MS SAF Position Statement on Private Property Rights
The Mississippi Society of American Foresters supports policies at the federal, state, and local levels that encourage long-term investments in private forests and forest resources. MS SAF strongly supports private landowners’ right to manage their lands in accordance with their own objectives unhindered by excessive federal and state regulations. MS SAF recognizes that public and private forest lands, which total 19.8 million acres in the state, provide products and amenities that benefit all Mississippians. The extent and security of private property rights strongly and directly affect the degree to which landowners are willing to invest in private forestland management. Conservation and management of private forestland relies on an equitable balance between the security of rights and the stewardship responsibilities inherent in private forestland ownership.
Federal, state, and local laws in some regions have had major impacts on private property rights and incentives for forest management. Violations of these laws and their applicable regulations can subject the landowner to both criminal and civil penalties involving thousands of dollars in fines and possible imprisonment. Recent attempts by the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the constitutional protection of private property rights have been unclear. The variability in application and extensive costs associated with litigation precludes many private forestland owners from seeking compensation under the Fifth Amendment.
Private ownership carries with it a stewardship responsibility for the land and associated resources and the MS SAF believes the responsibility is often being met by many private forestland owners on a voluntary basis, consistent with their land and resource management objectives. MS SAF desires to see all landowners honor their stewardship responsibilities, but the government must recognize the importance of protecting property rights to secure performance of such responsibilities.
Government policies should emphasize the availability of voluntary, non-regulatory approaches to stimulate the conservation of public values on private forestlands. Such approaches may include, but are not limited to, education and information dissemination, technical assistance, tax incentives, subsidies, direct compensation, project cost sharing, and conservation easements.
Originally adopted by Mississippi Society of American Foresters (MS SAF) on October 18, 2000 and revised on August 24, 2007. This statement will expire December 31, 2017, unless revised by the MS SAF.