Critique of Contingent Valuation and Travel Cost Methods for Valuing Natural Resources and Ecosystems

Eberle, W. David; Hayden, F. Gregory
September 1991
Journal of Economic Issues (Association for Evolutionary Economi;Sep91, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p649
Academic Journal
In July 1989 the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, District of Columbia, disallowed the method that had been established by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) for determining what a corporation would pay in the case of injury to an ecosystem from hazardous waste spills. The DOI method was based on neoclassical methodology and appraisal techniques. While ruling against the dependence on market means for measuring injury from hazardous spills, the Court did not explicitly rule on the contingent valuation method (CVM) and the travel cost method (TCM) as appraisal methodologies for the valuation of natural resources and ecosystems. These methodologies, both of which are based on neoclassical ideology, attempt to place a market valuation on the natural environment that is not included in market exchange. The article criticizes, CVM and TCM in order to assist courts and legislative bodies in future deliberations. According to the authors, although the CVM and TCM are used extensively for measuring the value of ecosystems, neither method can be legitimized in a theoretical or applicable sense from a neoclassical, psychometric or general systems point of view.


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