No more smoke and mirrors
Have you seen the slick television ads touting the benefits our watersheds enjoy, courtesy of industrial logging? It’s amazing how extensive clear cuts, miles of forest roads and countless gallons of powerful herbicides sprayed from helicopters can do so much for clean cold water, salmon, birds, etc.
You may not agree that these ads accurately portray the true environmental effects of industrial logging, but at least their cost is directly funded by the timber industry, right? Wrong: They’re financed by the Forest Products Harvest Tax, which is imposed across all ownerships: federal, state, county and private. The Oregon Forest Research Institute purchases this air time. The annual tax-funded OFRI advertising budget ranges from around $250,000 up to $700,000 or $800,000.
The FPHT also partially funds a suite of forest-related services. However, nothing from this tax goes toward funding essential county services. And while so much goes to ads for the timber industry, local forest-related entities (DFPA, DSWCD, Sheriff forest patrols) go begging for grants to help sustain or improve their services.
Further, the principal tax once imposed on harvested trees (severance) no longer applies to holdings over 5000 acres. Rather, inadequate property taxes have been substituted. Data supplied by the Oregon Department of Revenue shows severance tax revenue declined from a high of nearly $34,000,000 in 2000, to near zero by 2009. Over the same period, property tax revenues on private timberland ranged from about $2,000,000 to $4,000,000 per year. The Oregon Department of Forestry shows that if Oregon taxed harvested trees at the same rate as neighboring Washington, it would have yielded about $40,000,000 in 2011 alone! This, while some insist harvests from public forests contribute several times more than comparable private forest lands, to fund local services. It looks like smoke and mirrors to me.
Joseph Patrick Quinn