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Cumulative Effects Planning: Finding the Balance Using Choice Experiments

Amanda Spyce, Department of Energy, Government of Alberta
Marian Weber, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures
Wiktor Adamowicz, Department of Rural Economy, University of Alberta


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Cumulative effects management requires understanding the environmental impacts of development and finding the right balance between social, economic, and environmental objectives. We explored the use of choice experiments to elicit preferences for competing social, economic, and ecological outcomes in order to rank land and resource development options. The experiments were applied in the Southeast Yukon, a remote and resource rich region in Northern Canada with a relatively large aboriginal population. The case study addresses two issues of concern in cumulative effects management: the willingness to discount future environmental costs for immediate development benefits, and the existence of limits of acceptable change for communities affected by development. These issues are thought to be particularly relevant for First Nations in Northern Canada where cultural identify is tied to the land and continuity of the community is an important value. We found that residents of the Southeast Yukon value benefits from both development and conservation and must make trade-offs between these competing objectives in evaluating land use scenarios. Based on the preference information we evaluated four land use scenarios. Conservation scenarios ranked higher than development scenarios, however, there was significant heterogeneity around preferences for conservation outcomes suggesting a low degree of consensus around this result. We also found that residents did not discount the future highlighting the importance of intergenerational equity in resource development decisions. We did not find evidence of development thresholds or limits of acceptable change. Interestingly we found no difference in preferences between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations.

Key words

aboriginal preferences;  choice experiments; cumulative effects; Northern Canada

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087