ECONOMICS OF PROTECTED AREAS:
THE CASE Al-SHOUF CEDAR RESERVE OF LEBANON.
Mankind's gradual increasing use of natural resources has lead to obvious degradation of biodiversity. Biodiversity loss endangers the healthy functioning of life ethically, economically and ecologically. Lebanon is not far from what the world is experiencing concerning biodiversity loss. Once known for its rich biodiversity and natural beauty which were the bases of its booming tourism, today, natural resource depletion and deforestation are prevailing characteristics of Lebanon's nature. Some of these resources, mainly Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve, represent a national and cultural heritage that Lebanese are eager to maintain. Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve is found to exhibit ninety percent of the criteria assigned by the World Conservation Union on the priority of conservation consequently, the Protected Areas Project sponsors the conservation and maintenance of Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve for five years after which the local NGO will take over. This NGO, namely Al-Shouf Cedar Society, will have to seek means of generating income in order to maintain and rehabilitate the reserve on the long term. The main objective of this study is to assess the economic feasibility of protecting sustainably Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve and the minimal potential benefits generated to the local economy from its existence. A questionnaire was developed to identify potential benefits . Open-ended Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) was used to identify the benefits of Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve through identifying the willingness to pay (WTP) to preserve it. The economic feasibility of Al-Shouf Cedar reserve was assessed under two main scenarios representing two levels of expected visitors, a high and a moderate one. Then, each scenario was tested using the current entry fee and the WTP as the entry fee. The results of Cost-Benefit Analysis indicated that Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve is an economic asset to Lebanon that if managed properly can sustain itself and generate economic profit. Moreover, potential visitors' profile and his source of knowledge were identified and then used to determine the most effective media channel in increasing awareness of biodiversity issues.
 Assistant Professor , Department of Agricultural Economics and Development, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut.
 Research Assistant, Department of Agricultural Economics and Development, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut.
 Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, American University of Beirut.