A tale of two states


Massachusetts and Oregon both made major decisions this week on how much of their state-owned forests should be open to harvest. What unfolded is an interesting tale of the contrasting perspectives that different states — and different regions of the country — have on the timber industry.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a plan that will quadruple the amount of public forestland in which cutting down trees is banned. That means 200,000 of the 308,000 acres of state forests will be designated as a reserve.

Some environmental groups praised the move, while forestry groups were strongly opposed.

Here is what the Massachusetts Forest Landowners Association had to say, according to the Springfield Republican:

Reducing the acreage of (state forest) lands managed to periodically produce forest products means that revenues from growing and harvesting timber will be reduced, and that will result in fewer jobs and less economic activity in the small communities that have a lot of state lands.

The Oregon Board of Forestry, meanwhile, decided to increase the amount of harvestable land in its state. The board voted to allow logging on 600,000 acres that had previously been off-limits, mainly in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

The state of Oregon gives a share of timber proceeds on public land to 15 “forest trust land” counties. Those revenues go to the counties’ schools, governments and other services, but the money has been far less than it was supposed to be, according to the state.

Something had to change, so the state decided to open more public land to harvest. And local counties will benefit, according to the Daily Astorian:

By opening more land up to harvest, economic returns from the forest – which have lagged behind 2001 projections by $38.5 million on the Clatsop and Tillamook forests, according to one recent professional estimate – can now approach 70 percent of the 2001 estimates…

…Clatsop County Manager Duane Cole said it’s hard to know exactly what that means as far as increases to county revenue, but he suspects a 7 percent increase in harvest level will loosely correspond to a 7 percent increase in timber revenue…

…The additional funds could become seed money for a new county jail, Cole said, or it could allow the county to make purchases of items such as sheriff’s cars that have been on hold because of budget constraints.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Oregon would look at the timber industry in a different light. It has more forestland than Massachusetts, and the timber industry is an integral part of the economy, especially in local timber communities. But it is still heartening to see.