“Turning a Profit on Public Forests”

The Forest Service could save money by following policies similar to those of county and state forests, says Donald R. Leal in a new paper, “Turning a Profit on Public Forests.”

Leal, a Senior Associate at PERC (the Political Economy Research Center) in Bozeman, Montana, studied the economic and environmental performance of county and state foresters in Minnesota and Montana and compare them with that of Forest Service lands in the same region.

“The Forest Service should take a very hard look at how state and local foresters sell timber and protect environmental amenities at the same time,” says Leal. Leal compared Superior National Forest and the St. Louis County forest lands, both located in northeastern Minnesota. They have similar timber-growing potential, but over the 1990-1993 period, the county made more than $2 million from timber sales while Superior lost over $5 million on timber sales.

In Montana, the state generated $13.3 million in income from timber sales on its school trust lands from 1998 to 1992. But the Forest Service lost nearly $42 million on its national forests timber sales in Montana during the same period.

In both cases, independent experts rated the agencies’ environmental practices. The county and state scored higher than the Forest Service.

Leal, a researcher and writer on natural resources issues, is co-author with Terry L. Anderson of Free Market Environmentalism (Westview Press, 1991). His new paper is the fourth in PERC’s new Policy Series a series of short, readable papers edited by Jane S. Shaw.

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