What is it Worth to You?

ECONOMICS | By Ben Welnak

Studying Value

I recently came across this article posted by Patrick Durkin at The Meateater. He discusses a study by UW-Madison, economic impact, big game value, the worth of the animals, and how much hunting is worth to hunters. It got me thinking….

Putting a value on any recreation is a struggle. In fact, valuing anything is really hard sometimes – if you have your own service business, you know. There are so many considerations that go into the discussion – what are the alternatives, how much satisfaction do you get, who is involved, limited resources, time, and all the emotions that go along with living the life you want.

Durkin summarized the study by two researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professors Tom Heberlein, a rural sociologist, and Rich Bishop, a rural economist, in 1978:

“So Heberlein and Bishop designed their 1978 study to learn the fair-market value of a weeklong goose season in which 14,000 hunters received a free permit with a one-goose bag limit. The researchers randomly drew 232 names from that pool, and cut a check to each hunter ranging from $1 to $200, including 15 checks for $100, 15 for $150 and 15 for $200. In addition to several $1 checks, the other 187 were for $5, $10, $20, $30, $40, $50 and $75.”

The Result?

The study is 40 years old, but still sheds a little light on the connection between outdoor recreation and dollar value. It’s difficult for some people to put a dollar value on their experience, but can be helpful as a frame of reference. Durkin notes the conclusion:

“Heberlein and Bishop ran the numbers to learn what a hunter’s version of “goose music” was worth. “At Horicon Marsh in 1978, the potential of one goose and a week of hunting was worth $63 if you had to buy your permit from another hunter.”

That $63 is $183.50 in today’s dollars. So, in this study, a hunter values that weeklong goose hunting season at $183.50.

What Would Someone Need to Pay You?

Parks fees, trail fees, licenses, taxes, product costs, and so many factors go into determining the actual value of the activity. Economic impact studies focus on the value and impact created for the local economy. What I want to know is what is the value to each individual user and then how user groups and organizations can use that information.

That leaves us all to wonder – what would I stop doing for how much? What are my outdoor activities worth to me? Would I stop mountain biking for a year if you gave me $10? $100? $1,000? $10,000? $1,000,000?

I think that this exercise of asking ourselves what it’s worth can lead to some reflection about how we contribute to the resources we use as well. Perhaps maybe even push us over the edge a little to give more time and/or money to a local organization.


What amount of money would someone need to pay you to stop cycling/running/paddling/skiing/fishing/etc (whatever your outdoor pursuit is) for a year, if anything?


Author: Ben

Ben is originally from Southeastern Wisconsin. After graduating college at UW La Crosse, he lived in several Midwestern cities, Denver, and Western North Dakota before relocating to Hayward, Wisconsin in 2017, providing a lot of opportunity to experience the outdoors throughout the country. Ben started mountain biking in 2006 after five years of other endurance sports including running and triathlons of various distances. In 2012, he created Mountain Bike Radio and has been dedicated to mountain biking since. He has a lot of experience racing all distances, including 24 hour solos, 12 hour solos, 100 miles, 50 milers, XC distance, fatbikes, gravel, and everything in between. He’s married to wife, Amy, with two young children – Claeson and Paige. Ben hopes that his passion for mountain biking and the outdoors drives his commitment to creating, improving, and maintaining opportunities in the outside world.


2 thoughts on “What is it Worth to You?

    1. Hey Alec, Yeah…just anything. If we all did just something – $1, $2, a little time, etc., it’d be much different.

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