Like the writers of recent commentaries in the News Tribune, I share a love for Minnesota's forests.
The accumulation of tax-forfeited land between the 1930s and 1960s prompted legislation for the best use of unwanted land. In 1979, the "Payment In Lieu of Taxes" law (PILT) was passed, allowing Minnesota tax dollars to compensate counties and townships for their tax-revenue losses when lands were tax-forfeited and kept off the market and tax rolls.
Recent times have brought frequent cycles where economic calamities have threatened "home." Good land can become tax-forfeited and workers and their families dislocated, causing declines in a county's tax base. But we also have seen declines in license sales and outdoor-participation rates, as reported by the Department of Natural Resources, while others report declines in wildlife habitat.
All the land taken for public land purposes isn't contributing to higher population growth in Northeastern Minnesota. Looking back at outdoor experiences growing up in Northeastern Minnesota, I see how some activities have become limited only to those in upper-income brackets. As the recreation industry grows, outdoor participation declines.
Simultaneously, increasing timber values has created a cash crop with competing and conflicting interests. Do timber harvests always follow best practices in every case given so many fingers in the pie? Does county land parceling prioritize small-parcel buyers more or less than large-timber buyers?
Given all the public land already available in Minnesota, I believe at some point, additional land classified and held for forest management impedes growth in Northeastern Minnesota. Perhaps more credit should be given to private landowners' contributions to rural-population growth, the development of wildlife habitat, and growing outdoor participation rates because private landowners and their families have vested interest. Maybe they should receive the subsidy.
Inver Grove Heights, Minn.