DEBATE OF '98- responsibilities of forest land owners

Don Baccus dhogaza at
Wed Apr 22 13:53:57 EST 1998

In article <6hk2ks$9oi$1 at>,  <dwheeler at> wrote:

>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.

What kind of vested interest in future generations will a corporation have?  As
I've pointed out, economic conditions change and forest-based investments may
look more, or may look less, attractive than other alternatives.  Corporations
are about making money - the law requires directors to act soundly in this
regard, after all.  They need to think about the current generation of
retirees who own their stock, for instance, and of those retirees' kids
and grandkids whose financial well-being will depend in part on the legacy
left by stockholders.

I'll stress again that there's nothing wrong with this.  But expecting
corporations to act differently is simply naive.  

Of course, most corporations actually do spend some money, or do take
steps which to some degree limit their profitability, in order to be
good corporate citizens, so don't read my comments as being a claim that
they never do.  However, that change will be within narrow limits.  It
must be - too much altruism will lower the value of the corporation's
stock and capital will flee to alternative stocks, leaving the original
corporation shy of funds and most likely unable to continue the altruistic
behavior that got it in trouble in the first place.

Which is one reason why regulation works.  When applied fairly across an
industry, all bear the same relatively costs and none gain an advantage
over another.  Without regulation it is unlikely an entire industry will
chose to take such steps in lock-step, and the company to take the first
step had better be the biggest bully on the block or they'll get whipped
by their competitors.  

>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!

I'm curious, do you have data on the productivity of your northern spotted
owls?  I'm not saying you're wrong when you say "we get along just fine",
only that one needs a history of the number of young fledged by the pair
to make that statement in an objective sense.

(I'm just making a point here, not suggesting you drop everything to
maximize production by that pair!)

>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.

Family-owned businesses are more likely to take such steps, because they only
have the family to answer to.  No law requires you to act in a financially
prudent manner if you're a sole proprietor.  There was an excellent pond
pine forest that was run very well by a sole proprieter for something like
40-50 years.  He died, his heirs sold to a timber corporation, which
cheerfully announced immediately that they could double the cut without
causing any decline in productivity of the suite of wildlife supported by
this private forest.  Not only conservationists, but the timber workers
who'd worked for the private owner in many cases for decades, were openly
skeptical about such claims...

>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.



- Don Baccus, Portland OR <dhogaza at>
  Nature photos, on-line guides, at

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