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VI. Conclusion: forestry associations and forest policy

This essay may usefully be concluded by summarizing as follows:

1. in what way the forestry associations of the various types we have examined can assist the formulation and development of forest policies;

2. how they can be used to persuade the owners of public or private forest-land to apply those policies;

3. whether it will pay a government to encourage and facilitate the setting up of such associations.

It must be noted that the different types of association are not equally valuable, for the extent to which they will further the aims of forest policy will depend upon their own particular objectives; an association is not necessarily a panacea for all the problems confronting forest policy; and the most diverse types of associations can equally achieve results in furthering the progress of forest policy.

Comparative values of various types of forestry associations

It is repeated with emphasis that it is probably impossible to give application to an appropriate forest policy. in a country where there is not at least one association composed of well-known citizens, and which is, furthermore, capable of creating a nation-wide public opinion in favor of forestry and of the conservation of natural resources in general. Sometimes, it is true, the association in question may itself have somewhat erroneous notions about conservation; but that is a minor drawback, capable of being put right.

Where such associations already exist, they should be helped to grow and extend their activities; where they do not exist, their formation should be encouraged. Of all types of forestry associations, these are undoubtedly the ones which render the most widespread general service: spreading through the nation a real concept of forest values and an acceptance of the need of a certain forbearance whereby those values can be preserved and benefit the largest possible number of citizens.

Nevertheless, a valuable purpose may also be served by more specialized forestry associations, co-operative or otherwise, whose aims are narrower and directed towards satisfying the material interests of their members. These associations all have to some extent a common interest, and their heads have usually the confidence of their members. When, therefore, it is a question of introducing some measure of forest policy considered necessary in the public interest or whose purpose over the long term is not readily discernible to the uninitiated, or when support needs to be obtained for the dissemination of new techniques and ideas in forestry; then the directors of forest policy at government level have no longer to persuade endless individuals, incessantly going over the same ground of argument and persuasion. It suffices to discuss matters with the heads of the associations and come to agreement with them. This advantage is even more evident when the associations are co-operatives and State policy is to grant them loans, subsidies or any form of technical assistance. The administrative formalities required for rendering such aid, and especially for allocating shares (usually entrusted to the association), can be considerably expedited. The association representatives thus become spokesmen for the official forest authorities, and, at the same time are spokesmen to government representatives on behalf of their members.

Well-conceived forest policy depends for its character upon the opportunities open to its promoters for hearing the opinions of those who obtain their living directly or indirectly from the forest. Public interest must, of course, come first; this is, after all, the sum of individual interests, and proper forest conservation and utilization cannot be secured unless due regard is paid to the rights of those who own the forest, care for it, work it, and deal with its products.

On the whole, then, it will also be advantageous for governments to encourage the formation of associations such as these. If, however, it is desired to make them of especial value for the purpose of implementing forest policy, then it must be advisable to channel their activities into suitable directions, which will not automatically be followed either because of lack of initiative or because of short-sightedness in regard to the possibilities for forest development.

It is primarily at the local level that it is important to get a real view of the needs, both long-term and short-term, of forest-owners and users, so that associations can be formed to serve both their, and the public, interest. A co-operative association dedicated to maintaining reasonable roundwood prices by organizing the sale of members' timber, should arouse interest in a region where fragmentation of forest lands and indifference are the main obstacles to good forestry. Under other circumstances, danger from fire may be a problem, and here priority might be given to co-operatives engaged in fire-insurance, in making and maintaining firebreaks or buying fire-fighting equipment. In other areas, priority might be given to co-operatives for drainage works, irrigation or tree planting; or to help woodworking industries improve or diversify their output.

From the aspect of social affairs the forest workers' co-operatives are particularly valuable. Co-operatives set up, for instance, in the State of Bombay in India have changed the living standards of the poverty-stricken aboriginal tribes, herded through the ages into the forests and, until almost recently, shamefully exploited by the contractors working State forests. Obviously it is unusual for a government to intervene to this extent in the establishment of associations Here, however, the intervention seems to have been justified, and constitutes a certain object lesson.

But, side by side with the many advantages of associations, co-operative in form or otherwise, there is no denying that they do entail an element of risk: a risk that an association may become so powerful as to impose its views unilaterally upon forest policy to the detriment of the nation's true interests or of the interests of the forest owners or users who stay outside the association. Simultaneous encouragement of associations representing potentially rival interests is a prudent measure: very often forest policy must strike a balance between divergent interests and all interests should have a hearing.

In this connection, however, it must not be overlooked that where a large proportion of forest land is privately owned the forest proprietors hold a powerful trump card when their interests are at stake. They can influence falling prices or, more frequently, rising prices by diminishing or increasing the volume of fellings. "Freezing" their felling operations may cause them only minor discomfort - in any case nothing comparable with the hurt suffered by sawmills from shortage of supplies, the stoppage of machinery and the laying-off of workers. If the "freezing" were a concerted plan, which could obviously be facilitated by owners' associations, then a nation's timber trade, and perhaps even its over-all economy, might be considerably damaged.

The only safeguard against such an eventuality - which, it must be emphasized, does not nullify the truly great value of all forms of forestry association - lies in public spiritedness. Fortunately, co-operatives and comparable modern developments are nearly always in themselves symptoms of social progress and of a deepening awareness of the individual's responsibility towards the community.


The forestry association, with all its virtues, is not a universal cure for all the ills to which forestry is heir. There are limitations where certain problems are concerned.

Perhaps the most important of these problems for most European countries and for North America is the fact that privately-owned forest land is split up into so many small private forests, a term which covers highly varied situations. It is the ill which, above all, may perhaps be cured through the action of associations, especially co-operative associations.

In point of fact, however, the co-operative association can only remedy some of the consequences of fragmentation. It cannot, generally speaking, remove the root cause, and this is unfortunately true in respect to a number of other forestry problems. There are two reasons for this. The first applies to all small owners who try to form groups in order to improve their holdings: they usually have not the capital needed and, even when they join forces, their capital is still inadequate unless they have access to loans on reasonable terms. The second reason applies to the forest in particular: any improvement effected in forest stands usually only yields dividends after a long period. This being so, the probabilities are against the formation of a forest co-operative at all; but even if one is formed, it is very often impossible to run it for long without State aid. The problem is, therefore, not solved by the co-operative alone, but by its acting in collaboration with the State which may either give direct help in the form of loans or subsidies, or may offer tax-exemptions or similar privileges to owners which will induce them to consider forming a co-operative.

There are, of course, exceptions. A co-operative for selling or converting timber may bring immediate returns on capital and redemption may be speedy. This may be the reason for the rapid growth of this kind of co-operative in Europe generally without the need for any governmental intervention. We have seen, however, that there may be difficulties in establishing them.

Various means to the same end

It must not be assumed, however, that a problem is insoluble just because it is impossible to set up a specific form of association in order to help to solve it. The same result might be achieved by another form of association, or by quite different methods applied by associations which are not strictly for forestry purposes.

This is instanced by Swiss attempts to solve the forest-dismemberment problem - not a very urgent problem here, it is true - by the regrouping of lands. The system might seem of little value to other countries, for in practice the operation very often results only in the aggregation of three or four isolated parcels of less than one hectare into a single block not exceeding three or four hectares. It must be added, however, that the regrouping is followed by the construction of a road network so planned that the reconstituted stands are all assured of convenient outlets to a loading-point. This enables intensive silvicultural treatment to be carried out; and in Switzerland, or at least in some of its regions, a forest of three or four hectares intensively managed is of far from negligible value to its owner. Here the "small forest" problem is solved, at least in part, by a method independent of forestry associations.

The co-operative association formula has achieved much in northern European countries in the way of helping forest owners to practice sound silvicultural methods. On the other hand, in the United States, the forest co-operative movement has made comparatively little progress; yet concerted action by the Federal Government, the States, and private owners, together with campaigns supported by powerful associations, has enabled great strides to be made in fighting forest fires. Mutual fire insurance associations may be lacking, but their place is taken by private companies with progressive policies against losses from forest fires.

There is hardly a forest co-operative, in the strict sense, to be found in the southeastern United States, in spite of the fact that conditions would appear to be especially favorable. But in the area there are - apart from the national organizations which naturally cover this territory - not less than six powerful regional forestry associations and 14 large State forestry associations. All of them provide for giving some assistance to private owners. More than 170 large industrial companies operating and themselves owning forests in the States concerned, employ foresters whom they willingly "lend" to neighboring small forest owners, their prospective customers. Add to this the extension foresters of the Federal Service, the State forest services, and, lastly, the more than 200 private forestry consultants or bodies rendering technical assistance in forestry matters, the latter employing a number of professional foresters; then it is obvious that the region is well equipped for developing its forest health.9

9 Third edition of the Forest Farmers Manual 1955, a notable publication of the Forest Farmers' Association.

It is true that the results, in terms of better silvicultural practices and felling, do not seem to be altogether consonant with this abundance of facilities, but the forests of this region have only begun to be properly developed since 1920, when the first of the big forest industries began to be set up in the region, and steady progress is being made. It should also be noted that while some States impose some slight restrictions upon the utilization of private forests, no State has adopted forest legislation even remotely comparable with the strict laws in force in northern European countries and Japan. Federal legislation relating to private forests is mainly concerned with organizing joint action by the Federal authorities, the States and the owners for helping the latter.

It should be emphasized that these associations have nothing in common with the co-operative associations as defined in this essay, although the word co-operative often figures in their titles. Perhaps if co-operatives in the strict sense were to develop in the region, quicker progress might result - but there is nothing to prove this. The only thing one can say is that the present system seems to be in keeping with the character and economic standing of the private forest owners in the region.

The part played by the existing associations is clearly highly important and it is very doubtful whether without them there would have been any real improvement in the forest owners' situation.

To summarize, while some kinds of forestry associations are indispensable to the development of national forest policy, others, although not affording a complete solution to most of the problems confronting forest policy, are nevertheless of valuable assistance to those responsible for forest policy. More than that, the formation of such associations should be encouraged, particularly when they encourage useful activities suited to local conditions, for they can also, on occasion, be entrusted with a far-reaching function in the development of forest policy.

Forestry associations, in their most diverse forms. are characteristic of countries which have succeeded in establishing an efficient forest policy. It is to be hoped that they will flourish in those countries which have not yet achieved this end; for they will prove powerful allies to progress.

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