Photo by: Steve Horne

Private Property vs. Forest Policy

R.O. Voight

Spring 1999

Nations that protect and defend private property rights are those that have power and prosperity. This statement is based upon historical observation. Historical observation also reveals that nations where private property rights are weak, or non-existent, are invariably weak and poverty stricken.

John Adams exemplified this observation when he said, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence”.

The green revolution has persistently used the lie that the forests are in danger and only public control will save them. This lie, told over and over, in one form or another, has gradually succeeded in convincing untold millions of people that it must be true. And so these unwitting pawns vote for legislation, donate money, organize protests, and generally support the green propaganda. As has been proven by tyrants all over the planet this propaganda technique works on the human mind. And the greens have usurped this technique and are using it day after day after day at all levels of society.

The forest land in Maine is over 95% in the hands of private landowners. A point that many overlook is the fact that the trees that grow on that land are also private property. Potatoes, broccoli, cows, and sheep are also grown on Maine land, and are generally recognized as private property. However, for some mystical reason people seem to think trees are in the public domain. Would you expect the state legislature to pass a law that told in detail when and how and how often dairy farmers could milk their cows? This point, of the trees being private property, was made strongly in the defeat of the Compact I and Compact II.

The State Legislature, in 1998, passed LD 2286, "An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Majority of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Regarding Enhancing Forest Resource Assessment". Or as one Wag has termed it, "The Son of Compact”. There were 12 Bills on Forestry proposed to the Legislature that session. And even though public opinion had defeated the Compacts, and public testimony told the Joint Committee not to pass ANY Forestry Bills, the elected officials distilled those Bills into LD 2286!

LD 2286 essentially gives the State Forestry Bureau the authority to control the privately owned trees in Maine. The Chief Forester is to "Project future demand for forest resources”, "to identify trends in forest utilization, and forecast supply available to meet demands”. These are normal functions of the industry -the paper companies, the large timber owners. Why is the government doing this? The Forestry Bureau is also to "forecast shortfalls and establish policy to avoid shortfalls”. Establish policy over private property??? Are they to tell you when and where and how many trees to grow? Do they do this for cows, or for potatoes?

LD 2286 says, "The director shall coordinate his program with ongoing federal forestry planning programs." Oh? This directly injects federal control and planning over our "privately owned" forests. Federal forestry policy is normally over the national forests!

Next LD 2286 places the State Forest Bureau deeply into "Forest Sustainability”. This is green jargon to place forests under an indefinable policy, an unattainable policy, and a nebulous concept that will eventually defeat any business that attempts to use trees as a product. The concept of "sustainability" has never been adequately explained or defined. The Governor's Task Force on Sustainable Forest Management got nowhere and was eventually disbanded. The Northern Forest Lands Council had great difficulty explaining the concept and the so-called "principles" weren't even in the draft report. At the last moment, Roger Milliken, NFLC member, spent the night drafting a set of nebulous generalities which were placed in the final NFLC report. These are unproven, untested, yet intelligent, well-crafted words.

The concept of "sustainability" was introduced to the world in U.N. document Agenda 21, which was signed by President Bush in 1992, in Rio de Janeiro. President Clinton appointed the President's Commission on Sustainable Development, which issued its report, "Sustainable America" in 1996. There is now a report called "Sustainable Maine”. The green concept revolves around the idea of insuring that natural resources are used in such a manner as to be available to future generations. It may be a valid idea, but no one has conceived how to make it a practical reality, and not put our present economy in the dust bin of history. That is why it is such a dangerous concept and dangerous policy matter to be placed in a state law on forestry.

LD 2286 defines and sets limits on clear-cuts. Annual reports by the Forestry Director will be issued based upon the timber harvesting reports of the land owners. A landowner who cuts only one cord must report that one cord and he becomes a "timber harvester”. Must you report if you harvest one bushel of potatoes? Or if your cows deliver four calves?

LD 2286 attempts to have every aspect of timber growth, timber use, timber harvesting, and method of harvesting reported to the Forestry Bureau. The purpose appears to be to provide the state with maximum control over the timber industry in great detail. And control over private property that is really not in the public domain.

The application of the latest scientific developments in silviculture are not contained in LD 2286. Assisting and educating timber owners in the latest and most effective growth and forest management techniques would be a valuable task for the state. This type of state involvement would not involve control of the timber industry, would not involve violation of private property rights. And it would greatly assist the economy of the state.

The 1999 State legislature should rescind LD 2286 !

R.O. "Bob" Voight is a founding member of the Maine Conservation Rights Institute.

"Courtesy of Scott Fish, AsMaineGoes.com."