Value of the Natural Resource Plan

By Jeremy Conlin
Reader Contributor

The misrepresentations of the Natural Resource Plan are reminiscent of the machinations during the period of 1880-1920. “The Progressive Era,” by Murray Rothbard, especially chapter eight regarding Theodore Roosevelt, is useful regarding the Plan and how it relates to the Scotchman Peaks issue. As stated by Leonard Bronson, then (1911) the manager of the National Lumber Manufacturers’ Association: “…from a selfish standpoint alone the heavy timber owners of the West are heartily in favor of the (forest) reserves: for the mere establishment of these reserves has increased the value of the holdings very heavily by withdrawing from the market timber which otherwise would be competitive…” Reduce the supply, raise the prices and the profits for established owners and raise the barriers of entry to newer competitors.

John Hancock Insurance Company owns vast acres of land for long-term investment purposes. By restricting the availability of timber, such as the unnecessarily large proposal for the Scotchman Peaks, the value of the investment increases. Stimson Lumber and The Idaho Forest Group, local owners of local timberland, would also reap the reward of reduced supply and competition. As illustrated in “The Progressive Era,” the back-room dealing between the timber owners and the government decision makers has to be understood. Ask Sen. Keough, who would benefit if the timber supply was reduced. As stated by Mr. Rothbard “Where government takes resources off the market, the aim is to restrict and cartelize lands or resource industries.”

“Pressed by their critics…the forestry advocates …fell back upon enthusiasm, and, on  occasion, on duplicity.  ….the conservationists, as progressives were wont to do, framed their arguments in moralistic terms by stigmatizing their enemies as militarists, monopolists, traditionalists…”  (Rothbard). Not much has changed.

The introduction to the plan states it is “… a document for local government to use as a plan and policy statement … representing … a broad spectrum of interests, including Logging, Agricultural, Construction, Business, Recreation, Conservation …”.  The cherry-picking mischaracterizations and over-simplification by some critics of the plan misleads everyone.

“Proper management of these lands will insure a stable long term income stream for both State and County.”

The Montana Property and Environment Research Center ( has numerous reports proving how our state has been more efficient and rewarding with timber and recreation resources than the federal agencies. Despite the frequent seeds of doubt, Idaho has shown that it does have the ability to properly manage local resource treasures. Better to pay salaries to local employees than to administrators thousands of miles away. The federal government is already is leaving trails and forest unattended, with tragic and expensive consequences. The more money woes continue, the more our local forests and waterways are threatened.

Appendix C of the plan provides several federal codes and court cases spelling out the need for coordination. Who would complain if any federal agency suddenly stated that they would begin chemically treating Lake Pend Oreille in July without any coordination with local authorities?

Would sportsmen’s groups prefer to see their outdoors cared for by the most qualified individuals and groups possible? Increasingly that means local people who are more personally attached to local values. More local jobs means more local responsibility and care.

Today’s progressives are little different than those in the Progressive Era. When facts get in the way, personal attacks and moralistic mischaracterizations follow. Consider the motivations of those who criticize the plan. Who really benefits?

The Bonner County commissioners would be well served, as would all citizens, by having in place a plan to coordinate with other decision-makers. Without any plan we would be in an inferior position and working from behind. The commissioners would be criticized if they did not have a plan for dealing with disaster emergencies. A plan to deal with our natural resources is also needed. Even a waffling commissioner would be standing on a firmer platform of leadership. Being prepared is better leadership than being dependent.

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