Traditional Silviculture - An Answer to Clean Air
Sometime in the late 1990s, I was given a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. At first, I wasn’t thrilled about the book because it is 1,000 pages of small text. It took about a year to get past the first 50 pages and two years to read the entire book. The book’s principle is that the government’s sole purpose is to protect us from thievery and physical harm and that regulation is an economic drain. This principle has had me question regulation’s purpose for the past 20 years. For the record, I support laws and taxes that protects human rights and thievery.
Regulations are rules that are monitored by an authoritative embodiment. The first federal regulation dates back to 1897 with the Interstate Commerce Act, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission. The ICC (which was dissolved in 1995) was focused on regulating railroad rates ensuring that rebates were deemed illegal and prices were charged fairly for short hauls. This leads to the question, how effective was this regulation if there are no short lines available to us in the forest products industry anymore?
Milton Friedman, an economist, spoke out on the effect of regulations and pointed out that individuals and companies would become more accountable in our social system if consequences of misdeeds were imposed. He stated that financial accountability is more effective than regulation. A question in the context of regulation is, is tax more effective than regulation? As our industry is attacked by Wall Street in the form of carbon credit purchases, why shouldn’t we impose higher taxes on carbon emissions? If the tax is high enough, this will force carbon emission entities to invest in equipment that scrubs carbon more thoroughly before it is emitted.
Does this solve our problem of Wall Street paying landowners not to harvest timber so they can promote their ESG program at a 0 carbon level? We cannot predict that it is accurate, but it may not hurt. Additionally, should government regulate the carbon exchange system? This would be dangerous and could go against us if we don’t have the funds to go to the table to explain the benefits of sound silvicultural practices in the carbon sequestration process. However, we need to consistently be at that table to introduce our solution that silviculture is a part of the answer to clean air and that the preservation of timber is harmful to all stakeholders.
Henry brought me to testify in front of the state Assembly Committee on Forestry on February 21. In the presentation, I used a video of a 130-year-old red oak tree left standing past its economic maturity for a myriad of reasons that would take an entire article to explain. The video depicts all the dangers of leaving trees to grow this big. There is no understory around. The tree was on a hillside and could only fall one way, leaving a beautiful maple that would be ready for harvest in the subsequent re-entry in danger of being severely damaged when the tree fell. Next, the tree had a crotch that would split the entire tree in half when it fell. Also, the danger of felling a tree this large was imminent. As we predicted, when the tree fell, it split and actually split into three parts. We missed the maple, though. That was good. The point is that tree was left for no practical reason, and in the end, the split logs had no marketability.
As a result of the successful Forest Practices Study that GLTPA facilitated, I asked, at the hearing, that we obtain funding for a study that pulls together all the science of carbon sequestration. This study should incorporate traditional silvicultural practices and flow through all the products made from harvested timber. This is where the actual sequestration happens. Will we be successful? Time will tell.
As I struggle with government intervention. Regulation will not be the all-encompassing answer to clean air.