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of property owners to impose an indefinite and uncertain charge upon their properties, in return for doubtful benefits. The situation demands a study of these criticisms of the present statutes, and the formulation of a policy which is sufficiently clear to define the relative importance of economic development and natural scenic conditions and summer resort activity, and at the same time to fix, by some contractural relation, the precise cost to each benefited riparian owner of the proposed stream regulation. I understand that the Governor has recently appointed Attorney General Lewis, Conservation Commissioner Pratt, and State Engineer Williams, to investigate this subject, with the intention of using any report which may be made thereon as a basis for recommendation to the Legislature.
This Association may find it necessary to take a very active part in any legislative consideration of this extremely important subject, and it is my intention to recommend to this meeting that a special committee be appointed with power to act for and represent the Association in all matters relating to river regulation which may be under consideration at the coming session of the Legislature.
CROSSING STATE LAND During the past year there has been a material increase in the number of applications submitted to the Conservation Commission for permission to cross State land as a means of ingress and egress to or from logging operations being conducted on adjoining or adjacent private lands. In certain instances the application has contemplated the cutting of mature trees to open such roads where none have heretofore existed. These latter applications influenced the Commissioner to ask the Attorney-General for an opinion as to the legal right to permit the cutting of trees for highway purposes. The opinion recently rendered is to the effect that the Commission is without power to grant permission to cut out roads on State land where none before existed. The right of the Commission to grant these permits over old roads is not a firm one. It is rather a policy adopted through a forced construction of the State Constitution for the purpose of doing that which, in fairness and justice, should be done. It is, in short, but a liberal construction of the Constitution which can be readily reversed at any time.
This state of affairs is not only unsatisfactory, but to prevent a citizen from getting to and from his property in a natural, economical way, is not a popular principle of government in England or America. The only provision of the Federal or any State Constitution which permits the taking of private property for e.
private purpose, is that giving the citizen the right to appropriate property to grant him ingress and egress from his property. This principle is a most ancient one, having been brought to this country from the English law. I believe that the people of our State will promptly apply this equitable principle, and, in the manner provided in the Constitution, will amend the constitutional provision in relation to the State forests and give some State official authority in his discretion to grant rights of way across State lands, whether there be old roads or not.
Possibly, as a preliminary to a campaign for a Constitutional amendment in relation to this question of roads, it would be well to consider the bringing of an action to get a judicial interpretation of the two provisions of the Constitution: that is, the ancient one in relation to taking private property for public purposes, and, the provision in relation to Article VII, Section 7, in relation to the State forests. Now it may be that the latter provision will be construed not to abrogate or repeal or annul the former provision. There seems to be the excellent principle, to sustain this, that the State of New York should be willing to submit itself and its property to the same laws which it imposes upon its citizens. There is no good reason why the State should not set the first example in that respect. Personally, I have not studied the subject deeply enough to have or express an opinion as to the probable result il the matter is submitted to the courts for judicial interpretation. But this matter of roads is rapidly becoming a serious question in the Adirondacks, and it is one that sooner or later has got to be met and solved, as it is rapidly reaching a serious condition. A campaign to amend the constitutional provision to remedy it should be undertaken at once.
ASSISTING THE GOVERNMENT The things I have referred to are the every-day problems in the conduct of our business and in the protection of our personal and property rights. At this time a far more important thing is occupying public attention. Every loyal American citizen is subordinating all personal consideration to the service of the Government and the conduct of the great war in which we are involved. Unless the principles of our Covernment are to prevail, the great industries which we are striving to develop and protect may not be worth the effort. The American business man has responded unselfishly and generously and is conducting his business for the purpose of assisting the Government in the conduct of the war, rather than for the normal purpose of profit.
In conclusion, I quote the following from Professor Recknagel's excellent paper on “The Timberland Owner and the War," as an evidence of the possibility of service on our part:
“What, many of you will ask, has the timberland owner got to do with the war? Apparently nothing; and yet this is a war not of men alone but of economic resources, amongst which timberland is important as bearing raw material for wartime needs. It would be wearisome to catalogue the many forest products used in war. The list ranges from the obvious structural use of timbers to the more obscure but none the less important uses of wood for chemical distillation to produce acetic acid, from which acetone, a necessity in making high explosives, is obtained, and methyl alcohol, from which formaldehyde, the trench disinfectant, is secured. In short, as the German Socialist paper ‘Vorwaerts' stated, 'to be without wood is almost as bad as being without bread.' For the care which Germany has in the past bestowed on her forests, she is now being amply repaid.” (Applause.)
Now, the next in order, is the reports of our committees. That is more or less a matter to be taken up in our business session, and I am therefore going to suggest that we permit Professor Hosmer to go ahead with his Forest Taxation address first, and then we can take up our business matters, the reports of committees and so forth, later: these purely business matters may not be interesting to come of you gentlemen who are present that are not members of the Association. Professor Hosmer is well equipped to discuss this subject of Forest Taxation. He, I believe, has charge of the instruction on that subject in the Cornell Forestry School; and I have discussed it with him on several occasions and have heard him make addresses on the subject, and I know that what he says will be most instructive and interesting to us all. It is a great pleasure to me to introduce Professor Ralph S. Hosmer, of Cornell. (Applause.) I want to say, in introducing Professor Hosmer, that he has responded at the eleventh hour as a substitute for Professor Fairchild, who was unable to come; so we are under special obligation to Professor Hosmer on this occasion. (Applause.)
PROF. RALPH S. HOSMER
Mr. President and Members of the Empire State Forest Products Association: As your President has said, it was the expectation of the officers of the Association that Professor F. R. Fairchild, of Yale University, who is, as you know, a national authority on the subject of taxes of all kinds, and who has for some years been much interested in forest taxation, would address this assembly this morning. Professor Fairchild is called for duty by the Federal Government on one of the taxation committees or commissions; I do not know the precise nature of his work. on that account he was unable to come here to-day, and, furthermore, was unable even to prepare a paper to be read.' In coming to take his place I want at the start to say that most of what I shall present to you is but a paraphrase of different articles and addresses which Professor Fairchild has made at different times in the past. He would have brought you, had he come, the very latest word on this subject. I shall attempt merely to discuss certain general principles which I believe we should get clearly before us; and I am inclined to think that, at this stage of the game in this State, perhaps a discussion of the fundamental principles is a good starting point. The details and the consideration of moot points can very well come later. So what I shall have to say will be a statement of some of the first principles, as they appeal to me, and I shall endeavor to state them in such a way as to provoke discussion rather than as an exposition of the subject on my part.
Forest taxation, as your President has outlined, is a tremendously big and in many ways a vexatious problem. It is one that we need to get together on and talk over. In coming before you as I do to-day I am reminded of the story of a man who was going down the street and saw a group of children who were "playing automobile.” Two or three of them were the lamps; one child was the steering wheel; another the magneto; another the carburetor—and so on; and they were having a beautiful time. But about half a block down the street was one little chap, all alone by himself, watching the others, but apparently not having a good time. The man said to him, “What's the matter, my boy? Why aren't you playing with the other children?" The boy replied, “I
am playing with them; they're playing automobile, and I'm the stink that's left behind!" (Laughter.)
Now if Professor Fairchild had been here to-day he would have been the chauffeur of a twelve-cylinder Pierce-Arrow; while I more in the position of that small boy who was the "smell.” However, I trust my talk may not be merely an evanescent smell, which will pass from your minds quickly. Rather I would like to play I am a Socony station-sign and point out that this is a place to get gasoline-because without gasoline no car, no matter how powerful nor how well operated, is going to be able to run; and without a knowledge of the principles of a subject, no one is going to get very far in the understanding of it.
OBSTACLES The two things that more than all others hinder or prevent the practice of forestry in the United States are fire and faulty tax laws. You will all agree that unless a forest property can be given reasonable protection from fire it is useless to spend money in reforestation or in other measures designed to insure future timber crops. In New York State we are in a fair way to solve the fire problem. How, then, about taxation? I affirm that the need for a correct solution of this question is equally fundamental.
Let us recall how forest lands are taxed at present. As you all know, the method is the general property tax, levied by the individual states or by local communities. Under this tax she rule is to tax all property, personal and real, tangible and intangible, unless especially exempted by law. Forests are subject to tax in the same way as other forms of wealth. The amount of the tax depends on the sum required to be raised to meet the reeds of the state and the local community.
GENERAL PROPERTY TAX The theory underlying the general property tax is that property is an index of ability to pay taxes and that this incex can be estimated. In Colonial times, when our fathers were mainly farmers and when their wealth consisted chiefly of tangible property, easily located and valued, the method worked fairly wel: Not so to-day, when the bulk of our property is stocks and bads, or other intangible assets. Under present conditions the general property tax does not work. The reason is that it is wrong in principle. Professor Fairchild has pointed out that a tangible property is not an index of ability to pay taxes; and also, for th: reasons just stated, that it is difficult to estimate. One can see a farm, the buildings