What price would you put on open space?

A two-year study to put the Mat-Su valley’s open spaces and natural resources into economic terms will be paying a visit to Talkeetna this week. The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research is conducting a study that aims to place dollar values on the natural assets of the Mat-Su, agricultural areas, forests, wetlands and estuaries, open space and recreational land, and hopes to provide comprehensive economic data to support natural resource management and conservation projects.

To do this, the institute is holding a series of focus groups around the valley.  Location, time, and participants are being kept under wraps to preserve the scientific purity of the study, but the Institute will be crunching the outcomes of the focus groups to try and determine, among other things, the economic value of the open-spaces, greenery, and the value of lands with no development on them .

From the Institute’s website:

“The primary focus of this study will be on the role and funding of natural systems for flood risk management, power generation, water quality, habitat for salmon and other fish and wildlife, recreation and natural resource provisioning. This work will facilitate discussion of sustainable regional planning and resource management.

This work will emphasize valuing salmon and other wildlife habitat in sparsely populated areas as direct contributors to the health and vitality of Alaska’s more densely populated areas.

Similar studies have been done in urban areas nationwide, even in Anchorage showing correlations in property value and public health in proximity to nature. The results of these studies may one day influence how growth in the Mat Su borough is directed.

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