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Harnessing Visitors’ Enthusiasm for National Parks to Fund Cooperative Large-Landscape Conservation


Spillover impacts pose challenges for the management of protected areas (PAs). The issue of external threats encroaching on PAs has long been recognized, but a corollary—that PA conservation can increase costs borne by neighboring governments or landowners—is less well appreciated. In some contexts, basic principles of fairness and cooperation suggest that PA users should help pay these costs. Several countries have developed mechanisms for distributing the costs of spillover impacts to PA users, but not the United States. Here, we investigate whether and how US park visitors could help address one type of spillover, the need for wildlife conservation efforts beyond park boundaries, using a case study of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). We examine a “conservation fee” recently proposed in the Wyoming legislature, along with tax‐based alternatives. After exploring some costs of wildlife conservation in GYE, we estimate that a fee of up to $10 per vehicle could generate up to $13 million annually, and tax‐based approaches considerably more. We consider legal, political, and governance challenges, and ways to mitigate them. The GYE could serve as a demonstration site for visitor funding of cooperative, large‐landscape conservation, for potential future expansion in the US and beyond.


Written By
  • Arthur Middleton
    • Impact Fellow

    Arthur is an assistant professor of wildlife management and policy at the University of California – Berkeley and director of the Middleton lab. He also currently serves as a Trustee of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and a science advisor to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

  • Bryan Leonard
    • Fellowship Director,
    • Senior Fellow

    Bryan Leonard is an associate professor of environmental and natural resource economics in the School of Sustainability and a faculty affiliate in the Economics Department and the Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment at Arizona State University. He is also a senior fellow at PERC, a PERC fellowship director, and a 2017 and 2018 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow. 

  • Temple Stoellinger
    Temple Stoellinger
    • Senior Fellow

    Temple Stoellinger is a PERC senior fellow and an assistant professor at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming as well as co-director of the Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies.

  • Harshad Karandikar

    Harshad Karandikar is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California – Berkeley. He was also a 2016 Steve Silberstein Fellow.

  • Holly Doremus

    Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. She is a leading scholar and teacher in the areas of environmental law, natural resources law, and law and science.

  • Claire Kremen

    Claire Kremen is a professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California – Berkeley.

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