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Essays on Factors of Innovation, Regional Economic Impacts from Rangeland Fires, and Estimation of Health Impacts from Wildfires
AdvisorHarris, Thomas R.
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This dissertation addresses issues of regional economics and natural resource economics. The dissertation has three main sections that can be taken as separate essays or chapters:I: Modeling U.S. Counties' Innovation Capacity with a Focus on Natural Amenities.II: Modeling Regional Impacts from Rangeland Fires: An Application of a LP-SAM.III: Effects of Wildfires on Hospital Admissions for Respiratory Disease in Reno-Sparks, Nevada. Chapter one is a novel empirical analysis of innovation capacity for U.S. counties with a focus on natural amenities. This chapter analyzed the factors of innovation using three innovation measures: high technology employment share, number of patents and number of firms in Not-Elsewhere-Classified (NEC) sectors as dependent variables. The explanatory variables are local economic conditions such as population, wage rate and unemployment rate; urban amenities such as crime rate, universities and museums; natural amenities such as climate, boat units, trailheads, camping ground and sites, and other outdoor activity services. An ordinary least square (OLS) model and negative binomial (NB) models were applied to the econometric analysis. Results showed that lower unemployment rates, more museums, more golf courses, warm winters and cool summers increased the innovation capacity for U.S. counties across three innovation measures. Therefore, the non-market attributes of natural amenities should be recognized in terms of their contribution to innovation capacity. Consequently, the competiveness of a county, in terms of innovation capacity, could be increased by providing more natural amenities to the public. Chapter two analyzed the regional economic impacts from rangeland fires in southeast Oregon. If a fire occurs on public grazing land, ranchers in the region are restricted access to public land for two years. This action would have substantial economic impacts in a regional economy because public grazing is a major source of forage for cattle and ranching in the region. This chapter developed procedures to simultaneously analyze the ranch and regional level impacts of rangeland fires on public land. This goal was attained by developing a model that links a linear programming (LP) model and a Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) model. Detailed modeling procedures are provided in this chapter. Results showed that the wildfire damage was far beyond simple wildfire suppression cost and direct impact on ranching business. The Cattle Sector, the Service Sector and the Manufacturing Sector are the most impacted sectors in the study area because southeast Oregon relies upon its ranching business. The distributional effect is the key finding from the LP-SAM model. Results showed that medium income households (ranging from $25,000 to $75,000) are most impacted from rangeland fires. The distributive effects from wildfire for ranching business in Oregon are crucial to the policy makers who are dealing with rangeland fires and public land management. Chapter three analyzed the effects of wildfires on hospital admissions for respiratory disease in Reno-Sparks, Nevada. Wildfires, a common natural phenomenon in the western United States, produce a large amount of greenhouse gas and pollution particles, which might lead to health problems for nearby residents, and thereby increase local health care costs. This chapter identified 35 large wildfires that occurred near Reno-Sparks from 2005 to 2008 in order to explore the relationship between wildfires and health costs. The daily data of the major air pollutant PM2.5 from wildfires and number of respiratory patients admitted were employed in econometric equations to obtain the causal effect of wildfires on health. Results showed that wildfires that occurred away from Reno-Sparks within different distances increased the level of PM2.5 in the Reno-Sparks area. Furthermore, the regression on daily respiratory patients' hospital admissions showed that the level of PM2.5 positively affected the number of patients admitted. The causal effect of number of patients admitted from wildfire varied by distances. The average damage of one acre burned by wildfires within a given distance category on hospital admissions in Reno-Sparks is $4.83. Wildfires that could affect the air quality in Reno-Sparks were identified with size over 500 acres. Therefore, if one average-size wildfire occurred near Reno-Sparks, the damage would cost approximately $156,096. This effect could be underestimated because historical data of wildfires showed that more than one wildfire occurred during the summer period, which means the damage could be much larger than estimated. Therefore, policy makers should pay more attention to wildfire management because wildfires do not only directly affecting the air quality. Overall, this dissertation describes the factors of innovation, regional economic impacts from rangeland fires and estimation of health effects from wildfires and offers suggestions to policy makers.