Davis Hunt S.F.P.A. Speech (1974)

“SFPA Annual Meeting Has Record-Breaking Attendance,” Southern Lumberman 228 (June 15, 1974), 6-7.

Of special concern to convention delegates was H.R. 10294, a land use bill sponsored by Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz), which would provide nearly a billion dollars in Federal funds for the development of land use regulation programs by states in accordance with detailed Federal regulations.

The main thrust of this bill is directed at the regulation of uses of privately owned lands.  In particular, the bill calls for the regulation of “areas of critical environmental concern,” which conceivably could include every acre of privately owned forestland and farmland in the United States.

In his keynote speech, SFPA President Davis Hunt of Ruston, Louisiana, pointed out that the bill is heavily oriented toward environmental protection at the expense of economical values.

“This could result in disastrous restrictions on forest management and timber harvesting on privately owned lands,” he said, while giving land-owners no compensation for property value reductions resulting from land use regulation.

“The forest products industry is going to have to meet these issues head on and spend whatever money is necessary to accomplish its goals,” declared Davis Hunt, president of the SFPA in his State of the Association address.  He said the southern-based forest products industries must consolidate their efforts and strengths to successfully cope with the many crisis.

Hunt first traced the history of land use legislation now before Congress. “The bills are heavily oriented toward environmental protection,” he pointed out.  They could result in “disastrous restrictions on forest management and timber harvesting on privately-owned lands,” he added, while giving landowners no compensation for property value reduction resulting from land use regulations.

Noting that environmentalists advocating land use legislation call the crusade a “quiet revolution,” Hunt said the “development of this dangerous legislation has been so quiet that most of the private landowners of the nation know every little about it.”

He urged delegates to contact their Congressmen immediately and ask that they oppose any action on land use legislation until local level field hearings are held to protect the interests of private landowners.

Hunt reviewed several preservationist lawsuits which could block or severely curtail timber sales in the National Forests.  He said that because of these increasing environmental conflicts, which primarily affect the western-producing areas, the South will have to provide a higher percentage of the nation’s future timber supply.

To raise the South’s percentage, Hunt said the Forestry Incentives Program must work, and that will only happen if “Industry will assume a larger share of the responsibility.”  Millions of dollars that Congress is willing to invest in the program may never be spent unless industry is able to provide manpower, effort, and equipment to properly execute the physical aspects of the program.  He explained that there are not enough independent contractors to carry out the tree-growing that FIP will finance.

“It is up to us to see that the available incentive funds are utilized,” Hunt said, “and if these aren’t enough, we are going to have to take whatever steps necessary to get this extremely important job done.”  Added Hunt: “No one is going to do it for us.”

Addressing himself to the housing situation, Hunt stressed that “this problem cannot last indefinitely.”  He observed that the nation’s housing needs are building up to the extent that “an average of 2 ½ million starts may be required annually during the next 10 years to meet demand.”

“That’s more homes that we built in 1972,” Hunt said, “when the all-time record was set.  I believe a way will be found to see that this need of our people can be adequately financed.”

He suggested that the solution to the erratic housing market involves fundamental reform to home financing, and that this requires a legislative solution which we hope ultimately to achieve in cooperation with homebuilders, wholesalers, and retailers.”

Hunt concluded his address by saying that “there has never been a time when an industry such as the SFPA has been more important.  And there has never been a time when your dues have brought a greater return.”

“I would venture to say that if SFPA did not exist today, there would be some frantic scrambling to bring it into existence,” said Hunt.  “Thank goodness we have it and, thank goodness, it is effective.”