Economic values of a public outreach and education program for aquatic invasive species prevention.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are often impossible to eradicate from an ecosystem once breeding populations are established and widely dispersed. After establishment, control programs become one of the only options available to managers. Agencies are using public outreach programs to increase public awareness and prevent new introductions. This study employed the contingent valuation method to quantify boaters' willingness to pay (WTP) for public outreach programs. On average, Michigan boaters were willing to pay $20.68 per year for AIS-prevention education, and total economic benefits at the population level were calculated at US$16.74 million. From a cost-benefit perspective, WTP benefits far outweigh aggregated federal, state, and nonprofit costs by a wide margin. One-time exposure to AIS education materials and perception of AIS threats did not affect WTP. Long-term program impacts and the economic benefits of resulting behavior change are important areas for future research. Managerial and policy-related implications are also discussed.