Your ongoing series of stories follows the continuing legal saga of 14 Oregon counties — including Benton — suing the state of Oregon claiming they are owed “lost timber revenues,” now estimated at $674 million from state forest lands, 2004-2019. They argue that the Oregon Department of Forestry didn’t do enough clear-cutting on state forest lands to maximize forest revenues, a large percentage of which these counties receive under contract.
Expert witnesses have explained in great detail about how timber is valued. Their accounting shows how to get the most bang for the buck, by growing trees in plantations, clear-cutting them at a designated age and then re-planting them to become the next crop.
Other expert witnesses have explained the need to scale back logging on these public lands to conserve other natural services — such as recreation, water filtration, wildlife habitat and carbon storage — things that the public cares about.
Unfortunately, timber is the only forest resource that has been assigned a dollar value, so the enormous economic benefits from these other natural services are dismissed.
Economists know how to assign dollar values to natural services, and they’ve been doing it for years. For example, New York City invested $600 million in watershed protection and restoration. That investment saved the city $6 billion in capital costs by avoiding the need to construct a water filtration plant.
Include dollar values for all of the state forest’s resources — not just for timber — in the revenue equation. Then it’s likely that these counties actually came out ahead and are not owed a dime.