Socioeconomic evaluation of the impact of natural resource stressors on human-use services in the Great Lakes Environment: A Lake Michigan case study

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The Great Lakes watershed is home to over 40 million people (Canadian and U.S.) who depend on a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem for economic, societal, and personal vitality. The challenge to policymakers and the public is to balance economic benefits with the need to conserve and replenish regional natural resources in a manner that ensures long term prosperity. Nine critical broad-spectrum stressors of ecological services are identified, which include pollution and contamination, agricultural erosion, non-native species, degraded recreational resources, loss of wetlands habitat, climate change, risk of clean water shortage, vanishing sand dunes, and population overcrowding. Many of these stressors overlap. For example, mining activities alone can create stress in at least five of these categories. The focus groups were conducted to examine the public’s awareness of, concern with, and willingness to expend resources on these stressors. This helped generate a grouping of stressors that the public is especially concerned about, those they care little about, and everything else in between. Stressors that the respondents have direct contact with tend to be the most important to them. This approach of using focus groups is a critical first step in helping natural resource managers such as Trustees and NGOs understand what subsequent steps to take and develop policy measures that are of most interest and value to the public. Skipping or glossing over this key first task could lead to difficulties with respect to survey design and model development in a non-market valuation study. The focus group results show that concern related to pollution and contamination is much higher than for any of the others. It is thus clear that outreach programs may be necessary to educate the public about the severity of some low-ranked stressors including climate change.

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© 2012 Elsevier Ltd.. Publisher’s version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2012.10.004

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