Module 3 Discussion: Case Study and Systems Map
A publicly traded timber company is feeling pressure to improve its bottom line. Due to increased international competition and a spike in the price of raw materials due to local over-harvesting, profits have plummeted and shareholders are demanding a turnaround. To make a quick profit, your company has decided to sell 250,000 acres of forested land to the highest bidder.
Approximately one fourth of the land you intend to sell has river and lake frontage and thus will be sold at a premium. Because these particular tracts are more valuable, these parcels are sub-divided into the smallest plots zoning allows in order to maximize profit. The smallest lakeshore lot size the local government will allow is five acres. Other parcels will be divided into 10-, 20-, and 40-acre lots so they can be sold as quickly as possible.
Local government officials are in favor of this action because it will increase the local tax base, allowing residents’ taxes to go down or remain stable while increasing the services (e.g., new or improved highways, social services, etc.) provided to the community.
However, these forested lands are unique, providing critical habitat to many species, particularly migratory songbirds that spend the summer here. Of the 56 species that time their migration to coincide with the abundance of insects to feed their young, 12 are threatened and two are on the brink of extinction.
Because of the unique bird species found here, a national birding organization has named the area one of the five top “hot spots” for members to add to their species life lists. An activity not to be overlooked, bird-watching has become the most popular outdoor recreational activity and local motel owners have recently noticed an increase in the number of birders.
To capitalize on this opportunity, the hospitality industry, the state tourism board, and birding organizations are proposing a birdwatchers’ auto route through the area.
As the timber company places its land on the market, a local developer takes notice and proposes to buy the prime lake and riverfront properties in order to develop recreational housing on them. The developer’s proposal calls for cabins and summer homes to be built on one acre lots.
Since this plan would exceed the current zoning standard, the developer must ask for an exemption from the county planning and zoning office.
A national land trust, recognizing the importance of this land for wildlife, has also begun negotiating with the timber company. Its goal is to preserve land for future generations, but it would be unable to do so if the county planning and zoning office approves the decreased lot size.
What should this community do? As the company representative, how do you navigate this situation? What is the best use of this natural capital?
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