Forests are among the most important natural resources utilized for economic development
in many developing countries, including Iran. The contribution of forest-derived products and
services to social and economic development is irrefutable. Recent destruction and
deforestation activities have led to loss of a large portion of forest-associated interests, thus motivating forest conservation actions. Covering an area of around 148,000 ha, the Arasbaran forests are located in the northernmost parts of East Azerbaijan and Ardabil Provinces of Iran.
In addition to the preservation of economic, social, and cultural attractions, the Arasbaran
forests provide unique treasures of environmental resources in northwestern Iran due to rare
plant and animal species they host, as well as the intact and broad landscapes within them.
The present study aimed to estimate the total economic value of the Arasbaran forests using
a contingent ranking method. Required data were acquired through field studies and
questionnaires filled out by 334 visitors and citizens from 10 cities in 3 provinces: East
Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, and Ardabil. According to the valuation method used in this
study, a ranked ordered logit regression model was applied. Results showed that information
and refugium functions were the most, and the production function was the least valuable
attributes of the forests with 71% and < 0.5% of contributions, respectively. In addition, the
regulatory functions and non-used values were other value components of the forests at
14.5 and 14% of contributions, respectively. Based on the results, respondents’ level of
education, income, number of annual visits to the forests, and their friendly attitudes towards
the Arasbaran forests had significant positive impacts on willingness to pay of respondents for
the values of the forests. Results of the present study can serve as proper guidelines not only
for policymaking and planning purposes, but also to attract public participation in the course
of conservation and sustainable use of the valuable resources.