would pay to protect it, look at how much they might spend to visit it,or how much we get out of it (how much the fish are worth at the market and so on).

There is the issue that if you put a dollar value to something, it can now be potentially bought and sold; even if the value is very wrong (especially if it is too cheap - this happens all the time). However, if you don't put a dollar value on something, you can't charge any damages when someone messes it up.

So what are Hawaii’s reefs are worth? To put the current study in context, let’s add in a slightly older study by Dr. Herman Cesar and colleagues. He found that our reefs were worth $364 million a year (defined as added net business revenue to Hawaii from our reefs, including fishing, tourism, higher property values and more). He asked folks more directly how much they would pay to conserve our reefs. Let’s put this all together:

Our reefs are worth:
 $3.00/ year per Mainland household (what each household would pay additionally a year to conserve them - Cesar, et. al.)
$10.00/ year per Hawaii household (what Hawaiian households would pay additionally a year – Cesar, et. al.)
$287.62/year of current tax money already spent per US household (NOAA)
$364 million/ year added net economic value to the State of Hawaii (Cesar, et. al.)
$33.57 billion/ year US conservation value (NOAA)

From small personal amounts to large communal amounts,
They are worth a lot!

For the news article on the current valuation by NOAA, check out the Washington Post
For the full study, go to the NOAA site.
For the Cesar, et. al. work see: Economic Value of Hawaii’s Reefs. 
And finally, for the BIG PICTURE – check out the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. 



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