Monday, December 24, 2007

European Forest Recovery

First, a merry Christmas to all. the season is upon us.

I picked up an article this weekend on the subject of European forests. It appears, that without a lot of fanfare and certainly no publicity, that Europe has adopted a policy of financing the retirement of farmland back into forest. By its nature, it is taking out marginal lands. In other words, it is economically driven.

I also get the sense that it is generational. It naturally recognizes that the best time to accomplish this is upon the retirement of the owner operator rather than his displacement.

This has been in place for some time and the effect is already been seen. The disappearance of borders throughout Europe has sped this effect throughout. It is telling that a farmer in Poland can report half his daughter's income working cleaning floors in London is his farm's best source of income.

People are making up their minds a lot faster than when I was growing up when most of my fellow classmates still looked forward to a life on the family farm(1950's).

This on top of similar news out of China, and I suspect even India shortly, means that the modern world is quietly doing the right thing in terms of land use. It is not quick,nor should it be. But we can make a prediction from this. Since it is a largely low cost process and it has little if any impact on production, we can expect that the restoration of natural forests will be maximized over the next one hundred years.

In these lands, the issue of ownership is not nearly the problem, since the land units are generally small and well within the capacity of the owner operator to maximize efficiency.

This is not quite true in North America, were traditional land ownership sizing was already far too large for one family to get the most of. This has been supplanted by the easy assemblage of larger farms and fields to grow certain mono cultures.

It goes without saying that if you are operating a one thousand acre field, you have little time and resources left over to do much about the couple of hundred acres of associated semi waste land. The point that I am making is that the transition to large industrial farms has left a lot of opportunity on the table and has made it harder to do a managed conversion to forestland were warranted. It still will be done, but it will be a little more costly and will require political will.

What we can take comfort from is this global outbreak of common sense when it comes to land management. It is a long way from perfect and we are still a long way from been proactive, but the easy steps are well under way and they are driven by economic common sense.

Perhaps governments can wake up and actually get a little ahead of the curve for once. Good policy is obvious for once.

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