Metla Project 3276

Policy instruments for forest-based public goods

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Duration: 2000-2004   Keywords: Safe Minimum Standard, biodiversity, ecological economics, ecosystem management, environmental economics, externalities, moral pluralism, policy instruments, property rights, public goods


The objective of the project is to provide research results on the supply of forest-based public goods (e.g. biodiversity, scenery, and recreation benefits) and on the policy instruments applicable for regulating the supply. This information contributes to clarifying the interaction and compatibility of the goals set for socially, economically and ecologically sustainable forestry.

The specific research topics of the project include
  1. the identification and classification of the public goods in private and public lands and specification of the regulating policy instruments used in EU countries,
  2. the efficiency and acceptability of different policy instruments in regulating the supply of public goods in private lands and
  3. the applicability and impacts on income distribution of the existing and potential incentives, their evaluation criteria and normative principles.


While biodiversity preservation is acknowledged to be an important part of ecologically sustainable forest management, securing the social sustainability of the policy measures and regulations applied is vital for obtaining the objectives of preservation in the long run. This project aimed at understanding the often heterogeneous and conflicting public preferences for biodiversity conservation in forest management and the level of acceptance of potential policy instruments by taking a multidisciplinary approach to study public opinions on biodiversity conservation in public and private lands. The project consisted of two mutually complementary studies thus allowing examination of different research topics relevant in varying scale. An area-specific study looked at the public preferences for the components of forest environment, especially for biodiversity in the management of recreation areas, while a nation-wide study considered the public preferences for national policy and the instruments used in biodiversity conservation.

The value of and trade-offs between different environmental components such as biodiversity, scenery and the cost of management were examined using an economic method, choice experiment, applicable in a situation of multiattribute valuation. The economic approach was complemented with social-psychological methods, which aimed at producing knowledge on visitors’ recreation experience, and studied their preferences for and the restorative effects of forest management options in recreation areas. Empirical data were collected using on-site surveys and interviews conducted in municipal recreation areas, and a nation-wide postal survey.

The results of the studies revealed the overall positive attitude of the public on biodiversity conservation but also the importance of considering the aspects of social sustainability in the implementation policy. It was evident that when the nature conservation values are placed abreast with other forest related benefits, or the socio-economic costs of the conservation action, most of the respondents face a trade-off situation. For example, while favouring additional forest conservation in the southern Finland, a majority of Finnish citizens support the forest owners' sovereignty in decision-making, and a full compensation for the direct and indirect costs of biodiversity conservation. Also the policy instruments based on voluntariness of forest owners, like counselling and contracts, were preferred to a more authoritarian approach. Only the respondents with the most pro-conservation attitudes were uncompromising in their preferences. They were willing to forsake other benefits in order to obtain the nature conservation goals, or their preferences, e.g. for scenery or recreation experience, were in line with their values.



Project leader: Horne, Paula

Other researchers: Hänninen, Harri, VA (2001-04), Kallio, Maarit, VA (2004), Karppinen, Heimo, VA (2001-03), Koskela, Terhi, VA (2003-04), Kurttila, Mikko, JO (2001), Löytömäki, Stiina (2002-03), Moilanen, Juhani (2002-04), Naskali, Arto, RO (2000-04), Ovaskainen, Ville, VA (2002-04), Petäjistö, Leena, VA (2004)

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Updated 12.06.2012