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Applegater article–Economic Value of Standing Forests

Published in the Applegater, Winter 2013:

Williams Community Forest Project met with the Josephine County Commissioners in October.  We requested that the commissioners directly and publically support programs which benefit the recreation and restoration industries, while conserving our O&C lands for ecosystem services. The following is some of the information supplied in the proposal.

Management of the O&C lands by the BLM dates back to 1937 when Congress passed the O&C Lands Act, providing for permanent forest production, protection of watersheds and regulation of stream flow, economic stability of local communities and timber industries, creation of recreational facilities, and provisions for reimbursing the O&C counties for the loss of tax revenue from the O&C lands.

“The O&C lands safeguard critical sources of drinking water, support fish and wildlife habitat, and provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.” (

The most recent 2012 report from the Outdoor Industry Association notes that in Oregon outdoor recreation generates $12.8 billion in consumer spending, $4 billion in wages and salaries, $955 million in state and local tax revenue, and $141,000 directly in Oregon jobs.

Payments for ecosystem services create jobs.  A study by the Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon found that forest and watershed restoration projects have considerable economic impact and job growth potential. For every $1 million invested, 20 jobs and over $2.3 million in total economic activity were returned for river and road restoration; 13 jobs and $2.2 million in economic activity were generated from mechanical forest projects such as thinning; and 29 jobs and $2.1 million in economic activity could come from tree planting and manual thinning.

Headwaters Economics notes that “western non-metropolitan counties with protected federal lands had faster employment growth and higher per capita income.  Counties that had more than 30% of the county’s land base in federal protected status increased jobs by 345% over the last 40 years.  “Pristine natural amenities such as scenery and wildlife help sustain property value, attract new investment and knowledge-based workers.”

“Wild Pacific salmon are a central part of the culture, economy, and environment of Oregon.  Pacific salmon generate 28 million dollars of economic activity annually in Oregon, providing hundreds of jobs.” (

In the Register Guard article “Costs of Logging O&C Lands Exceed Benefits,” Art Johnson and Ernie Niemi point out “Logging older bigger trees would produce not just dirtier water but less water.  The overall impact can be as much as 20 inches of water a year.  The cost over time to irrigators, fisherman, municipal water users and others would be equivalent to a one-time payment today of about $1000 per acre.  Logging releases into the atmosphere large amounts of carbon dioxide currently stored in the trees, roots and soils of the O&C lands…Current estimates of the monetary damage per ton of carbon dioxide suggests these effects range from at least $25,000 to $85,000 or more per logged acre.”

Niemi continues in “Economic Value of Goods and Services Produced by the O&C Lands With and Without Industrial Logging,” produced for the Pacific Rivers Council, “Congress is considering several proposals to increase logging on 200,000 or more acres of the O&C Lands in western Oregon managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.  Price data for timberland indicate these lands would have a timber value of no more than about $5,000 per acre, and less than this amount if the existing environmental protections and ban on exporting logs from O&C Lands remain unchanged.  Industrial logging of these lands, however, would leave them unable to produce conservation-related goods andservices worth 10–20 times more than the timber value.”

Clean air and water, along with the beauty of our forested lands, are prominent factors in our economic future. These needs must be considered in the management of our public O&C forests, and logging for county funds is an economic loss.