Editorial: Wrong focus for forest ‘innovation’


A group of Yale University students has won an award for the “innovative” idea that more property taxes and user fees are the answer to cleaning up the Deschutes National Forest.

The funds would support businesses that would use forest materials to make products, but need financial help because those products aren’t commercially viable. That would in turn make forest cleanup financially attractive, the students report.

The students won the Barrett competition for their plan to create the Deschutes Collaborative Conservation Fund to support companies to thin the forests and turn the material into products such as wood chips and animal bedding. The money would come from an additional property tax, surcharges on water bills and added fees for hikers, bikers and beer drinkers, among others.

Just how tax and spend is “innovative” escapes our understanding.

And we’re also not clear on why local residents should pick up this tab when they have no control over what happens on the vast tracts of federal land that dominate the region.

But the real issue is timber. Some true innovation might have come from a focus on how to restore that once-highly successful industry, which for decades poured money into the local economy, not drained it out.

Rather than ask taxpayers to finance a new type of industry, how about taking the restraints off the one we already know, the one crippled by environmental regulation?

There is broad understanding that some timber practices — like those in many early 20th-century industries — caused unacceptable environmental damage. It should be equally obvious that overzealous regulation and environmental extremism are preventing the industry’s recovery.

The students’ efforts might have led to some real innovation if they had focused on finding the right compromises that would protect the environment while breaking the grip of government control and letting the power of private enterprise flourish.