The Politics of Forestry- was- Re: State Forestry

Larry Caldwell larryc at
Sat Jan 3 02:54:06 EST 1998

Joe, you should qualify your comments as applying to North American forestry,
or the lack thereof.  We've been mining legacy forests for centuries.  First
we cut the continent east of the Mississippi, and when that was flattened we
moved west.  Up to the last 50 years, the great western forest seemed
inexhaustable.  In fact, they never did manage to cut quite all of it.

As long as Ma Nature was handing out 600 year timber for free, there was
no way forestry could pay its way.  In Europe, they've been managing forest
land a bit longer.  The last of the Schwartzwald disappeared about a
hundred years ago, and the British forest has been gone for about 200 years.
The Balkans were deforested during the Roman empire, and Greece was
deforested even earlier.  

The old days of $50/mbf stumpage are gone forever.  It's just taken the
little guy a while to realize that you don't have to plow and plant
every year to be a farmer.  Private sales have only been profitable
since the feds finally ran out of legacy timber in about 1992.

The Canadians are still cutting legacy timber, as are the Brazilians,
Indonesia and a few other places.  However, the writing is on the 
wall.  The entire world supply of legacy timber will be gone within
20 years.  Either we grow it or do without.

With that prospect, you're on the winning side of history.  It will
be payday for private landowners who raise timber, which means they
will be able to afford to hire foresters.  I doubt that you will 
eliminate gummint foresters, because the gummint owns over half the
country west of the Rocky Mountains, and just the taxes on private
timber production are a big payday.

In article <34ABA852.2EED at>,
Joseph Zorzin <redoak at> wrote:

> A mere few million dollars a year are spent by the federal government in
> subsidies to landowners for forestry work. And many states give lower
> tax rates for practicising forestry. These actions help a lot. Without
> them, there would be NO forestry in America. And don't anyone complain
> about subsidies. EVERYONE is subsidized in modern complex economy,

I dunno about you easterlings, but my state doesn't subsidize forestry.
The tax deferral is paid for out of a severance tax.  You don't pay
much in property taxes, and the state makes up the difference to the
county.  When you harvest and have a big wad of money, you pay board
footage taxes on that harvest no matter what the market price is.

It works out well, because you don't pay the taxes until you have the
money to pay the taxes.  It's not a subsidy, because timber owners pay
the full cost of the program out of severance taxes.  

The feds will pay 50% of forestation costs, which is a subsidy.  In return
you have to jump through a bunch of hoops.  For me, the hoops were 
undesirable, so I opted not to apply for a subsidy.  They wanted me to
helicopter spray herbicides that are not approved for food crops.  Since
I was interested in mushroom culture, I couldn't use those herbicides,
which blew me right out of the program.

You still get to tax deduct all your forestry expenses as a business
expense, but any business gets to deduct its business expenses.

> If we as a society wanted widespread good forestry we could do it, but
> only with major changes to our laws and the means to finance forestry.

The only change we needed was $700/mbf stumpage.  Once second growth 
started returning $10,000/acre, a whole lot of people got interested
real quick.  Mass. may not have seen the runup in timber prices yet,
but it's coming.  It just takes a while for mills to get built and
markets to develop.

-- Larry

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list