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July 14, 2005

Zero Sum Logging

Here's a clear example of "perverse incentives," a phrase NEW employs to describe counterproductive policies...

The Oregon senate just moved to aggressively increase logging on state forestlands. The senators aren't just cut-and-run profiteers, they want to raise money for the common school fund. In Oregon, as in Washington, revenue from timber harvests on state land is constitutionally reserved for schools and a few other public goods.

The unfortunate result is that limiting cutting means squeezing a portion of, say, the school construction budget. In Oregon, where the state's budget is already spread too thin, schools need all the help they can get. But the state forests are not in particularly good shape either. In fact, state forestry officials worry that ratcheting up cutting will erode the ecological function of forests, perhaps jeopardizing coastal salmon streams in the case of the Elliott State Forest.

Needless to say, it's silly to pit two of the state's most important resources--education and natural heritage--against one another in a zero sum game. Unfortunately, the only available way out of the dilemma isn't exactly easy: it would require changing the state's constitution.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


It's not silly -- it's brilliant! You're not being nearly cynical enough.

Posted by: Ran | Jul 15, 2005 8:19:27 AM