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An economic appraisal of sustained yield forest management for British Columbia. Haley, David

Abstract

Sustained yield forest management has been widely accepted as a major objective of forestry. It implies continuous production of forest crops with the aim of achieving, at the earliest practicable time, an approximate balance between net growth and harvest, either by annual or somewhat longer periods. The concept, introduced to North America by European foresters at the end of the 19th century, has become an important component of public policy for forestry and conservation. History of sustained yield forest management, its role in conservation philosophy, and its economic advantages and disadvantages, as well as alternatives, are discussed. Evolution of sustained yield management and its application in British Columbia are described. Many advantages have been claimed for sustained yield forest management as an alternative to unregulated liquidation of resources. Yet preservation of forests for the benefit of future generations, amelioration of uncertainty in forestry enterprises, protection of social values, stabilisation of communities, and provision of regular incomes, cannot, themselves, justify unconditional acceptance of sustained yield. Sustained yield forest management emphasizes stability and continuity of production but neglects economic values of the resource. It may even retard economic growth and development. By using physical rather than economic criteria to set goals for forest management, sustained yeild often causes the net present worth of the forest resource to fall short of its maximum potential value. Although sustained yield policy aims at stability, the inability of entrepreneurs to respond to cyclical changes in economic activity may actually lead to instability in stumpage prices and forest revenues. The rational forest owner should only practise sustained yield forest management if it will achieve his objectives in the most efficient manner. Forest owners should always consider alternatives to sustained yield. Benefits must be analysed in relation to costs. Forest management planning also can be improved by linear programming and decision theory techniques as illustrated herein. It is suggested that in British Columbia sustained yield forest management has become so firmly established that alternative policies are seldom considered. Rigid application of sustained yield principles forms an effective barrier to maximization of the social value of the Provincial forest resource. Opportunities for expansion of lumber and plywood industries are being curtailed, and inadequate attention has been given to planning of the transition from old growth to second growth stands of Douglas fir. Despite its emphasis on "perpetual yields of wood of commercially usable quality from regional areas in yearly or periodic quantities of equal or increasing volume", forest management in British Columbia has neglected urgent needs for improved reforestation. After a thorough examination of its implications for British Columbia, it is concluded that sustained yield must be rejected as a universal goal of forest management. Sustained yield forest management should always be compared to other alternatives and be fully justified on economic and social grounds before it is accepted.

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