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In history, private ownership of land is a concept that is relatively recent. The former occupants of this land, the Indians, had no idea of private ownership, only tribal territories. Geographically, it is now practiced in Europe and America. Other parts of our world use some form of corporate or common ownership of land. For example, in the modern state of Israel, the state owns all land that would be considered undeveloped. There is very little acreage that is owned privately. If someone wishes to use a parcel of the undeveloped land, they would negotiate to lease it from the government.

American citizens have the freedom to own and trade parcels of land and, so far, forestland is still relatively cheap in Southeastern Kentucky. This right carries with it the responsibility of stewardship, or how we use the exclusive rights given us as private landowners.

Forestland has been considered as waste land in our area. Now the Federal government is helping farmers to regard our forestland more highly. The Federal Incentive Program (FIP) and others are designed for that purpose. Through our State Forestry Department, we can obtain much help, freely given. One of our responsibilities, then, is to help pay for these services through taxes.

Another area of our responsibilities concerns the right-of- way easements. Many farmers have had to face the problem of a road or utility line taking some of his timberland. In our system of government, the rights of the individual are overridden by the need of the majority.

Another category of responsibilities is to our neighbors. Recent floods on the Cumberland River brought about debates concerning the causes of the record high water and devastation. Many believed that stripping the mountains for coal led to this disaster. What the landowners do at the headwaters will affect neighbors living along the banks of the stream.

How one harvests his timber will greatly affect erosion and pollution of the streams. Not always are the quickest and easiest methods the best or most economical. A farmer may find that the best way to harvest his timber is to do it himself with a team. The farm owner will take more care of his forest floor to keep it from eroding than someone hired to harvest. Our forests are usually on steep slopes and much care must be taken not to cause erosion or slides by our harvest practices. Log roads built around the side of the hill reduces erosion and can be maintained as fire lanes.

Kentucky's pure water act and the law forbidding wildfire, places the responsibility on the landowner to be mindful of his neighbor. The new controls of pesticides by training and licensing the users, lessens the possibilities of our contaminating our neighbors land and water. These new regulations may inconvenience some but they point out that neighbors have not acted responsibly toward each other.

A well marked boundary around ones land can prevent disputes, especially in harvesting timber. Once a survey is made and the precise boundary determined, it is a very practical exercise to keep the boundaries well marked. A survey is the proverbial "ounce of prevention" in relationships between neighbors.

We also have a responsibility to future generations. This is a moral obligation and cannot be legislated. We have a unique opportunity to leave the land to our children and grandchildren in a much better condition than it was left to us. We have access to the technical information, capital is available, and we understand the need.

Instead of "cutting out and getting out", today's timber grower tends trees that his grandchildren will see in their prime; his landholdings are so managed as to restore wildlife, to maintain the water-holding capacity of the soil, and to provide green belts for campers and hikers. It is to be hoped that more than a century of overcutting our timber, begun in pioneer days, has ended. Our forefathers had to contend with dangers in the forest and clearing land for crops. Today we live in a different time. We have the essential elements to develop our forests, our renewable resources, to act responsibly toward the future by managing our forests. It will not only insure timber products for our decendents but management is also necessary to regulate stream flow. Good forest soil is a natural reservoir for rain water. A stream in a forest runs clear and steady rather than being murky and undependable, rising rapidly after a rain, then shrinking to a trickle. "One study made in Ohio revealed that a deciduous forest held 14 times more water than an adjacent open field". (Farb, Peter. The Forest. (Time Inc. 1961) p.p. 170-171) Good forests and clean streams are an invaluable legacy to leave to our children.

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Last revised August 14, 1995.

Please send comments to: Duane Bristow (72711.1414@compuserve.com)