The current trial to decide the "greatest permanent value" of state forests is interesting from several perspectives.
In reading various testimonies about how the forestlands were originally conceived as being for timber harvest primarily, to generate income for the counties and taxing districts associated with them, something occurred to me about the ability to change one's mind.
In the 1930s and 1940s we knew nothing about climate change, or how water would be affected by an ever-increasing population. Has anyone defined a monetary value for what trees do in terms of carbon sequestration? Or what intact forests do in terms of maintaining water quality? Until we have those numbers, the entire concept of "greatest permanent value" is incomplete.
While I understand the values as defined in the 1940s, we now need updated thinking, meaning we have taken into consideration all the potential values from a monetary standpoint.
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One witness stated that we have to have economics, families, jobs, etc. as part of the discussion about forest use. Indeed, the economy, families, jobs will be affected if we do not attend to climate change and water needs. As new facts become evident it is our responsibility to incorporate them into our definitions of value. Of course, managing forests against fire and helping those whose jobs are affected have to be part of this discussion.
However, clinging to old definitions of greatest value will ultimately not help the counties bringing this suit. Becoming economically and mentally nimble will.
Albany (Oct. 31)