Re The Politics of Forestry (alt.for

Karl Davies kdavies at igc.apc.org
Thu Jan 1 14:33:59 EST 1998


RE THE POLITICS OF FORESTRY

Thanks Joe (and Ron) for keeping our attention on the big issues.
I'd like to make a few points, not necessarily in response to any
particular statements, but to the general thrust of your
arguments.  Not that I disagree, I just think there are some
questions of perspective and emphasis.

First, we all need to keep in mind who we foresters work for.  

We work for landowners.  The biggest landowners are corporations.
They generally get what they want.  The USFS has been in the
business of `servicing` corporate landowners ever since it got
started, and not just by providing cheap timber, but also
research, and, in more recent years, public relations.  

We all tend to take on the values of our employers--lest we get
fired!  So the USFS takes on corporate values.  We do the same
thing with our private clients, who may tend to be less
`conservative` than big corporations, but hardly `socialist.` 
This is just the way things are--with the exception of Joe, who
probably has a lot of old hippie, Arlo Guthrie-type clients in
the Berkshires!<G>

Anyway, part of the self-interest of corporations and wealthy
individuals is maintaining and enhancing the value of their
assets.  Where these assets are timber and timberland, these
owners don't want their asset values to be watered down by a lot
of cheap timber coming on the market.  They don't want small,
NIPF'er types competing with them.  If you keep them in dark, it
won't happen.  

I don't know if you could make a solid case for conspiracy here,
but there certainly is a convergence of interests.  The timber
company guys don't want good forestry education, and the service
foresters would rather just go to meetings where they can talk to
each other, and not have to deal with `the public.`  And they get
more coffee and donuts that way. <G>

And think about the other foresters who the service foresters
hang out with at all their meetings.  I know in Massachusetts it
sure ain't me and Joe, mostly because we have to work for a
living.  When I occasionally do go, it's the service foresters
and the timber company foresters hanging out.  Because they're
the ones who get paid to go. 

Second, who needs the subsidies anyway?

I know I'm earning 10-15% per year on my forest investments, and
most of my clients are doing the same.  No, I don't have any
magic spells that I cast on my trees--although I do water them
from time to time .<G>  I just know how to analyze tree value
growth, and I know how to maximize it.  

I'm working on a paper entitled `Why Do Foresters Always Aim at
Their Feet--When It Comes to Calculating Tree Value Growth?`  It
looks at volume, grade value and market value increases, and why
foresters often overlook the latter two value increase factors. 
I'll post it here soon.

One of the things I learned while researching this paper is that
in the Southeast and elsewhere, timber companies lease a lot of
forestland from NIPF'ers.  Where this happens, there's a big
incentive for keeping forest landowners in the dark about how
fast their trees are growing in value.  The USFS and the service
foresters oblige their corporate minders by not making this
information available.  Or maybe they just don't know how.  It's
unclear which.

I guess the point here is that if consultants were to get the
news out to NIPF types about how profitable their forest
investments can be, there would be no need to subsidize them in
the first place.  The only people who benefit from the myth that
forestry is not profitable are 1) the land-leasing timber
companies, and 2) the service foresters who make a living
`assisting` these poor NIPF'ers.<G>

Third, missionaries, smishionaries!

Why pay someone else to do it for you when you can do it better
yourself?  Most NIPF'ers are like everyone else: they like money.
Or more precisely, they like profitable investments.  But if all
we can offer--after checking our little tree ring growth rate
tables--is 3-5% <G>, how can we blame them for not being
interested?  If your stockbroker told you that's all he could do
for you, how would you respond?

I remember seeing a suggestion last fall that Joe read Bullard &
Straka on forest economics.  That's a great idea, not just for
Joe, but for all consultants.  Another good idea is to get a copy
of INFORM so you can show your clients how fast their trees are
growing now, and will grow in the future if they do all the
things you say they should do.  (This program also does inventory
and timber tallies.)    

Unfortunately, as far as I know, INFORM is the only usable
computer program that is capable of projecting tree volume, grade
value and market value increases.  All the other programs,
including NED, leave out the grade value part.  NE-TWIGS does
grade value increases, but I found in unusable.

Fourth, nah, that's enough for now.

It's New Year's Day and here I am sitting in front of my
computer--instead of drinking beer and watching the bowl games. 
Which is exactly what I'm going to do after I post this little
missive(ile).  Thanks again, Joe, and keep up the good work. 
Happy New Year to you all!  Let's make it a good one.

Karl Davies, The Other Forester in Massachusetts

      

    





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