Toolkit Development

The USGS Benefit Transfer Toolkit builds upon the Benefit Transfer and Use Estimating Model Toolkit originally developed at Colorado State University (Loomis et al., 2008; Loomis and Richardson, 2007). The updated USGS Benefit Transfer Toolkit includes expanded valuation databases, a series of statistical forecasting models, and an interactive map of outdoor recreation studies. The Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program, the National Park Service Social Science Program, and the USGS Sustaining Environmental Capital Initiative have contributed to the Toolkit’s development. Additionally, the development of the USGS Benefit Transfer Toolkit could not have been possible without the support of Dr. John Loomis at Colorado State University and Dr. Randy Rosenberger at Oregon State University.

Toolkit Coding and Databases

The outdoor recreation use databases in the USGS Benefit Transfer Toolkit have benefited significantly from Dr. Randy Rosenberger’s extensive research and advancement of the Recreation Use Values Database (RUVD) for North America (Recreation Use Values Database, 2016). Development of Dr. Rosenberger’s RUVD has been supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The most recent update to the RUVD database has been supported by the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. A brief history of the RUVD can be found online at the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.

The total economic value of threatened, endangered, and rare species database is based on the literature review and meta-analysis completed by Richardson and Loomis (2009). Observations in the water quality database currently only include stated preference valuation studies, and are based on reviews and meta-analyses by Johnston, Besedin, and Stapler (2016) and Johnston and Thomassin (2010). The economic value of salmon database is based on previous reviews and meta-analyses completed by Loomis et al. (2008), Loomis and Richardson (2007), Richardson and Loomis (2009), and Weber (2015).

Detailed information about all relevant and methodologically sound studies are coded following roughly the same approach used in Dr. Rosenberger’s Recreation Use Values Database. Coded study attributes include the study reference, study location, details about the activity or resource being valued, site characteristics, methodology used, and the benefit estimate converted to 2014 U.S. dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. Coded data in the toolkit contains 30 fields for recreation studies; 18 fields for threatened, endangered and rare species studies; 12 fields for water quality; and 20 fields for salmon. Databases can be sorted alphabetically by author, location, and valuation method, and numerically by year and economic value estimate.

The recreation studies map shows the location of individual observations coded into the recreation values databases. It should be noted that the recreation studies map only represents site-specific and state-level observations and is not exhaustive of all data coded in the recreation use databases. Each displayed icon within the map matches with the original study’s specified recreation use, and is based on the reported study site location for site-specific observations (e.g., hunting in Bighorn National Forest) and “state-level” observations (e.g., hunting in Wyoming). Given data limitations, “national-level” observations (e.g., hunting in the U.S.) are not represented in the recreation values map. For a complete list of studies and observations, users are instructed to search the recreation use databases.

Average Value Tables

The Toolkit includes an average economic benefit estimate by recreation activity per U.S. region, and in some cases, by additional stratification. For example, average values for hunting provides average values by region as well as by hunting type (big game, small game, and waterfowl). Studies that were conducted in multiple regions, or were national in scope, are included in a ‘multiple areas’ category in the average value tables. The information provided in the ‘Individual Studies,’ ‘Full Dataset,’ and ‘Average Values’ tabs can be used for single point estimate benefit transfers and average value transfers.

Meta-regression Functions

The Toolkit also includes meta-regression functions for resources with a large number of study observations (fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, and trail use). Estimating a meta-regression function for each of these resource uses involved statistically summarizing the relationship between the economic value estimate and various study and resource specific attributes. For each of the meta-regression models, the natural log of consumer surplus from each individual study, inflated to 2014 dollars, was regressed on a wide range of explanatory variables in an effort to explain as much of the variation in value estimates across the studies as possible (see Huber and Richardson (2016) for econometric estimation methods). Although there is no universally accepted statistical method for the estimation of meta-regression functions, we applied a multi-level model, also referred to as a random effects model, to identify and address possible correlation among observations from the same study (Bateman and Jones, 2003). The model is estimated with two levels – the first corresponding to each individual observation and the second corresponding to individual studies. This approach relaxes the assumption of independence across individual observations, and divides the error term of the equation into two parts representing the residual variance present at each level. A test-down approach was used to eliminate explanatory variables that were not found to have a statistically significant effect on consumer surplus values. These models can be used for meta-regression function transfers.


Resources in Developing the Benefit Transfer Toolkit:

Huber, C., and Richardson, L. (2016). Facilitating the inclusion of nonmarket values in Bureau of Land Management planning and project assessments—Final report: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1178, 79 p.

Johnston, RJ., Besedin E.Y., and Stapler R. (2016). Enhanced Geospatial Validity for Meta-analysis and Environmental Benefit Transfer: An Application to Water Quality Improvements. Environmental and Resource Economics 1-33.

Johnston, R.J., and Thomassin, P.J. (2010). Willingness to pay for water quality improvements in the United States and Canada: Considering possibilities for international meta-analysis and benefit transfer. Agricultural & Resource Economics Review 39(1): 114-131.

Loomis, J., Kroeger, T., Richardson, L., and Casey, F. (2008). A Benefit Transfer Toolkit for Fish, Wildlife, Wetlands, and Open Space. Western Economics Forum 7(2): 33-43.

Loomis, J., and Richardson, L. (2007). Benefit Transfer and Visitor Use Estimating Models of Wildlife. Fort Collins, CO: Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University. Available at:

Recreation Use Values Database. (2016). Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, College of Forestry. Available at:

Richardson, L., and Loomis, J. (2009). The total economic value of threatened, endangered and rare species: an updated meta-analysis. Ecological Economics 68: 1535-1548. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.10.016.

Weber, M.A. (2015). Navigating benefit transfer for salmon improvements in the Western US. Frontiers in Marine Science 2(74): 1-17. doi:

Nonmarket Valuation Guidance:

Bockstael, N.E., Freeman III, A.M., Kopp, R.J., Portney, P.R., and Smith, K.V. (2000). On measuring economic values for nature. Environmental Science and Technology 34(8): 1384-1389.

Champ, P.A., Boyle, K.J. and Brown, T.C. (2003). A Primer on Nonmarket Valuation. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Haab, T.C. and McConnell, K.E. (2002). Valuing Environmental and Natural Resources: The Econometrics of Non-Market Valuation. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Freeman A.M. (1993). The Measurement of Environmental and Resource Values: Theory & Methods. Resources for the Future.

Benefit Transfer Method Guidance:

Boyle, K.J., and Bergstrom, J.C. (1992). Benefit transfer studies: myths, pragmatism, and idealism. Water Resources Research 28(3): 675–683.

Johnston, R.J., Rolfe, J., Rosenberger, R.S. and Brouwer, R. (2015). Benefit Transfer of Environmental and Resource Values. Springer.

Richardson, L., Loomis, J., Kroeger, T., and Casey, F. (2015). The role of benefit transfer in ecosystem service valuation. Ecological Economics 115: 51-58.

Rosenberger, R. and Loomis, J. (2003). Benefit transfer, in Champ, P.A., Boyle, K.J., Brown, T.C. (Eds.), A primer on nonmarket valuation. Kluwer Academic Publishers, p. 395-444.

Rosenberger, R.S., and Loomis, J.B. (2001). Benefit transfer of outdoor recreation use studies: A technical document supporting the Forest Service Strategic Plan (2000 revision). General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-72, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO.

Rosenberger, R.S., and Stanley, T.D. (2006). Measurement, generalization, and publication: sources of error in benefit transfers and their management. Ecological Economics 60(2): 372–378.

Wilson, M.A., and Hoehn, J.P. (2006). Environmental benefits transfer: methods, applications and new directions benefits transfer special issue. Ecological Economics 60(2): 335-482.

Economics and Public Land Management:

Loomis, J.B. (2002). Integrated Public Lands Management: Principles and Applications to National Forests, Parks, Wildlife Refuges, and BLM Lands. Columbia University Press.

Loomis, J.B., and Walsh, R.G. (1997). Recreation economic decisions; comparing benefits and costs. Venture Publishing Inc.

Young, R.A. and Loomis, J.B. (2014). Determining the Economic Value of Water: Concepts and Methods. Routledge.