NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmentalists, Timber Firms Sign Win-win Contracts

November 13, 2002

Logging companies are selling conservation groups development rights to forestlands near populated areas. In return, the companies retain the right to keep harvesting timber on those lands -- thereby preserving jobs and mills.

Such arrangements represent a creative triumph for free enterprise, observers believe.

  • Two million acres of U.S. forest and farmland are converted each year into housing subdivisions and other development; so-called conservation easements keeps forestlands intact and out of the hands of developers.
  • Some 2.6 million acres have been protected through conservation easements -- a nearly five-fold increase from a decade ago, estimates the Land Trust Alliance, a conservation group.
  • Under most easement deals, development rights extend into perpetuity, even if ownership of the land changes -- such as deeding it to the state.

Unfortunately, the arrangements aren't an unsullied win for free enterprise. The conservation groups usually can't raise enough money from private sources to pay for all of the development rights -- so they rely partially on government grants.

Much of the federal money has come from the Forest Legacy Program -- which allots as much as $65 million a year to conservation easement projects nationwide.

Source: Jim Carleton, "Saving Private Wildlands," Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2002.

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