|Economics of forestry; a reference book for students of political economy and professional and lay students of forestry, by Bernhard E. Fernow|
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Economics of forestry; a reference book for students of political economy and professional and lay students of forestry, by Bernhard E. Fernow
CHAPTER IX PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF FOREST POLICY.
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The expositions of the preceding chapters will have made it clear that the forest cover is of more importance to the household of a nation than many other of its resources, that it bears a peculiar relation to national prosperity, and also that its management for continuity offers various unique and peculiar aspects, which call for special active interest by the community at large by its representative, the state.
Briefly summarizing the arguments for such special interest and exercise of governmental activity, we recall that the forest is a natural resource which answers simultaneously three purposes of civilized society: it furnishes directly materials used in very large quantities and almost as needful as food; it forms a soil cover which influences, directly and indirectly, under its own cover and at a distance, conditions of waterflow, of soil, and of local climate; it has, in addition, an æsthetic value, furnishing pleasure and recreation and benefiting health.
The exploitation of this resource for private
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gain is apt to lead to its deterioration or eventual destruction, especially in a country where population is relatively small and unevenly distributed, when only the best kinds and the best cuts can be profitably marketed. Hence, since profit is the object of private enterprise, exploitation must under such conditions be by necessity wasteful. By the removal of the useful kinds and of the desirable individuals, leaving the ground to be occupied by tree weeds and runts, the reproduction of the desirable and useful is prevented, and since the forest by changing its composition and quality is deteriorated in value, the future is injured as far as material interests are concerned.
Since, with the removal of the marketable timber, the interest of the individual in the forest is gone, it is naturally neglected, and conflagrations which follow the wasteful exploitation, with the accumulated debris left in the woods, kill or damage, not only the remaining old timber, but more especially all the young growth. Even the soil itself, often formed only by the mould from the decay of leaves and litter accumulated through centuries, is destroyed, and thus, not only the practicability, but the possibility, of restoration is frustrated. In many localities the consequences of such destruction are felt in deterioration of climatic conditions, and in uneven waterflow, floods and droughts being exaggerated; in this way damage is inflicted on portions of the community far
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removed from its cause and unable to protect themselves. The private individual can hardly be expected to appreciate these distant interests of his own motion in the management of his forest property, hence the state must guard them.
To insure a conservative treatment and continuity of the resource,--a sustained yield management,--it is necessary to curtail present revenue or to make present expenditures for the sake of a distant future, since the crop takes many decades to mature. This time element is the peculiar feature in forest management which renders the use of the soil for such production undesirable for private enterprise concerned in immediate results. The fact that the capital invested in the soil and in the gradually accumulating wood growth must be tied up for many decades, and exposed to many dangers, before the harvest returns interest, and that hence finance calculations and financial transactions with such kind of property become complicated, renders the safety of this resource in private hands doubtful, and points to the desirability of permanent, stable, long-lived ownership.
The desire to get the largest present profit from his labor, which is the only incentive of private enterprise, will be also a constant incentive to curtail the wood capital necessary for a sustained yield management, and to let the future take care of itself.
The interest in the future lies with the state; the
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state must interfere, therefore, wherever the interests of the future clearly demand it.
What form shall this interference take? What shall be the policy of the state in regard to the forest resources?
The answer will vary according to our conceptions of government functions, according to practical considerations of expediency, and according to the character and location of the forest areas.
In the first chapter we have endeavored to develop a conception of governmental functions based upon the logical proposition that the state is to protect the broad interests of the many, the community, against the inconsiderate use of property by the few; and we laid special stress upon the necessity of including the interests of the future community in this consideration, calling for the exercise of providential functions on the part of the state.
While in principle this position may be regarded as a self-evident logical sequence of the state idea everywhere in application under differently developed conditions of government, the manner and extent of exercising its functions will, of course, a vary. In the densely populated monarchical countries of Europe, with relatively scanty resources, much more direct and strict interference is called for than in a country which has still plenty of elbow room, with plenty of resources; here it may be expedient to leave adjustment to future consideration
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and action, there expediency calls for prompt and vigorous assertion of state rights and obligations.
How inconsistently in actual practice the principles of state function may be applied can nowhere be studied better than in the United States. While, as a principle, we are inclined to demand restriction of state interference and insisting upon personal liberty to circumscribe and minimize in many directions the sphere of governmental action and authority, we actually find paternalism rampant, almost to the verge of despotism, in other directions, as in the liquor laws and oleomargarine laws, offering restrictions which no European would tolerate. Surely expediency has here dictated almost the annihilation of principle. We can, therefore, not expect to have the policies which satisfy one country, although based on sound principles, transferred and applied in the same way in another country.
It may be conceded that the truly socialistic conceptions (much ventilated in forestry literature), which consider it a duty of the state to take care that the materials necessary or desirable for the comfortable existence of its society be produced in sufficient quantity and economically, are either antiquated and buried with the rest of physiocratic teachings, or are not yet accepted as true democratic doctrine. In mercantile pursuits, generally speaking, individual effort and responsibility are certainly
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preferable to government action and authority, which must often be arbitrary, indirect, uneconomical, and ineffective. Hence, as far as forest areas serve only the one object of furnishing supplies, and form the basis of industrial activity, we may, for a time at least, allow our general modern industrial policy of non-interference to prevail, which is based upon the theory, only partially true, that self-interest will secure the best use of the means of production.
There is, however, one great generic difference between the forestry business and all other productive industries, which places it after all on a different footing as far as state interest is concerned; it is the time element, which we have again and again accentuated, and which brings with it consequences not experienced in any other business.
The result of private activity which is supposed to come from self-interest is closely connected with the working of the well-known economic law of supply and demand which regulates the effort of the producer. This law and the self-interest can be trusted to bring about in most cases a proper balance rapidly, but in the forestry business this balance works sluggishly; before a shortage in supplies is discovered and appreciated, stimulating to productive effort, years will have elapsed, years which are needed to prepare for a supply to become available in a distant future. How difficult it is to get conditions of forest supplies recognized and appreciated,
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we have experienced in regard to our white pine supply. It has taken twenty years to force this realization upon the producers, in spite of the fact that the federal government made a creditable effort to ascertain and publish the facts. And even now, when there is no more doubt of the fact that these most important supplies are bound to be practically exhausted in a short time, there is no very extensive self-interest aroused to adjust the balance of supply and demand, and to anticipate the shortage, simply because self-interest works only for the present and does not concern itself with a distant future.
We must, then, admit that, even with regard to supply forests, the position of the state may be properly a different one from that which it would be proper and expedient to take toward other industrial activities.
When, in addition to the mere material function, the immaterial benefits of a forest cover enter into the question or become paramount, there can be no doubt that both principle and expediency call for timely exercise of state activity. The so-called protection forests, therefore, which by virtue of their location on steep mountain slopes or on sand dunes, or wherever their influence on soil conditions, waterflow, and climatic factors can be shown to be superior to their material value, must claim a more intimate and direct attention by the state; for here protection of present
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interests, as well as of future well-being, demand the application of the old Roman law: Utere tuo ne alterum noceas; here the police power of the state is invoked, extended according to our wider horizon and fuller conception of the need and direction to which the protective function of the state is required, as developed in the first chapter. In the exercise of this protective function, the state performs merely the primary logical duty of its existence, namely, securing for each of its members the maximum opportunity to do for himself, preventing interference, direct or indirect, by others; it is not doing for the individual what he could have done for himself, and it is not liable to the charge of paternalism.
In practical application of this principle, the question must, to be sure, be settled either in general or in each case, as to whether injury is being done or is to be anticipated by the unrestricted use of the property, and what form the interference by the state is to take.
There are three generically different ways in which the state can assert its authority and carry out its obligations in protecting the interests of the community at large and of the future against the ill-advised use of property by private owners: namely by persuasive, ameliorative, or promotive measures, exercising mainly its educational functions; by restrictive measures or indirect control, exercising police functions; and by direct control
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i.e. ownership and management by its own agents.
Basing our conception of state function on the fundamental postulates, that the state has primarily the object to increase the freedom of the individual in personal and economic relations, and to promote the possibilities of individual effort; that the sphere of governmental action and authority in circumscribing individual action and responsibility should be minimized to absolute necessity; and that the state should undertake to do only whatever by its character it is better fitted to do for the community than the individual members can do for it,--our choice of method will be in the order named.
As a general principle, only when persuasive and promotive measures fail or are insufficient, recourse is to be had to restrictive measures; only when even these are inefficient or inexpedient is the state to own and manage properties.
In the first category we have to discuss educational measures, taxation and tariff duties, bounties, and other aids in promotion of private industry.
The educational function of the state is now recognized as one of the most prominent and beneficial in all civilized nations, although the degree and generality of its application still vary. In the United States we rely, as regards the higher and professional education, still largely on private charity and effort, with results comparatively satisfactory,
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yet by no means as efficient, as state institutions could make them. If, as is the case with some of our western state universities, the state provides the means of supporting the institution by a certain proportion of the tax rate independent of political changes, the institution is relieved of the necessity of keeping up the competition for favor, which disadvantageously besets most of our private institutions of learning, and is destructive to the competition for scholarship and true scientific efficiency.
A state institution, thus well endowed and independent of numbers and of undesirable rivalry, can at least promote efficiency with a freer hand. Charity is generally conceded to be undesirable where it can be avoided, and in educational matters the interest of the community ought to be sufficiently well recognized to repudiate support by charity.
In the old countries the educational function of the state is so well established as to have almost eradicated private schools, except in certain specialties and primary institutions.
The forestry schools of Germany, all of which are now state institutions, originated, however, in private undertakings, the so-called "master schools," when a practitioner assembled around him young men and taught them all he knew. Such schools arose in large numbers during the last half of the eighteenth century,--the first in 1763 in the Harz Mountains,--but were usually of short duration,
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the change to well-organized state institutions taking place in the first decades of the nineteenth century. In the United States the state of New York was the first to recognize its obligation in this direction by instituting a College of Forestry in 1898, administered by Cornell University, a private institution. Almost simultaneously a "master school" was instituted on the Vanderbilt estate at Biltmore, N.C., and by private endowment a third school arose in connection with Yale University, while a number of other institutions attempt, at least, to keep abreast with the times by representing the subject in some fashion in their curricula.
We believe that finally, in each of the forested states, it will be considered a part of proper forest policy for some public institution of learning to furnish instruction in forestry. This does not necessarily mean university or higher professional education; there is as much need for the lower grade education, of underforesters, logging bosses, etc., such as Berea College, Kentucky, has so auspiciously inaugurated.
The only danger is, that multiplication in number rather than increase in efficiency of a few such institutions will be the rule of the day, when the fever sets in.
In the European forestry literature a lively discussion has continued for years as to whether the higher education in forestry should be given at
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separate special academies or forestry schools, or whether these should be connected with universities. There are advantages and disadvantages in either arrangements; but the better facilities which can be had at a university, with its concentrated intellectual and laboratory apparatus, give the preference to the latter.
In the United States propagandists have been loud in advocating the introduction of the subject into the primary public schools. While it is desirable that our young citizens should become acquainted in a general way with all the varied interests of the world, and should have some general intelligence regarding them, such as well-educated teachers can impart incidentally in reading lessons and otherwise, it would, indeed, be mistaking the object of primary education to introduce any special systematic teaching of professions or practical arts. Expediency, if not principle, forbids it, for with equal rights every other branch of economics and every professional art might claim recognition.
Besides the establishment of schools, there are other means open for the state to exercise its educational functions. The endowment of scholarships, especially travelling scholarships, has been of greatest value in increasing capacity and intelligence for promoting communal interests. As long as the practice of forestry does not exist, or is poorly developed in the United States, it is
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desirable to give opportunity to competent students for observing its practice where it is well developed. A year's, or even a half-year's, travel through the well-managed forest districts of Germany or France gives more insight into the possibilities, advantages, and methods of forest management than a lifetime spent in wrestling with the problems without having seen a practical solution elsewhere.
Next, no more efficient means of education in practical arts which, like forestry and agriculture, rely still largely on empirics can be devised than the establishment of experiment stations. Experiments always imply the expenditure of means and energy for an uncertain result, by which, to be sure, the experimenter may profit, but, unless the experiment is carried on in the quiet of a laboratory, he is not alone benefited; the observer, who does not share in the expense, shares in the benefit. Hence, while the principle of self-interest will lead to experimentation, expediency makes it desirable, in some directions at least, to broaden the field of experimentation, and to make the results fairly and openly accessible to the whole community. This is especially so where the use of a limited resource, like the soil, to its greatest efficiency, is of benefit to the whole of society.
If, as has been practically conceded, experimentation in agricultural lines is best done by state institutions, this is still more true in forestry lines,
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on account of the time element involved in most forestry experiments. In agriculture the answer to an inquiry may be often secured in inexpensive ways, and may be given in one season; while in forestry, years of patient waiting and observation, wholesale methods or measurements, large areas, and a large number of cases, are required to permit generalization. In both directions the activity of the private investigator is at a disadvantage. To conduct investigations that must be continued for decades, and in a large way, a systematic plan and organization is needed, such as only a public institution usually has at command. Moreover, comparability of results can be secured only when uniformity of method has been assured, and this again is more likely secured by coöperation between state institutions, or even by the character and organization of a single state institution.
The advantage of connecting such experiment stations with institutions of learning needs hardly any argument; the mutual increase of educational facilities and opportunities is patent. These educational means can, of course, be extended by proper methods of publication of results, by organization of meetings for their discussion, by so-called university extension, and finally, by the promotion of associations which have for their object the increase of application of knowledge in the actual forestry practice. Such associations give opportunity of impressing and driving home
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what is desirable in practice, and also of finding out what are the needs of the private owner, and what the state should do to further his interests. The state of Minnesota has, for more than a quarter of a century, supported the efforts of such an association with considerable satisfaction by yearly appropriations. The countenancing of such private endeavor in educational directions is certainly good state policy.
A more direct and far-reaching influence upon private activity, still of an educational character, is properly exercised by the state in securing and publishing statistical information. Statistics, intelligently gathered and presented, form the necessary basis for a safe judgment of existing conditions and past progress of development, and also for forecasting the future tendencies of development and possibly directing its progress; they give clews, and are guides, not only of rational legislation, but also for rational conduct for private business. While self-interest may be quite efficient to ascertain conditions of supply and demand in daily, weekly, or monthly business for the sake of private business use, for the sake of the prosperous development of the community at large and of giving general direction to private endeavor, it is desirable that a state institution ascertain periodically the condition of a whole industry and its relation to other industries.
Such ascertainment is done with satisfaction
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only by the machinery of the state, which can make inquiries uniform, compel answers, and has no special interests to represent which might influence the reliability of the statements. In forestry statistics especially, the difficulties of ascertaining conditions of supply are beyond the capacity of individual inquiry, owing to the complicated nature of the object of inquiry. If there is difficulty in determining quantity and value of standing merchantable timber, which is within the actual vision of the estimater, how much more difficulty must be found in judging the prospective quantity and value of the unperfected crop, the promise of the future; and this is the essential knowledge upon which is to be based, private as well as state activity with reference to this resource.
We may only briefly indicate what kind of statistical knowledge would be desirable in order merely to direct public policy.1
[Note 1: 1 For a fuller discussion see "Considerations in gathering Forestry Statistics," by the author, in Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association, 1898.]
In the well-ordered state the soils most fit for agriculture should be devoted to systematic food production, but just so should the non-agricultural soils, the absolute forest soils, be devoted to the systematic production of wood-crops; moreover, as we have seen, the forest in certain situation exercises a potent influence on cultural conditions. Hence
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the knowledge of the extent of forest area of a country is by itself meaningless; the character of the soil the forest occupies, its topographical location, and its relation to the hydrography of the country, must be known to permit an estimate of cultural conditions, to prognosticate likely change in area and the desirability of interference in its use.
To get idea of the amount and value, present and prospective, of the existing resource, there must be known the composition, i.e. relative occurrence of merchantable kinds and conditions as to density, age, and character of growth, damage by fire, etc., and, most difficult of all to ascertain, conditions and stages of development of the young crop. Only forestry experts can so ascertain such statistics as to give them value. The other side of the question, market conditions and statistics of wood-consuming industries, offers some peculiarities, but no difficulties.
Furthermore, when forest management is once established, not only the condition of the resource, but the methods of its management, call for statistical inquiry.
In addition to these educational methods which incite private activity in the right direction by indirect means, namely, by increase of knowledge, there are more direct ameliorative or promotive methods to be found in bounties which are given to aid private endeavor in the pursuit of private industry.
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These may take the form of assisting by money gifts, by furnishing plant material, by giving land as in our timber claim planting, by making working plans or otherwise specifically assisting in private forest management beyond the giving of general information, and finally by tax release and tariff duties.
We are approaching in these methods closely to paternalism, when the state is doing for the individual what the individual could or should do for himself, when the state is doing more than providing opportunity for individual activity; at least the danger of transcending proper policy and abusing public interest is always present with these methods.
It is, therefore, necessary to scrutinize much more carefully the conditions under which proper policy is subserved by them. Curiously enough, these paternal methods have found much more favor and are more extensively used in our country than in the European countries, which are usually charged with the opprobrium of paternalism; and in spite of the fact that the results have been rather disappointing, the advocates of these methods continue successfully to impress their opinions upon legislatures.
The fact that these methods have failed before does not, to be sure, argue that with a change in conditions and with more circumspect supervision they may not be employed with better results, yet
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the past experiences should serve at least the purpose of exercising caution in their employment.
In the years 1868 to 1873 a wave of legislation for the encouragement of timber planting, either under bounty or with exemption from taxation, went through the country from Maine to Nebraska, culminating in the so-called timber culture acts by the federal government in 1873-1874. All of these laws proved practically ineffective, or at least the results were inadequate except in taking money out of the treasuries.
Yet only in 1899 the State of Indiana revived the idea in a law "for the encouragement of forestry," with an attempt at specifications which in themselves are devoid of tangible principle. This law provides that any owner may declare one-eighth of his property as a permanent forest reservation, this portion to be assessed at one dollar per acre, provided he either plant and maintain for three years, or, if natural woods, have on hand, not less than 170 trees per acre; he must keep out cattle, sheep, and goats until the trees are four inches in diameter; and whenever any of the 170 trees die or are removed, he must replace and maintain the number and protect them until they are four inches in diameter, and he may never cut or remove more than one-fifth of the trees in any year.
A reference to the chapters on "Natural History of the Forest" and on "Silviculture" will show how futile and inadequate this encouragement
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of forestry must prove to be in a timbered state like Indiana.
In Pennsylvania, according to a legislative act of 1897, the owner needs to have only 50 trees to the acre, which must, however, measure at least 8 inches in diameter 6 (!) feet above ground; as long as he keeps these in sound condition, in "consideration of the public benefit to be derived from the retention of forest and timber trees," he is to have 80 per cent of the tax on such lands refunded, provided that this be not more than 45 cents per acre and that no more than 50 acres are entitled to such release. From this last restriction one would suppose that a larger acreage would not be a public benefit; one fails also to see the rationale of the other measurements and numbers required, nor is it apparent what benefit to the public any 50 acres with 50 trees to the acre without special reference to its location might bring.
The timber culture acts of the federal government, which had in view the amelioration of cultural conditions in the treeless territory of western prairies and plains, a very proper concern of government, conferred title to 160 acres or smaller amounts of the public domain, if 40 acres or a proportionate smaller acreage was set out to trees. The crude provisions of the law and lack of proper supervision led to its abuse, and the results have been mostly disappointing, leading to the repeal of the law in 1891.
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The federal government also practised the method of furnishing plant material; this was done, however, with inadequate means and without proper discrimination.
The writer himself, when in charge of the Forestry Division, United States Department of Agriculture, was enjoined by law to distribute plant material, and did so long enough to convince himself that the size of the country and the number of people with equal rights to this bounty, as well as the practical difficulties in handling such plant material, which must necessarily vary in kind according to locality, forbid the practice, or, at least, do not promise adequate results, except possibly in planting a few shade trees.
Yet, in connection with other methods of state action and with proper organization, this method has proved satisfactory in the European countries, namely, when the state enforces, and, by technically educated officials, supervises reforestation of alpine locations, barrens, and waste places, and when the distribution of plant material is made, not to private owners, but to associations and communities, free, or at cost of production and on an adequate scale. It may, of course, under similar conditions and with similar judicious supervision, but only then, be employed successfully in our country.
Within the last few years the federal government of the United States has inaugurated through
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the Forestry Bureau of the Department of Agriculture another method of encouragement, which is also practised in the old countries, namely, to give to private owners specific advice as to the management of forest properties, the government bearing the larger share of the expense of securing the data for these so-called working plans. But for the educational feature involved, this would be a violation of our principle that the state should not do for the private citizen what he could do for himself. If, however, the benefit to be expected for the community at large is thereby secured, expediency would lend countenance to such a method. The probability, however, is that in the absence of an obligation to follow the working plan, and in the absence of technical supervision in its execution, the results will be hardly commensurate.
The one principle under which the community can properly be called upon to tax itself--directly by paying bounties, or indirectly by refunding or reducing taxes and by imposing import duties--in order to encourage private industry is that the community will thereby secure extraordinary benefit. But the benefit must be specific, demonstrable, adequate, and, moreover, it must be evident that mere private self-interest will not be sufficient to secure incidentally the desired benefit.
The power of adjusting taxes is a mighty lever to industries, which can be used scientifically or unskilfully, for good or for evil; and those who
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advocate the use of the taxing power to encourage the forestry industry are perfectly justifiable, provided it is used in a reasonable way.
As a matter of fact, taxation of woodlands is at least in most forested states of the Union most unscientifically applied, and in such a manner as to encourage forest destruction and discourage forest management. Moreover, the quid pro quo for which taxes are primarily exacted, namely, protection of the property of individuals, is most inadequately performed by the community.
It is customary to assess forest property by including the value of the standing merchantable timber; in other words, not only the apparatus of production, but the product itself, the crop, is taxed. If the same principle were applied to agriculture, if the farmer were not only assessed on the value of the land, buildings, and machinery, but on the value of the growing crop itself, it would certainly appear absurd, and discourage him from all efforts to secure the highest values in his crops.
To be sure, as long as the forest crop is a mere gift of nature, bought and exploited like a mine, the crop idea does not present itself forcibly; as soon, however, as forest management, continued systematic forest crop production, is contemplated and practised, a more equitable principle of taxation must be introduced, namely, the assessment of the soil alone, the value being gauged by its
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capacity for producing the lowest value of marketable wood.
But since the harvest cannot be secured annually, since it must accumulate for the length of a rotation before a return for the expenditure of tax and otherwise comes to the owner, a compound interest calculation on returns as well as on the annual tax must be made to come to a rational assessment rate.
An example may make it clear how an equitable valuation of a growing forest crop could be made without going into much finesse.
If an acre produce annually at the average rate of one-half a cord of salable wood, and it takes 30 years before the crop is ripe for harvest, and the 15 cords then harvested brought a stumpage value or wood leave of 20 cents per cord of $3.00 per acre, the soil rent upon which the assessment should be established would figure, according to well-known interest calculation (if a 5 per cent interest rate be acceptable for such investment, which would be fair for the present time in many places), as 3 x .05 / 1.0530 = 14 1/2 cents, and the value of the soil as wood producer under the conditions named would be 4.5 / .05 = 90 cents per acre.
And if, as is usual with real property, only 60 per cent of the value is taxed, the taxable value of such an acre would be 54 cents. This would be
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fair if the country or state did its part of the contract, namely, furnished adequate protection against fire risk. This calculation leaves out any allowance for cost of protection and administration, and, on the other hand, also of the possibility of harvesting higher-priced materials. Since it is usual to tax the "wrecking value" rather than the true value, it would probably be fair to assess upon the assumption of this lowest value production or even still further reduce the assessment to allow for risk and cost of protection.
How do we find forest property actually taxed? For an example we may cite a definite case from Wisconsin, a state where values are naturally still unsettled, but stumpage is probably lower than that assumed above. Here, for an aggregate of tracts of hardwood lands from which the valuable pine has been removed, the taxes for a number of years have varied from 3 cents to 40 cents per acre a year without any reference to changes in condition or value, and have averaged about 10 cents per acre, that is to say, 20 to 30 per cent of what probably is the year's production must be paid to the tax gatherer. On a virgin growth, with the pine left, the taxes were never below 50 cents. It is safe to say that no other property is so heavily taxed. It is a premium on deforestation, after which the land, worth $6 to $7 per acre for agricultural purposes, will be more reasonably treated. And these examples of irrational taxation
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can be multiplied from every part of the Union. No wonder that lumbermen argue the necessity of escaping as quickly as possible from this extortion, and are discouraged from considering the advisability of adopting forestry practice, which even under more rational methods of taxation offers as yet only doubtful inducements.
Just as the direct tax can be regulated to encourage or deter private enterprise, so tariff legislation, as is well known, has had the protective feature added to its fiscal objects.
Import duties have been designed to reduce or deter the importation of wood materials and to encourage home industry by this artificial raising of prices, as in the United States and in Germany, and export duties have been placed, as in Canada, on raw forest products in retaliation or to prevent reduction of raw materials and to insure their preservation for use in home industry. In both cases the argument has been brought forward that such duties encouraged the practice of forestry.
Theoretically, plausible reasons may be adduced for such an expectation; practically, no such results can be noted. An increase in the price of wood materials simply stimulates the forest exploiter to increased effort in reaping the benefit while it lasts; he pockets the difference, and the increased margin only reduces the necessity of applying more economical methods of utilization until home competition, induced by the increase of price, counter-balances
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the benefit; and even then the effect is rather to greater wastefulness in the exploitation, to forest destruction, or increase of effectiveness in the existing wood-working business, than to the establishing of a new industry, the forestry business. A duty which prohibits or essentially curtails importations, the demand remaining the same, can only tend to increase the cut, and more rapid decimation of our own resource.
In other words, the encouragement is toward greater consumption of existing forest products as far as the exploiter can bring it about, rather than toward efforts at their renewal.
The reason is clear, if we recall our discussions on the nature of forest growth and on the nature of the forestry business.
The larger part of the harvest of a nature-grown wild woods is inferior material, which is either unsalable or unprofitable to handle. If the tariff, therefore, stimulates wood consumption, or by the exclusion of foreign-grown material necessitates a larger output from the native woods, this waste by necessity must be also increased. A rational tariff, which had in view the benefit and conservation of the natural forest resource, would put a premium on the importation of the better grades, and would absolutely prohibit the importation of the poorer grades, when the disparity of poor and good grades in the home exploitation might be somewhat alleviated, a closer utilization made
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possible, and at least conservative lumbering would appear more profitable.
Export duties, if placed high enough to prevent practical exportation, would appear a more reasonable method of influencing exploitation; but when we consider that, for instance in the United States, the value of forest products exported hardly exceeds 5 per cent of the value represented in home consumption, and is counterbalanced to at least one-half more by importations, it would appear that the influence of an export duty, at least for this country, could hardly have any appreciable effect in establishing forestry practice.
But all such devices influence only the present or short future, while the interests of the forestry business are in a distant future. We must never forget that financially forestry means foregoing present revenue, or making present expenditures for the sake of future revenue.
To induce private owners to begin such a conservative policy is hardly to be attained by tariff legislation, unless a definite obligation is laid upon them to spend a part of the increased earning in that direction.
The case is entirely different when a systematic forestry business is actually established and in competition with importations from a country where crude exploitation of virgin forests is still practised, which threatens to make the home enterprise unprofitable.
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While in general mercantile business it may then be argued that the unprofitable business had best be abandoned, the forestry business, as we have seen, occupies an exceptional position, both in the time element required to secure working capital of standing timber and establish the systematic industry, and in its general cultural significance, so that, aside from mercantile considerations, interference from outside competition is harmful to national prosperity.
Such is the case in European countries with well-established forestry systems, when brought into competition with countries which are still mainly exploiting natural resources.
Yet a prominent writer on the subject of import duties on wood1 discusses the influence of such on German forestry as follows:--
[Note 1: 1 Schwappach, "Forstpolitik," 1894, p. 161.]
"The question as to whether high prices, especially as a result of tariff, encourage to reforestation and forestry practice or to forest devastation, is for Germany, according to the latest statistics, of no import. Deforestations on a large scale and excessive overcutting without reference to the future are here neither induced by high prices nor prevented by low prices, but are the regular concomitant of general economic crises and unsound speculation periods."
The motives for tariff legislation in the old countries were at first fiscal ones, then fear of a
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timber famine (intelligible by the absence of means of transportation), resulting in export tariffs as early as the sixteenth and continued through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To this motive was then added the mercantilistic one of desiring to produce everything in the home country, thus giving rise to protective import duties. Finally, the liberation from these economic fallacies, or perhaps, I should say, the changes in commercial economic conditions, and especially the influence of railroad building since 1860, led, for Germany at least, to a total abolishment of all duties in 1865. Now, however, Germany as well as almost all European countries, those which export a surplus as well as the importing ones, have protective import tariffs, the object being, as aforesaid, to foster the well-established forestry business and to protect it against competition from virgin sources.
In Germany this protective legislation was enacted in 1979, when the opening up of the virgin woods of eastern Austro-Hungary, which are simply exploited, not managed, had brought destructive competition to the forest administrations.
The specific duties amounted then to about 3 per cent on the value of unmanufactured logs and timber, and 4 per cent on manufactured lumber,--.60 and 1.50 mk. respectively per cubic metre (70 cents per 1000 feet B.M.),--with the result of reducing importations, of the latter at least, by 40 per cent; but the railroads equalized the difference,
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and in 1885 an increase in duties of 6 per cent and 12 per cent respectively was inaugurated, which, in 1892, was again modified and reduced by special treaties.
In the United States and countries similarly situated the problem is quite a different one. Forest management is not in existence. Our only competitor on the lumber market is Canada. In both countries the virgin forest is simply exploited; the protection afforded by a tariff would, therefore, not be of that general economic import. A duty which prohibits or essentially curtails importations, the demand remaining the same, can, as has been said, only tend to increase the cut and more rapid decimation of our own resource. A duty which does not prohibit or curtail essentially importations is not likely to benefit the forest, but only to reduce the profit of the Canadian lumberman, and possibly to put a part of the difference into the pocket of his American competitor.
The one promotive action of the state, which is predcl027minently required to establish a proper forest policy, the propriety of which cannot be questioned for a moment, and which arises from the primary function of the state, its police function, is to afford protection to forest property, at least equal to that afforded to any other property and adequate to the peculiarities and needs of such forest property.
Such protection is the unquestioned right of the forest owner, and without it he cannot be expected
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to maintain a" sustained yield" management which requires maintenance of a large wood capital subject to depredations and to destruction by fires unless properly guarded.
Forestry as a business is practicable, nay, thinkable, only under the assumption of civilized, stable conditions, and the first requisite of civilization is reasonable safety of property.
There are, to be sure, especially in only partly developed countries or sections of country, special difficulties in enforcing laws and preventing crime; nevertheless, the obligation of the state is to make an adequate effort.
It is not sufficient for the state to legislate, but, at least wherever broad communal interests are at stake, it must provide the machinery to carry out this legislation. The impotency of the laws designed to prevent forest fires is too well known to need comment. In this respect, in police organization and the proper means of executing the laws and of preventing damage, even the states which have attempted to remedy the evil of forest fires are wofully backward. We can learn from Canada and from British India forest department, how a large amount of this damage can be prevented, even in countries which as yet lack a systematic, thoroughly established forestry system. Such protection is a conditio sine qua non, the first step to a state forest policy, and the beginning of forestry practice.
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Our present conditions in that respect discourage, and rightly so, all efforts to provide for future crops, and encourage rapid exploitation in order to secure the value of the existing crop before the fire has swept it away.
The principles most needful to keep in view when formulating legislation for protection
against forest fires1
[Note 1: 1 See Appendix for draft of a forest fire law.]
Only when the state has made ample and reasonably
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efficient provisions to protect forest property may the community impose obligations upon the owner and restrict him in the use of his property, so that the protection can be made reasonably practicable; and only then and for such purpose may regulations in the use of the property, interference by the state in its unrestricted management, be adjudged admissible even in those forests which we have designated as supply forests, i.e. those which have mainly or only an industrial and commercial significance. In other words, we conceive as a primary condition for the application of restrictive measures, in the use of private property, that the state furnish a quid pro quo, a compensation, direct or indirect.
It has frequently been proposed in the United States to force the lumberman to burn his débris in order to reduce the fire danger. This prescription may be practicable and expedient in some cases, but not in others; in its generality it would be both impracticable and inexpedient, unless specific precautions and supervision accompany it, as pointed out on pp. 188 ff. Here also the practical objection would be properly raised that, unless all the states, or at least a group of states under similar conditions, exact such precaution, the lumberman's industry in the one state which exacts it would be placed at a disadvantage as compared with the neighboring state which neglects it. In such case, it would appear equitable that
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at least part of the burden should be borne by the state or local community.
In European countries the existence of well-organized state forest administrations renders the execution of legislation for the protection of forest properties much easier, since there is a machinery of officials whose functions can be readily extended.
These officials, as well as those employed by private owners under prescribed conditions, are under oath, uniformed, and endowed with sheriffs' power, and can, therefore, act readily. Even the forest owner has, in Prussia, the right to call out assistance to fight fires, which assistance is obligatory on every citizen.
Curiously enough, regarding property rights, the mediæval idea, that the forest is more or less common property ("quia non res possessa, sed de ligno agitur"), dominates still the modern laws of Europe, which look with more leniency upon depredations on forest property than upon other common theft, and the proceedings and amount and character of punishment are also special. Among the latter obligatory work in the forest is a significant one. But the punishment for incendiaries is so much severer. The German code makes wilful incendiarism punishable by penitentiary up to ten years, and negligent incendiarism by prison up to one year. Railroad companies are obliged to maintain safety strips as described on p.194, and are enjoined to take other precautions.
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With the efficiency of the state organization in protecting forest properties comes also the increased ability of the private interest to help itself, and finally the propositions for a forest fire insurance on the principle of mutuality, such as have been lately ventilated, especially in the Prussian province of Hanover and in Saxony, may become practicable.
As we have seen in the chapter on silviculture, there are, besides the fire danger, insect pests and wind-storms to be feared, and hence they call for measures of a police character. To insure against excessive damage by insects, coöperation on the part of private owners may be enforced, as is done in most German states. To protect a neighboring forest against windfalls, the removal of the adjacent forest growth is prevented in Austria, a rather doubtful exercise of restrictive functions.
Generally speaking, restrictions and supervision of private forest industry have proved themselves mostly undesirable and impracticable; their only justification would appear when protection of neighboring properties or of general communal interests demonstrably require them.
The mediæval attempts at legislation which forestry reformers in the United States have made or proposed, in their mistaken belief that the old countries furnish a precedent, namely, restricting private owners in the size of trees which they may be allowed to cut, or requiring them to plant a
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tree for every one cut, will appear rather ludicrous to those who have read the three preceding chapters.
How averse even European governments are to restrictive measures may be learned from the manner in which the Prussian law works; where only minor local interests are at stake, the principle "de minimis non curat proetor" prevails. Whenever a property owner thinks or fears that the mismanagement of his neighbor's property is endangering his own property he may call for a jury to view the case, and the state will interfere according to the verdict, either forbidding absolute clearing, or prescribing the manner in which the property may be utilized; the loss which, if any, may accrue to the forest owner from this curtailment of the free exercise of property rights may be assessed on the complainant who is benefited, as well as the cost of proceedings.
For fiscal reasons only, a supervision over the management of forest properties belonging to communities, villages, and cities is exercised on the same principle which is applied in preventing communities from incurring debts beyond certain limits determined by the state. This supervision consists usually in the requirement that no permanent clearing be made without special permission, that the plans of management be submitted for sanction by the government, and that approved skilled foresters be employed.
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Wherever else supervision or interference with the free exercise of property rights exists on the part of the state, it is not based on questions of supply, but of protection to threatened interests of some magnitude.
In this respect, as we have seen, forest property assumes a peculiar position.
The recognition of the fact that the removal of the protecting forest cover may give rise to shifting sands and sand dunes, which may encroach and despoil larger areas beyond, is sufficient call for the exercise of the police functions of the state to prevent such damage, if we admit the providential character of such functions.
The experience that the deforestation or even bad management of the forest cover, forest devastation, on mountain tops and hills, leads to excessive water stages, to destructive floods, filling channels, thereby impeding navigation and silting agricultural soils, damaging neighboring or distant interests, again makes the exercise of the police function of the state, in the wider sense in which I have defined it, necessary in order to prevent the consequences of mismanagement of the protective forest cover in such particular situations.
The sugar planter in Louisiana, whose crop is endangered or destroyed by overflows due to causes a thousand miles away, has a right to protection through the government. The city merchant,
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the mechanic, the laborer, the professional man, are either directly or indirectly interested in the success of the agriculturist, and hence whatever disturbs the peaceful prosecution of the business of the latter is a matter that affects everybody and calls for public concern. He who is in safety is as sure to feel the losses as he who is directly in the path of the flood. Hence we should consider the protection of our watersheds as much a national problem as the improvement of our waterways, and even more so.
No new functions are called into play, simply the primary function of all government, the police function, only extended according to our present knowledge of the relations of things.
Logically, to be sure, if it is once admitted that the state is justified in preventing the mismanagement of a property, when by such mismanagement damage is inflicted upon neighbors, the further suggestion lies near, that it may enforce the placing in proper condition of a property which in its improper condition is a menace to other interests. Here, however, the innocence of the owner in the creation of these unfavorable conditions may modify the aspect of things, and we must appeal from the police function to the wider socialistic function which imposes upon the state the duty, not only to maintain social existence, but to assist social progress by coöperation, or, as Lester F. Ward puts it, "to render harmless those forces which
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now seem to be working evil, and to render useful those now running to waste."
In this way we come to the function of internal improvement. As a matter of fact, these principles have found expression in the forest policies of various European nations, as we shall see in the next chapter.
The forcible reforestation of denuded mountain slopes by the owners with the financial aid of the state, as carried on in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, is an admission of this double obligation, namely, that of the owner to keep his property in proper condition and that of the state to secure internal improvement. Such improvements, to be sure, must be palpably of public benefit and not of advantage to individual interests only; where forest growth would be simply useful, the state may employ ameliorative measures, indirectly encouraging private enterprise, but where a forest growth is indispensable to the public welfare, its duty is farther reaching, and coercion or other interference is called for. It will appear at once that the distinction is one which must be made in each individual case. The adequacy of the interest for which the state enters must be apparent.
As to the methods and manner of applying these principles, a variety may be suggested. The determination as to the protective quality and necessity of maintaining the forest property as such, and the quality of the state's interference, may be prescribed
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generally, as in the law of Italy, or specifically in each case, as in the law of Bavaria. The interference may consist in simply forbidding an absolute clearing, or else prescribing the manner in which the property may be utilized.
Where, on account of the smallness of separate holdings, a good forest management could not be maintained, coercive coöperation, the management of all the parcels as a unit, may recommend itself, or else the state, having a well-officered forest administration, may undertake the management for the owner, at least for a time. Where reforestation becomes necessary, it has usually been recognized incumbent upon the state either to reimburse, or at least to assist and alleviate, the burden of reforestation by relieving from taxation, for a given time, the land to be reforested, as is done in France for thirty years, and in Austria for twenty-five years, or by the granting of bounties on plantations, as practised in Austria and Prussia and also in the United States. Or else supplies of plant material have been granted, or part of the cost of planting is borne by the state, or else loans at low interest have been given to ease the burden of replanting. This very judicious assistance was given by the province of Hanover during the years 1877 to 1883; in order to encourage the planting of the Luneburg heath, the sum of nearly $100,000 was loaned to nine associations, ten cities, and thirty-one private landowners, by means of which
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about ten thousand acres of this hitherto barren and almost useless part of the province became productive.
Finally, however, it will be found that control and supervision of private property is an unsatisfactory, expensive, and only partially effective method of securing conservative forest management, where the necessity of maintaining a forest growth may exist and the financial margin that can be had from it is but small. Experience in the old countries has shown that, in spite of the much more perfect machinery for enforcing laws, and in spite of the much more ready disposition to submit to laws, then we are accustomed to see in this country, the attempts to control private property have been largely without the desired result. It then becomes preferable for the community to own and manage such forest areas.
Such ownership may rest either in the state or else in the country, the town, or other political subdivision which seems most nearly interested in the maintenance of the protective cover. To obtain possession, if it cannot be had by purchase, the necessity of exercising eminent domain may arise. Such eminent domain is now exercised in most civilized states where public objects, public safety, or public utility require it; usually, however, the objects for which this power may be called into requisition are definitely stated by law.
If the question of protection of forest be once
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recognized as of importance to the general welfare, there is no reason why it should not be declared by the law justify the exercise of this power. And while usually the right to expropriation is reserved to the state, and presumably the objects are supposed to be an advantage to the whole, there can be no logical reason why this right may not be exercised for any parts of the state, or for any considerable portion of the community, provided the interest to be subserved is communal and not individual. Where the interests are of less range or significance, the maxim de minimis non curat proetor" may place the matter in that class of cases which must be adjusted by appeal to jury and by simple police regulation, as provided by the Prussian law.
In práctice the expropriation of forest property as a protective measure has found expression in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.
In France, according to the law of 1860, private woodlands could be expropriated when the owners refused to reforest or keep in forest, but restitution could be demanded within five years; this very improper clause was abolished in 1882.
In Switzerland the canton is empowered to, and at the request of the owner must, expropriate.
In Italy the state, province, or community can exercise this right for the purpose of reforesting slopes to secure stable soil conditions and to regulate waterflow.
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In Austria a limited right to expropriate exists at the instance of the owner who cannot or does not desire to submit to regulations.
We may now summarize briefly the results of this discussion.
A rational forest policy requires a distinction into supply forests and protection forests.
The former may be largely left to the free exercise of private enterprise, the state affording only the general protection accorded all property, and also the more specific protection which the peculiarities of forest property demand.
In addition, the educational functions of government may be called into play by giving opportunity to acquire the needed technical knowledge, and such other ameliorative action may be restored to as will assist and make possible a conservative management of forest property. This action is of more import in the forest industry than in other industries, because of its peculiarities, as pointed out. In certain given cases, temporary exemption from taxation, supplies of plant material, or better, financial assistance, may prove beneficial when the low rate of interest which the state commands will benefit the forest owner and enable him to reforest waste places, while tariff legislation, as far as it is to protect not exploitation, but to make possible a conservative forest management, may become necessary. Ownership of portion of the forest resource by the state, either as a fiscal
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measure, or, with much better reason, for the purpose of equalizing forest supplies and also for educational reasons, may be extended to supply forests, but probably these objects can be attained by the ownership of protection forests alone.
In the case of protection forests the degree and extent of their influence must determine the quality of state control. The police function, either in its restricted sense or else extended in its meaning to assume a providential character, lies at the base of such control. Interference in or control of private forest management may suffice in cases where merely individual interests must be protected. Financial assistance and partial assumption of costs may be the proper policy where internal improvement is sought, where unavoidable disasters are to be remedied, or where the interests of the community must be protected and the owners are not able to comply with the requirements. Where far-reaching communal interests require the maintenance of a forest cover and its conservative management, especially on poor mountain soil, sand-dunes, etc., the ownership by the community, the state, or smaller subdivision becomes unavoidable, since they can afford to forego revenue on the investment and manage with the single view to the general welfare.
The freedom of private forest ownership has in Germany, and especially in Prussia, led not only to forest dismemberment and forest devastation, but
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also to inconsiderate clearing. On good soils this clearing may lead to something permanently better; on mediocre and poor soils the result has been that agriculture, after the fertility stored up by the forest is exhausted, impoverishes the deluded farmer. These soils are now utterly ruined wastes, and can be made useful by reforestation only.
Finally, when the ideal, the socialistic, coöperative, most highly organized state will have developed, the policy will be that the community shall own or control and devote to forest crops all the poorest soils and sites, leaving only the agricultural soils and pastures to private enterprise.