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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Bureau for Economic Theory and Applications

Laboratoire d'Economie Forestière

Recreation activities in forest

The majority of French forests have open access for visitors and they are used by the population for a wide range of activities (walking, biking, observing nature etc.). Though visitors do not pay an entry fee to forest, the recreational services provided by forests represent an important value for the society. The assessment of the recreational value of forests is important of two main reasons. Firstly, an optimal social allocation of land uses need information about the total value (market and non-market values) of goods and services provided by a given use of land and, in particular, the spatial  variation in these values. Secondly, forest management and the development of recreational infrastructure have an impact on the recreational service provided by forests. Therefore, to manage forest in a social optimal manner it is important to assess the determinants of the recreational value.

  • Involved Researchers

Person in charge of the project: Jens Abildtrup

Other researchers:  Serge Garcia, Anne Stenger

  • Results

During the last two decades LEF has carried out several surveys on the population’s use of forest and other natural sites for recreational purposes. This includes a survey in 2001 with more than 4500 households. Based on this survey and the application of the travel cost method the value of the recreational service of French forests is estimated to be about 8.5 billion Euros annually (Jacob and Garcia 2010).

In 2009, a survey is carried out to assess the determinants of the recreational value of forests in Lorraine. This survey collects both revealed and stated preference data. The revealed preference data is obtained from questions about the past use of the forest, including which forests visited. The stated preference data is obtained through a discrete choice experiment (DCE) where respondents are asked to choose among the most often visited forest in the past year and two hypothetical forests. The hypothetical forests are characterised by forest type, presence of recreational facilities (trails, parking, and picnic places), access to water bodies, and the distance between the forest and the respondent’s residence. This study contributes, besides assessing the marginal value of forest characteristics, to assess the spatial heterogeneity in preferences for forest recreation (Abildtrup et al. 2013). Furthermore, the project is also origin to several methodological advancements in the use of site selection models for valuation of outdoor recreation sites. This includes approaches to 1) handle large choice sets in models with preference heterogeneity, 2) simultaneous modelling of transport mode and choice of visited forest, and 3) integration of interactive maps in web-based surveys (Abildtrup et al. 2015). It has also been shown that experience with forest recreation may influence decision-making (choice certainty) in a DCE (Tu and Abildtrup 2016).

In a survey of residents in Grand Nancy in 2013 we investigated to which degree urban parks and peri-urban forest may serve as substitutes. We have applied a DCE where respondents are asked to choose between current and hypothetical housings which are characterised by different access to forests and urban parks. We do not find that peri-urban forests can substitute for urban parks but we find that private gardens to some degree substitute for access to public green space (Tu et al. 2016).

An ongoing project is assessing determinants for forest recreation on a European scale, focusing on characteristics that are linked closely to forest management (tree species composition, age structure, and presence of deadwood, etc.). This project is carried out together with a European consortium of researchers and with the participation of the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition. An important element in the project AFORBALL is to assess and map the recreational services of forests in the regional nature park (PNR Ballons des Vosges). In the projects BAFES/BRECERF French forest visitors’ attitude to potential ash-recycling in forests is investigated through a survey.


  • List of publications

Abildtrup, J., Garcia, S., Olsen, S. B., Stenger, A. 2013. Spatial preference heterogeneity in forest recreation. Ecological Economics 92: 67–77, (

Abildtrup, J., Olsen, S. B., Stenger, A. 2015. Combining RP and SP data while accounting for large choice sets and travel mode – an application to forest recreation. Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy 4(2): 177-201. (

Garcia S., Jacob J. (2010) “La valeur récréative de la forêt en France : une approche par les coûts de déplacement”, Revue d’Etudes en Agriculture et Environnement, 91(1), 43-71.

Tu, G., Abildtrup, J. 2016. The effect of experience on choosing where to go: An application to a choice experiment on forest recreation. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 59(11): 2064-2078. (

Tu, G., Abildtrup, J., Garcia, S. 2016. Preferences for urban green spaces and peri-urban forests : An analysis of stated residential choices. Landscape and Urban Planning 148: 120-131. (