2. Changing Views on Forest Ownership I


Ideas concerning private forests 40 years ago

"It can happen, however, that private interests in forest management do not adequately protect public interests, which ultimately must be paramount. The public has an interest in all forest lands and expresses it in many ways through assistance to and cooperation with private owners. As a general principle, the public should expect to pay for clearly public interests in forest lands. Good management through private ownership will in large degree also protect public interests. This is possible when the net benefit to the total economy is, in general, greater than it would be through public ownership. When the economic interests of private forests do not suffice, the public must make up the difference in one way or another. A dominant problem of forest policy in many countries is to achieve a balance between private and public ownership-management of forest lands that is equitable to both parties and ensures the protection of essential public interests. It must be recognized that private business is part and parcel of public interest" (Davis 1966, 4-5)

Ideas concerning public forests 40 years ago

"On lands in public ownership (whether municipal, county, state or federal) most forest uses and benefits are involved, and in general, the larger the political unit, the broader its interest. This interest is frequently not measurable (at least directly) in monetary terms. The public is vitally concerned with water and will pay a survival price to ensure adequate supply. It recognizes that recreation and wildlife are of major importance even though they are only partially measurable in dollar units. Questions of multiple use are usually important and frequently perplexing in the determination of the use of public lands. Decisions concerning which lands should be used for what, and in what balance and proportion, is often one of the principal management problems of public lands, and the forester in public employment can expect to be deeply concerned with such questions. No formula can be given and decisions must be made in terms of particular situations, since each case requires a careful and rational appraisal of alternatives" (Davis 1966, 4)

A case of private and public forests 40 years later

How well do these sound analyses done 40 years ago, correspond to present realities? A recent analysis below suggests, that "the equitable balance" of the two ownership forms in regards to public interest has not been reached.

In the western U.S. states, public demands have led to near complete cessation of commercial timber from federal lands. Contrary to this, rules governing the ownership of the most productive US timberlands (i.e. private forestlands in the Southeast) have remained among the least restrictive issues among the top forest product producing countries. This stark dichotomy suggests that other values, such as conceptions of private property rights, may exert profound influences on people's views on forest management (Stennes et al. 2005).

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