The Politics of Forestry- was- Re: State Forestry

Ron Wenrich woodtick at
Fri Jan 2 18:08:43 EST 1998

Joseph Zorzin wrote:

> Forestry on private land is also a failure in that the VAST majority of
> private forest land is NOT managed.
> Who is to blame for these failures? Our entire society is to blame. Our
> nation has decided that our natural resources are NOT important, so
> resources are not made available.

I agree pretty much with what you have said.  But, the forestry profession has failed to
sell their brand of forest management to the public.  We keep on hammering away at the same
old arguments, and we continue to fail.  I've heard these arguments for the past 30 years,
and nothing has changed.  We are using 1950 technology to solve 2000 problems.  As a
profession, we lack vision, and the public ain't buying it.

Timber resources have always been available, due to the way the markets work.  When the
mills need timber, they pay the necessary price for landowners to release the needed
fiber.  Mills have adapted to smaller timber by building the necessary equipment to produce
a product (not always a quality product).  As foresters, we have caved in and shortened
rotation cycles to get the fiber to market, to hell with quality.

The largest problem with forest management on private lands is that it lacks continuity.
The commercial sector cannot give this continuity.  Although you may do good work, you
might not be around when the next thinning takes place or you might not be hired.

Let's suppose the state takes on the missionary role (almost said position <G>).  Should
they not do any regulatory work?  What is to guarantee that the consumer will be
represented by well qualified and competent practitioners?  It's been my observation that a
forester has a mindset on how timber should be marked, and will mark accordingly, whether
he is a consultant or a procurement forester.  Good and bad work goes on both sides of the
equation.  I've seen cut-and-run forestry practiced by consultants.  Yea, they got a good
price for the timber, but they hogged up the woods for the next generation.  I think having
someone look over your shoulder every once in a while helps protect the consumer, and holds
the foresters accountable.  Small price to pay for quality work.

We have to come to some sort of consensus, as a profession, as to what role government is
to take.  Farmers have had county agents give them advise for years, and for free.  Should
other landowners expect less?  Should the government charge?  Should they just give out
information?  Should they regulate harvesting practices and harvesters?  Should we continue
to have incentive programs, which really says you can't make money growing trees?

IMO, I think that government should regulate at a county or regional level.  Trying to do
so at the State level is to vague.  What is important in one area of a state is not
important to another.  Harvesting practices can be altered to fit an area.  Right now,
townships are starting to put severe restriction on logging practices in PA.  They are
often put on by well-intentioned but uninformed commissioners.  "Management plans" are
reviewed by the township engineer and usually aren't worth the time it took to write up.
Regional regulation would hold down the need at the township level.  Tax relief could be
more efficiently handled at the regional level.  Consultants could be used in helping to
create and implement such programs.  Kind of like zoning laws.  The state should be left to
regulate foresters, and harvesters.  This will help guarantee quality work for the

Landowners are really missing the boat as a market force.  They are too fragmented to make
much difference in timber supply.  Landowners should unite and co-op for services.  The
landowner only receives about 10% of the final market price for their resource.  No wonder
they feel like they are getting ripped off!  In Sweden, the landowner association even owns
their own sawmill.

Foresters and academia must realize that there is more to forestry than growing trees for
fiber.  Many other associated industries depend on non-timber forest products, tourism,
recreation, hunting revenues to name a few.  Foresters often ignore this, but the public
does not.  Of course, we think they are missing the boat.  Maybe the boat has sailed and we
weren't invited on the cruise.


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