Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Business and Economics


William S Breffle


The Great Lakes watershed is home to over 40 million people, and the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem is vital to the overall economic, societal, and environmental health of the U.S. and Canada. However, environmental issues related to them are sometimes overlooked. Policymakers and the public face the challenges of balancing economic benefits with the need to conserve and/or replenish regional natural resources to ensure long term prosperity. From the literature review, nine critical stressors of ecological services were delineated, 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; this list was validated through a series of stakeholder discussions and focus groups in Grand Rapids. Focus groups were conducted in Grand Rapids to examine the awareness of, concern with, and willingness to expend resources on these stressors. Stressors that the respondents have direct contact with tend to be the most important. The focus group results show that concern related to pollution and contamination is much higher than for any of the other stressors. Low responses to climate change result in recommendations for outreach programs.