Magazine article American Forests

Keeping Forests in Forest: Five Experts Describe How Best to Convince Private Forest Owners to Value Their Timberland for Ecosystem Services. with R. Scott Wallinger, Louise Milkman, Tom Tuchmann, Peter Stein, and Carol Daly

Magazine article American Forests

Keeping Forests in Forest: Five Experts Describe How Best to Convince Private Forest Owners to Value Their Timberland for Ecosystem Services. with R. Scott Wallinger, Louise Milkman, Tom Tuchmann, Peter Stein, and Carol Daly

Article excerpt

America's private forestland is changing. The question now is how we shape that change; how we ensure that the debate over America's forests includes ecosystem services--the ability of trees to provide clean air and water, cool temperatures, prevent erosion, and hold back stormwater runoff. We must act now to prevent the wholesale loss of these valuable lands. With that in mind, AMERICAN FORESTS asked representatives from five diverse interests how best to help private forest landowners consider these important values when making decisions about their land. The question is at left, the answers below.

THE QUESTION: With the face of private forestland ownership changing, what types of public policies, incentive programs, or market-based approaches would you recommend to encourage private landowners to value and maintain their forestland for the ecosystem services it provides?

THE ANSWERS:

R. SCOTT WALLINGER

R. Scott Wallinger is a member of the National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry; a retired senior vice president of MeadWestvaco Corp.; and a former AMERICAN FORESTS' president. His perspective is based on a broadly based, senior-level Global Markets Forum convened by NCSSF.

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A: The United States is a large, mature forest products market. It offers family forest owners revenue for timber--their largest income source and economic incentive--but those markets are unlikely to grow and owners are concerned about future income and retention of their forests.

Prospects for alternate revenue from "ecosystem services" or "nontimber forest products" do not approach timber as an income stream. Examples of payments for watershed values are limited and anecdotal. Conservation easements tend to be one-time tax-reduction devices, not sources of annual income. Hunting leases are an existing revenue source. Paid recreation on private land is expanding but competes with public parks and forests. Carbon trading is new for large ownerships but not meaningful for family forest owners. Other "nontimber" forest products are niches, not broad income streams.

"Keeping forests as forests" is the common denominator to maintain ecosystem service values of forests to society, regardless of forest owner management goals or income streams.

This focus offers major potential for new public-private-nongovernmental collaboration with a common goal, regardless of the motives. It begins with progressive public policies--federal, state, and local--in forested rural areas to encourage a vibrant forest economy: economic development incentives to manufacturers and loggers, supporting tax policies, targeted worker training and education, functional roads and bridges, coordinated and efficient state and federal agency processes.

A commodity mentality in large forest industry opens opportunities for local entrepreneurship and innovation that needs local government support. Land trusts and conservation groups can play a key role in promoting active forest management with diverse income sources by supporting forestry policies while helping remove incentives to convert forests to other uses. More than anything, "Keeping forests as forests" requires coherent and sustained strategies, not merely random, short-term program elements.

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TOM TUCHMANN

Tom Tuchmann is president of US Forest Capital, a forestry and financial services company that specializes in conserving working forests.

A: There are many incentives that could be created to maintain ecosystem services, but the bigger question is how we make it economically attractive for landowners to maintain the ecosystem service factory--the forests themselves. For without the forest, there is no opportunity to provide the service!

The most promising incentives are those that integrate wins for the investor, landowner, community, and the environment. …

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