Editor’s note: Gifford Pinchot’s Use Book of 1907 was the first in the series to address directly the issue of the lost property taxes imposed on U.S. counties where national forests were located. Here is the entire section he wrote on this key issue for national forest counties, borrowed from the Use Book‘s page 14.
TO THE TAXPAYER.
What happens to county taxes? People who are unfamiliar with the laws about National Forests often argue that they work hardships on the counties in which they lie by withdrawing a great deal of land from taxation. They say that if the lands were left open to pass into private hands there would be much more taxable property for the support of school and road districts. The National Government of course pays no taxes. But it does something better. It pays those counties in which the Forests are located 10 per cent of all the receipts from the sale of timber, use of the range, and various other uses, and it does this every year. It is a sure and steady income, because the resources of National Forests are used in such a way that they keep coming without a break. Congress saw that the money returns would soon be large, and it provided that the amount paid should not exceed 40 per cent of the counties’ tax receipts from other sources.
Taxes from private timber lands, on the other hand, are ordinarily only temporary returns, because after the lands are logged they are usually left to burn up and become vacant and barren, quite valueless for purposes of taxation. Thus a county which is partly covered by a National Forest is better off than one which is not. In 1906 the National Forests paid the county school and road funds over $75,000. This amount will be almost doubled this year.