The Economic Value of High Elevation Recreation

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Catherine Keske
John Loomis

High elevation recreation presents a complex dimension to the management of mountain ecosystems. Results of our recent economic study indicate that recreators place approximately four times the value on high elevation recreation than on "typical" mountain recreation experiences. These findings imply that there are limited substitutes for high elevation recreation, and a high demand for such experiences could tax the environmental carrying capacity of the fragile tundra. Likewise, damage caused to alpine forests, as in the case of nitrogen deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park, could reduce the demand for mountain recreation. This would lead to a significant reduction to the regional economy, which depends upon recreation as a "sustainable" form of economic development. Our next research steps are to evaluate the carrying capacity of these high elevation areas for mountain recreation, and to determine the extent to which the demand for high elevation recreation is affected by economic downturn.