May/June, 2002





Letter to the Editor

I am writing in response to the Highest Bidder Not a Logger news item in the March-April 2002 issue. [Environmentalists bid on federal timber harvest with no intention of ever logging.] 

The issue is, "Should a party be allowed to bid on any commodity sale where they have no intention of completing the transaction?" Several representatives of various groups have opined that the decision should be a "no brainer" for agency managers; you get the same money either way and the resource stays in place. This seems to be the reasoning to which Mark Rey has subscribed. 

But there is a very simple and basic principle that I have yet to see expounded by our economists, policy analysts or political appointees. The principle is this: Wealth has to be created and is only created at the point of initial extraction. From the point of initial extraction, everyone that participates in the processing of the resource theoretically profits from the value added as products are developed and marketed. 

But, none of these individuals are creating wealth. They are only increasing the market value of the base material and acting as a distributor of the value derived from the initial harvesting of the resource. It's a system and it's no more complicated than the concept that the commodities on which all humans depend have to come from somewhere. 

One of my economics professors was fond of saying, "We can't make a living by doing each others laundry." So, the decision to harvest timber or allow any other activity affecting resource use should be based on the economic systems, environmental regulations and the social standards of our society. Timber sales should not be a bidding war between competing interests, only competing lumber mills. A more effective approach to long term land use needs to be formulated. 

In most cases it is not an either/or proposal. Conservation groups can play a much more effective and beneficial role by using their political power and economic resources to craft these policies, rather than buying timber sales. Expanding worldwide populations coupled with a demand for a higher standard of living are the core global realities fueling the requirement for the increased production of raw materials to begin the processing and distribution cycle. 

These processes need to be conducted in a sustainable and environmentally feasible manner. Here's a real life example. My neighbor is a small woodland owner with approximately 200 acres divided between pasture and commercial size timber. He makes a living building airplanes. Recently, an adjacent landowner sold his land to a developer who subsequently planned to harvest all the timber. My neighbor wanted to preserve the timber in his view shed so he arranged to purchase a portion of the property with the timber intact. 

But to fund the purchase, he had to harvest some of his standing timber. No group or individual came forward with the necessary funds to purchase his timber and maintain it as a preserve. If they had, it would have been a "no brainer". He would have the money to purchase the additional land and his timber resource would still be in place. But here's what happened instead. To complete the transaction and harvest the timber, he employed the following: 

o A realtor and title companies to complete the land transfer. 

o A consulting forester to cruise the timber. The mill purchasing the timber hired a consulting forester for a second opinion. 

o A surveyor to survey and record the new property lines. 

o The logger and his crew of 10 for approximately a month. 

o The mill to process several hundred thousand board feet of raw material 

o The local forest nursery that sold him 18,000 seedlings for reforestation. 

o A local reforestation contractor employed a crew for a week to plant the trees. 

o A local reforestation company applied herbicide to kill competing vegetation. 

None of these functions other than the survey and real estate transaction would have occurred without the harvest of his timber. We have to get past the concept of competing groups. This is about creating wealth from our natural resources and doing it in a manner that sustains the environment that is producing the raw material. 

Steve Truesdell, Forester Oregon Department of Forestry Roseburg, OR

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