There is no logical, moral or political reason why a crop of growing trees should be included in the a.s.sessment, in addition to the actual value of the land, that does not apply with equal force and reason to farm lands which are continuously cropped with grains, root crops or hay. The uncertainty of realizing upon a tree crop is very much like the uncertainty of a given farm's producing its crop in full. The only difference is that the forest crop is subjected to the vicissitudes and chances of a long series of years, while the farm crops are subject only to the vicissitudes of about one year. Many of the crops are only subject to the accidents of five or six months.
In the present stage of forestry in this country, what is most imperatively required is such a treatment of the subject of taxation of forested lands as will induce private owners to retain their forests until ripe to the harvest and to reforest denuded lands.
This would apply to those having lands suitable for such purpose, or others who might purchase lands suitable therefor, who, under the present diverse, and oftentimes inequitable, practice of a.s.sessments, cannot be induced to make investments of that character.
REPORT OF SOCIETY FOR PROTECTION OF NEW HAMPSHIRE FORESTS, EX-GOVERNOR FRANK W. ROLLINS, President: The law of New Hampshire requires that all property shall be taxed equally, according to its value, a law constantly and necessarily violated by a.s.sessors of forest property throughout the State. Its strict application even for a short period would go far to rid the State of its standing timber.
The reason for this is that timber is a growing crop--the only crop taxed more than once, and if taxed annually at its full value the cost to the owner of holding the property would be so excessive as to require its hasty disposal. a.s.sessors everywhere feel instinctively the inherent injustice of taxing a growing crop at a high annual rate, and violate the law and their oaths of office with impunity.
The result is there are as many systems of forest taxation in the State as there are a.s.sessors, and glaring inequalities exist, not only between neighboring towns, but also in some instances between different parts of the same town.
The unequally high rate placed upon the timber of non-residents is wholly iniquitous.
NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE GRANGE, Committee on Agriculture: Many of the towns in our State invite the misuse of forests by overtaxation.
This should be guarded against. By reasonable thrift we can produce a constant wood and timber supply beyond our own need, and with it conserve the usefulness of our streams for water supply, navigation and power, and at the same time increase the value of our farms.
E. M. GRIFFITH, State Forester of Wisconsin: The present method of taxing timberlands is hostile to the forestry interests of the State, as a single timber crop is taxed heavily and repeatedly, and the owners are forced by our present laws to cut their mature timber in order to escape inequitable taxation, to sacrifice their young growth, and to disregard conservative methods of forest management.
Taxes are unfortunately a very valid reason in many sections of the State for not practicing forestry. Many town a.s.sessors seem to feel that they must tax the timberland owner, especially the non-resident owner, as heavily as possible, and naturally in self-defense the owner is forced to cut his timber and so reduce the taxes to a reasonable amount. Then, when it is too late, the towns find that they have "killed the goose that laid the golden egg." However, the loss of the taxes on the timber is but a drop in the bucket compared to the irreparable damage to many communities from losing the industries which depended upon the forests for their raw material. To appreciate this one only needs to visit towns in which the sawmills have shut down on account of lack of timber.
Of late years the end of the timber has been largely hastened on account of the excessive taxes placed upon it. The whole system of forest taxation in this country is wrong, for it puts a premium on forest destruction.
RALPH C. HAWLEY, Instructor in Forestry, Yale University: A system of taxation which discriminates against timber, one of the chief natural resources of the commonwealth, is to be condemned.
KENTUCKY STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE REPORT: When a rise in the valuation of other than forest property becomes necessary because of the greater development of the resources of the region, the valuation of forest property should be increased with great caution in order that the forest lands may be held to advantage for the production of future timber crops. A timber crop is marketed only after the young growing timber has been held for a long term of years, during which time the forest has been yielding only a very slight revenue, if any, to the owner. If the valuation of the forest or its rates of taxation goes beyond a comparatively low limit, the holding of forest land for a second crop of timber is impracticable or nearly prohibitive. This condition has prevailed in many other States where now the problem of taxation is a difficult one to solve.
ALFRED GASKILL, State Forester for New Jersey: The present practices favor and encourage the untimely or wasteful use of standing forests, discourage the propagation of others, and tend to hasten the time when the country shall be forced to face a wood famine.
It would be impossible to apply the European system here with anything like the exactness that attaches to it in the old countries, because we have not the means of knowing the true worth of forest soil or of forest crops, but the principle is applicable anywhere. Even in the hands of non-expert a.s.sessors it gives a fairer basis of valuation than our present method, and in the long run will insure larger returns.
J. E. FROST, Tax Commissioner of Washington: The State's system of taxation is obsolete, and only 13 civilized communities in the world have such an out-of-date system. The State is confined by the const.i.tution to property tax, well known as a primitive system, utterly incapable of coping with modern business. It can be remedied only by recognizing the different cla.s.ses of taxable property.
DR. FRANCIS L. MCVEY, University President and Tax Expert: Under the old plan of valuing annually the property it was difficult to secure an apprais.e.m.e.nt that was satisfactory to anybody and, what was more, as the years went by the local governments found their a.s.sessed values decreasing and the burden of government materially increasing with the decline in amount of standing timber. The annual taxation of the land upon which the timber stands meets this difficulty, while the taxation of the product at the time of harvesting provides a plan that is fair both to the local government and to the owner of timber.
COLORADO CONSERVATION COMMISSION: _Resolved_, That it is the sense of the Colorado Conservation Commission that the governor and legislators should submit to the people at as early a date as possible an amendment to the const.i.tution, exempting from taxation lands devoted solely to the growth and culture of new timber, and if such amendment is adopted, the same to be followed by suitable legislation.
OREGON STATE CONSERVATION COMMISSION: Const.i.tutional amendment and legislation should be invoked to permit a low fixed tax on cut-over land during the period of no return to the owner, the State to be compensated by a tax on the crop when cut. Obviously this inducement should be offered only to those holders of cut-over land who will reciprocate by furthering the object sought. The result of such a system would be not only perpetuation of the forest and its attendant industries and payroll, but also a far greater tax return than the present one of encouraging potential forest land to become worthless and non-taxable.
LEGISLATURE OF MINNESOTA: "Sec. 17 a. Laws may be enacted exempting lands from taxation for the purpose of encouraging and promoting the planting, cultivation and protection of useful forest trees thereon."
This is the text of an act amending the Minnesota const.i.tution pa.s.sed by the legislature.
WASHINGTON CONSERVATION a.s.sOCIATION, Walla, Walla: _Whereas_, The question of holding cut-over forest land for a second crop is of paramount importance to the State, and
_Whereas_, This is made impossible on the part of private owners by our present method of forest taxation, whereby the owner is obliged to pay an annual tax on the land as well as an annually repeated tax on the same growing crop, therefore be it
_Resolved_, That this convention favors such remedial legislation as will encourage reforestation of privately owned lands, and be it further
_Resolved_, That it is the sense of this convention that as applied to reforestation such remedial legislation can be secured by a plan which will levy an annual tax on the land and an income tax on the forest crop only when the crop is harvested.
FIRST NATIONAL CONSERVATION CONGRESS, Seattle: Resolved, That we urge the adoption of a system of taxation under which woodlands will pay a moderate annual land tax and the timber will be taxed only when cut.
THE WESTERN FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION a.s.sOCIATION
The Western Forestry and Conservation a.s.sociation has no individual membership, but consists of and represents all organized agencies for forest protection in the States of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. Following is Article IV of its const.i.tution:
"Any a.s.sociation formed for the purpose of organized effort in the protection of forests from fire and for the reforestation and conservation of the forest resources of the States represented shall be eligible for membership. Any organization admitted to membership shall be ent.i.tled to two votes in the meetings of this a.s.sociation. The chief forest officer of each of the five States embraced, and of each district of the United States Forest Service embraced, shall be honorary members."
The allied organizations are at present fifteen in number: The Oregon Forest Fire, Oregon Conservation, North Willamette Forest Fire, Coos County Fire Patrol, Northwest Oregon Forest Fire, Klamath Lake Counties Forest Fire, Polk-Yamhill Forest Fire, Lincoln-Benton Forest Fire, North Idaho Forestry, Washington Forest Fire, Washington Conservation, Inland Forest Fire, Potlatch Timber Protective, Clearwater Timber Protective, Pend d'Oreille Timber Protective, Coeur d'Alene Timber Protective and Northern Montana Forestry a.s.sociation.
The purpose of the Western Forestry & Conservation a.s.sociation is to promote forest fire prevention, conservative forest management, reforesting of cut-over lands not more valuable for agriculture, improvement in taxation systems, preservation of stream flow, and all other things comprehended by forest conservation.
Its meetings enable representatives of the allied a.s.sociations and of State and government to exchange ideas and devise ways and means for carrying on these movements in harmony along practical and effective lines. It also affords means of collecting and distributing information from these several sources.
It believes in the use of every legitimate means of publicity and education to interest lumbermen, legislators and public, not only in paving the way for future advance, but also in such actual, workable, conservation measures as can be put into practice immediately.
To this end, believing action speaks louder than words, it practices what it preaches. While fully recognizing the great value and necessity of a.s.sociations devoted entirely to propaganda, it sees also a need of reducing theory to a sound business basis. Either as a.s.sociations or through their members the forest protective a.s.sociations it represents spent about $700,000 in 1910 for patrol and fire fighting to protect the forests of the West. They safeguarded millions of acres of timber, put out many thousand fires, and saved forest resources worth billions of dollars to the community. As a result of their effort the losses in Idaho, Washington and Oregon were kept down to about a quarter of 1 per cent of the privately-owned timber in these States, and this notwithstanding that it was one of the worst fire years in American history.
While they unite in the Western Forestry and Conservation a.s.sociation, and levy a special a.s.sessment to support its work, the local organizations are wholly independent in their actual forest fire work. Their systems vary slightly, but the majority follow the general plan outlined on pages 100-103 of this booklet.
One of the primary objects and ambitions of the a.s.sociation is to extend this effort until all the timber owners in the five States do their part and every acre of private forest land is brought under a highly trained and organized service. If the States themselves lend aid and backing this can be made the most efficient fire service in existence, as the most magnificent body of standing timber in the world deserves.
The a.s.sociation also employs a trained forester to a.s.sist its members who control timber to install and maintain improved methods of protection, cutting and reforestation. In this way it not only helps those who will to really accomplish the end in view, but by publishing such material as is contained in this booklet makes the experiments serve as object lessons to others.
Perhaps the most unique function of the a.s.sociation is to furnish the only common meeting ground and clearing house for the many public and private agencies for forest protection. At its meetings Federal and State officials, representatives of public conservation a.s.sociations and timber owners join on equal footing, without controversy over rights or authority, in discussing practical details of how to accomplish the best results together under conditions as they exist. Every man present is there because he wants to do his part, with his own hands or money, to preserve the forests of the West. He knows what he is talking about and the others are glad to hear him. The result is a mutual understanding and cooperation along practical lines which is of immense benefit to the public whose welfare depends largely upon these agencies that really control its forest resources.
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