Conserving forests makes good business sense
As New Hampshire recalls our rare Halloween snowstorm, we all bemoan the damage caused by fallen trees and the difficulties encountered in the storm's aftermath. Now that the lights are back on, we can celebrate our good fortune to live in a state that includes so many trees.The fact that so many of New Hampshire's forested acres remain intact is no accident. It's the result of farsighted policymakers, including members of our congressional delegation, who take the long view and understand the important role forests play in the state's thriving tourism, outdoor recreation and forestry-based economies.These industries, and our prized way of life, would all suffer if our forest cover were reduced in the name of "progress" and "development" and the short-term profits they offer.We've protected our forests using conservation tools like the Forest Legacy Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Forest Legacy Program provides funds that enable private forestland owners to sell easements on their acreage, keep title to the lands, and ensure that they are able to continue logging and providing recreational access.With Forest Legacy funds, private lands can stay in private hands and continue to be worked productively for as long as the landowner desires. They can sell the land whenever they want, to whomever they want. The easement stays with the land, ensuring it will remain forested in perpetuity - providing forestry, recreation and tourism opportunities for New Hampshire businesses and allowing for public access. It is very much in line with the New Hampshire way.Using no taxpayer dollars, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funding for Forest Legacy and a great deal more. It funds purchases of land for places like the White Mountain National Forest, Appalachian Trail, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and countless state and local parks, trails and forests.Sadly, the LWCF program - which is supposed to receive up to $900 million per year from offshore oil drilling revenues - has not been adequately funded. Congress has a long history of redirecting LWCF funds for non-conservation purposes. Some in Congress would like to eliminate LWCF completely.Luckily for us, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass are not among them. These two leaders want to ensure the Forest Legacy Program and LWCF are able to provide the benefits to our state that we are promised by the U.S. government.This year, they led bipartisan efforts in Congress to support funding for Forest Legacy and LWCF, which are critically important to New Hampshire's economy in these tough fiscal times.Shaheen recently co-sponsored a bill that would ensure LWCF is fully funded. Bass introduced and helped pass an amendment to restore $25 million in funding for LWCF that had been cut in the House budget bill.Both leaders deserve a strong and enthusiastic thank you. So do U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, who signed letters of support for LWCF in both houses of Congress.We are at a critical time for the future of these programs and their ability to provide benefits to New Hampshire's businesses and citizens.We hope Ayotte will join Shaheen and the rapidly growing bipartisan group of senators by co-sponsoring the LWCF Authorization and Funding Act of 2011. Ayotte's co-sponsorship of this bill would help make clear to leaders in Congress that conserving forests is not an action driven by liberal or conservative ideology, but one that ensures opportunity and benefit for all - for businesses, citizens and communities alike.Jameson French is president and CEO of Northland Forest Products, Kingston, and chairman of the Hardwood Federation.