Can you spare some change? Building better forests through community dollars

Building better forests through community involvementI recently came across an excellent article from High Country News that’s well worth highlighting. The article addresses the role of forests in providing valuable ecosystem “services” to communities —such as clean drinking water—and the novel approach of having cities and towns contribute financially to receiving those services. In other words, communities help pay for the forest restoration activities that buffer them from catastrophic wildfires and that directly protect the quality and quantity of their drinking water.

While this economic experiment is not without controversy (what forest-related issue isn’t?), it advances a positive solution for maintaining healthy communities and forests that’s hard to deny. Our watersheds are in desperate need of care, and with shrinking federal budgets, who else is willing and able to step up to the plate to protect them? Which leads to my next thought…

Might people have a much better appreciation for well-managed forests (and the role of sustainable forestry as a conservation tool) if they’re contributing to maintain them? Most likely, yes. At least it should. Take money from our wallets and we tend to notice. Working, community-financed ecosystem projects should open up greater opportunities for discussion in classrooms and other public forums, sending a (hopefully) clear message that the responsibility of creating healthy watersheds rests on an increased participation from both on-the-ground forest professionals and the public at large.

This is an exciting model—supplying an environmental solution that’s good for forests, good for people, and good for the forest products industry. Click here to read the article and then let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Craig Rawlings

Craig Rawlings is the president & CEO of Forest Business Network and has 30 years experience in the forest products industry as an entrepreneur and technical consultant. He can be reached by calling 406.240.0300 or by using our contact form.


  1. John Zapel says:

    We already contribute to the care of our forests as money is taken at the threat of prison, in the way of federal, state and local taxes. This money is then squandered by the cleptocrats in public office to buy votes to stay in office when the last thing on their minds is budget allocations to improve the watershed.
    I say no more money taken from me or anyone else.
    The key is for government to just get out of the way. Cut regulation, taxes and bureaucracy.
    Get rid of useless laws on the books that do nothing to protect species or watersheds, but only enable endless process with no result. Endless process that consumes the entire budgets of land management agencies where then no money is left to do any work on the ground.
    This perspective comes from both a conservation view and as a contractor to the government performing restoration activities.
    The bottom line is this, if forest products companies are willing to invest billions into Russia of all places (where I am at this moment I write) for forest leases where there is NO infrastructure, NO skilled manpower and markets are thousands of miles away for here in Siberia. Then there is obviously a market driven solution to the forest health problems in the U.S. where we have a mature financial and surface infrastructure situation with ready export markets at globally competitive prices and some very productive forest land.
    In the end, the market will provide the solution if the bureaucrats, politicians and ignorant among the public will get out of the way and let solutions develop on their own.
    Thank you.

  2. Excellent idea! It saves water as well as many lives:)

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