Vince Meyer's article in the Dec. 11 Brainerd Dispatch discussed Potlatch's decision to lease its timber holdings. This decision was based in part on the disturbing behavior of people who illegally discard garbage, furniture and appliances on Potlatch timber plots.
Meyer documented the rationale of Potlatch's leasing program, but he didn't address the disguised reasoning for the company's decision, or a remedy that could change Potlatch's strategies.
DNR Wildlife Manager Gary Drotts was quoted in the story as saying that Potlatch has dealt with "huge dumpings and mountains of trash," with home appliances and furniture listed as some of the items left in the woods.
In response to the problem, Potlatch's well thought out plan can be observed in the lease ideology. As Meyer noted, leasing creates income for the company. It also creates a free corporate security force composed of private citizens who are interested in preserving the land for their own use, especially hunting. Remember, this land is offered for lease at reasonable if not ridiculously low costs. Posting the land by the lessee prevents trespassing, and those leased Potlatch plots invariably will be posted for no access.
That is precisely what Potlatch envisioned. But not only has its lease program eliminated illegal dumping, but it's denied the hunting public its historically traditional access.
Who is responsible for this creative maneuver by Potlatch? Many will say the company. Others might point an accusatory finger at the people who dumped garbage on Potlatch lands.
Both are right. But I'd suggest an alternative suspect, and a cure for corporate land closings.
Part of the problem is the illegal disposal of worn out appliances and furniture. Now why would an otherwise responsible person resort to this outrageous behavior?
Because the cost of taking these items to a county-maintained recycling unit is substantial. If you're on a limited income it's downright prohibitive. So rather than pay the recycling fee, people turn to private and public forests for their dumping.
The solution to this problem is the implementation of reasonable return deposits on appliances, furniture, tires, etc. These deposits, similar to those currently used for aluminum and glass containers, would be redeemable statewide at vendors who sell these devices. When the products are retired the vendor would send them back to the manufacturer, where they would be disassembled and recycled.
Manufacturers should be responsible for their products even after the sale. Minnesota has environmental protection laws that prevent manufacturing techniques harmful to the ecosystem. We should also have laws that discourage the illegal dumping of worn out appliances.
Culpability should not be lifted from the shoulders of the manufacturer; rather, our legislators should craft a law that creates a return deposit system for these devices. Passing such a law would make it economically worthwhile for the user to haul a worn out contraption back to the manufacturer's retail outlet instead of discarding it in a state forest or on a Potlatch timber plot.
The question, yet unanswered, is whether or not our elected representatives will be responsible to their constituents or capitulate to the capitalists who have helped create this problem.
Terry Fairbanks lives in Peqout Lakes
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