MT state land timber ransom paid

Maybe this is one possible (small) advantage of state ownership (vs federal) of public lands in one state.  In Montana you (and I mean you, or any environmental group) can bid on a 25-year “conservation license” in lieu of a timber sale.  In what I believe may be a first in Montana, there was such a high bidder.  It’s maybe a fairly unique situation, where adjacent landowners could afford to pony up the $100ks for what appears to amount to a limited-term scenic easement.  This makes some sense for the state if the goal for land management is dollar returns.  Of course the actual timber bidder is protesting it.  Both sides have raised questions about what the statutory language for state lands means when it says: “secure the largest measure of legitimate and reasonable advantage to the state.”  Should it include the “benefits” of roads that would be built (but not the environmental costs); should it include the long-term economic value of being able to resell the same timber in 25 years?  (Is this a good idea for public lands?)

5 thoughts on “MT state land timber ransom paid”

  1. I haven’t come down on either side of this.
    Good.. I think it’s good that Montana says “these lands are to make money and we will do whatever makes the most money and fits within environmental and other laws”. So that’s clear.

    Questions: are we living in a world where we use things, but more well-off people don’t want to see the production of those things close to them and are able to buy that (this has always been the case, but to what extent should the State enable it?). We could call this “putting unsightly things elsewhere.”
    Do these landowners use wood products, but just not want them produced nearby? What if it were a wind farm on State land?

  2. The State of Montana might get their funds but what about the loggers, mill workers, and everyone downstream in the economy created by the harvest of this timber? What happens in 25 years and an environmental group can then call it ” old growth” habitat?
    The State of Oregon just sold 100 million dollars in bonds, to be paid back later by state taxpayers, to help cover the cost of setting aside the Elliott State forest and the lost of funds to the state’s education fund.
    I come to the conclusion that if the bidder has no intention of doing the work their bid should be disqualified.

  3. Pretty insulting to call this a “ransom”. Really hurts the not only your credibility, Jon, but also the blog.

    Secondly, this is cheap for preservation. Look at market other transactions such as conservation easements and you will find that $35/acre/year is well below market value for this type of instrument…hardly a “ransom” as you put it.

    If you want unharvested views adjacent to your gated community, trust land need to be compensated for that, but many secondary effects come from it as stated in the departments EIS.

  4. I wondered if anyone would object to that characterization. I think a purpose of blogging is to be a little thought-provoking, and I don’t think this is nearly as provocative as some. The title just carries this “conservation license” idea to an extreme – why shouldn’t the state choose its timber sale projects near subdivisions if they can get paid multiple times for them? I provoked you into thinking about the math, so that’s good. As for credibility, I don’t care that much about either generating revenues from public lands or views from gated communities, so I’m kind of with Sharon on what to make of this idea – on the fence. I’m glad others have opinions.

  5. By the way, in the current Montana legislative session, HB 441, sponsored by Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman), repeals section 77-5-208 of the Montana Code, the section that allows the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to offer conservation licenses in lieu of timber sales.


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