DEBATE OF '98- responsibilities of forest land owners

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Wed Apr 22 02:27:41 EST 1998

In article <353CD5E6.B1F597C at>,
  Joseph Zorzin <redoak at> wrote:
> Don Baccus wrote:
> >
> > Not that there's inherently a problem with this.  I don't expect a private
> > landowner to necessarily place the same value on wildlife and public recreation
> > that I demand be applied to public lands.  Turn our public lands over to
> > private industry, and they'd very rightly concentrate on income.  Which is
> > precisely why public lands can at least potentially be much better managed
> > for non-income goals like preservation of our biological heritage, etc.
> >
> Of course really smart businesses do plan for the long term and manage
> their assets accordingly. Perhaps the holding costs on land and timber
> drive timber owners into liquidating their timber too quickly- which is
> why some states do have special timber mgt. laws.
It's nice to say this, but the terms have still not been defined. Long term.
What does that mean? 50 years? 20 years? 200 years? Even "really smart
businesses" succumb to greed. Where's the responsibility? Where's the
stewardship? Is more or less being left to the next generation? What about
water and water quality? Recreation? Natural air cleansing? Polution filters?

Don certainly has a point. But I guess I would prefer to have long-range goals
be managed by people who had vested interests/economic incentives to maintain
for the generations, not just for the year or the corporate bottom line.

I have been entrusted by my parents with acreage which, by shear luck, has
some trees on it. Some of it has been planted, some was natural regeneration.
I have a known Northern Spotted owl nesting pair within a few yards of one 40-
acre parcel. And you know, we get along just fine. I prune the lower branches,
which allows the owls free range under canopy: which affords protection from
other raptors. And there are others: Great Horned owls, Golden eagles, Bald
eagles, American kestrels, ospreys, Barred owls, etc. All of them are
protected. Thank God!

And with this basal pruned trees, which will have greater value as peeler logs
sometime in the future, hopefully after I've already left this world, I've
planted a few truffles. And the truffles are more than paying their way. This
allows me to manage the land more intensively if I want: not with a goverment
handout for a quick fix, but with a gentle hand with an eye for diversity and
productivity. And I hope, longevity.

There seems to be just one little problem: one my grandmother ran into, and
probably her grandparents also. Oregon's tax system makes it impossible to
set-aside forest land from estate taxes. Thus, many nutured forests are
falling as their owners expire.

My grandmother had 640 acres of wonderful old-growth Oregon myrtle near Coos
Bay. In order to pre-pay some of the inheritance taxes on her estate, she sold
this tract. Within a week, every tree on the property had been cut. These
included some of the oldest Oregon mytle I have ever seen, or probably will
ever see in the future. I remember seeing trees 5-6 feet in diameter at breast
height 30 years ago. Nothing remains now but stumps. Ergo the western phrase,
stumps of mystery. Was it worth it?

Ultimately, it was grandma's decision. And that property was so far removed
from most of her heirs, that she decided to sacrifice it rather than see lands
including the family homestead sold. To investors. To homeowners. To

I told Dad that clearcutting had to stop. Eventually, he has come to agree.
And through planning, we are now sure that the land will stay in the family
for at least one more generation. But as land values go up, the economic
realities of higher taxes and quick economic killings become more difficult.

Should forests be kept in private hands? I suppose it depends on what _you_
feel is important. Personally, I think stewardship of the land means giving
back more than you take. Not just for this generation, but for future

Sorry I got so long-winded.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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