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Other opportunities

Re: “Elevating Indian Policy in the Obama Administration,” by Philip Baker-Shenk (Vol. 28, Iss. 32). With respect to federal Indian policy and its funding, it’s well to talk about means of leverage, e.g., persuading that your goals will further public goals, repeating your arguments over and over, identifying mutual objectives and getting your friends appointed to positions of influence.

There is also opportunity for restructuring ongoing programs as well as creating new programs to further Indian goals and benefit everyone. One such opportunity is in forest management, which when adequately funded and practiced produces revenue that will exceed the investment, making the forest itself a source of perpetual funding. Thus, there is the prospect of reducing future dependence on the federal government. And forest management can incorporate federally attractive objectives such as bio-fuel production.

There are additional benefits to the federal government from well-funded tribal forest management. Greater yield from the forest increases the log supply, thus supporting a greater amount and variety of mill capacity, thus creating better markets for all timber, public and private. Benefits also accrue in the form of more jobs, more infrastructure, more tax revenue and a healthier forest because of improved protection against and suppression of wild fire and damage from insects and disease.

A highly visible effort can be made, in the public interest, to return the National Forests to effective forest management. This public service would gather much support, and to the extent its successful would create expanded mill capacity, more jobs, more tax revenues and improved markets for all public and private timber produced, including Indian timber. And there may be opportunity for vertical integration to include, for example, tribal mill capacity.

Such opportunity is not limited to forest management. I use that example, because of my 50 years of professional forestry practice. But similar opportunity must also exist where tribes have commercial potential in rangeland, minerals, fishing, oil, recreation, water, hunting and probably others.

– Wesley Rickard
Wesley Rickard, Inc.
Forest Management Policy and Economics
Gig Harbor, Washington