Cost share payment and willingness to participate in Virginia's Pine Bark Beetle Prevention Program
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Forest management practices which reduce southern pine beetle (SPB) risk benefit not only the landowners who perform them, but all those who draw benefits from southern pine forests in Virginia, especially other forest owners within the same region. One such management practice is pre-commercial thinning (PCT), which is particularly unattractive to non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowners because of the substantial costs and delayed financial returns involved. Since the benefits to society generated by PCT are not fully realized by the individuals who might implement it, there may be a market externality in which PCT is underprovided across the landscape. The Pine Bark Beetle Prevention Program (PBBPP) has the potential to correct this externality by reimbursing a portion of the costs of PCT for landowners who qualify. However, cost share incentives have been criticized for being ineffectual on the basis that landowners substitute publicly funded reimbursement for private investment, without altering their management practices. To investigate the effect of the PBBPP cost share for PCT, a survey was sent to 1,200 NIPF landowners in seven counties across the Piedmont and Coastal Plain physiographic regions of Virginia, where southern pine is prevalent and SPB hazard is a relevant concern. To measure willingness to participate in the program, a referendum style question was used in which the offered cost share ranged from 20% to 90%. Results of discrete choice models estimated from survey data indicate that cost sharing has a significant, positive effect on willingness to participate overall, though increasing reimbursement above 60% is unlikely to affect participation. Some landowners are not responsive or are less responsive to cost sharing due to personal and property characteristics.
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