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After some of the toughest years in the long history of Maine’s forest products industry, a new, stronger forest economy is emerging thanks to investments of about $1 billion.

Monthly Archives: December 2019

FOR/Maine focuses on Phase II — implementation

MFPC Board members listened to wide-ranging reports and discussed issues from work force options to the progress of FOR/Maine .

The Forest Opportunity Roadmap is now rolling into Phase II, which is “an implementation of the possibilities and pursuits that we identified in the data gathering process (Phase I),” said Steve Schley, chair of the FOR/Maine Executive Committee.

“We’re looking at some of these technologies and we’re actually entertaining CEOs of companies who are coming to Maine and saying, ‘Where might your ideas fit our forest economy and add to diversify and strengthen in existing operations and/or new operations?” Schley told the MFPC Board.

The work of FOR/Maine continues to be accomplished through a robust and dynamic committee structure, said Brianna Bowman, FOR/Maine program director, who has prepared the report below outlining what Phase II will mean for each committee. There also is a new FOR-Maine Phase II  fact sheet and a presentation on How Maine Developed a Vision & Strategic Plan For Its Forest Sector. FOR Maine also has sent out a request for proposals for a communication and outreach plan.

Market Attraction: In Phase I, the Global Market Analysis committee focused on identifying opportunities for expansion of Maine’s forest economy based on an understanding of wood availability, global market dynamics and the existing industry operators in Maine. Findings from this report indicated that Maine can be globally competitive in the production of 6 products (list here). In Phase II, Global Analysis work has shifted towards Market Attraction. The Market Attraction committee has initiated an RFP process to secure a consultant who will guide market attraction efforts for these six products by assessing our business attraction environment, recommending and developing marketing materials, and providing FOR/Maine with the information and connections necessary to generate and develop leads, resulting in the attraction of companies to Maine who will use our abundant softwood pulp and residuals. This committee is also exploring options for streamlining our business attraction pipeline, and creating specific contacts and protocols for forest industry leads.

Wood Supply: Understanding Maine’s wood supply has been foundational to the FOR/Maine effort as we seek to expand the forest economy while preserving a legacy of sustainable forest management. In Phase I the wood supply committee identified that Maine’s abundance of spruce-fir and residuals provide opportunities for growth, and that a significant amount of the wood resource is located on parcels controlled by small landowners. In Phase II, the Wood Supply Committee will continue to refine yield curves to explore scenarios for growth in the industry, and will work to engage small landowners to educate them on a variety of options for land management.

Transportation: The work of identifying priority improvements to Maine’s transportation infrastructure that will benefit the forest economy has been underway since before FOR/Maine was formalized and will continue into Phase II. A recent report from AECOM identifies the current state and potential improvements to Maine’s ports, rail and roads. The Transportation Committee is in the process of determining the best options for adoption or implementation of select findings from the report, and continues to strengthen relationships with Maine DOT.

Emerging Technology: The work of the Emerging Technology committee will remain consistent to the Phase I mission of identifying and amplifying emerging technologies that are a potential win for Maine. Monthly stakeholder inquiries track new developments and partnerships between Maine & Co, MITC, the University of Maine, DECD and Biobased Maine continue to evolve. Phase II work is focusing on formalizing a process for identifying promising technologies and companies, assessing their readiness for development in Maine, and handing off the lead to Market Attraction. The committee is interested in focusing their list of potential technologies and conducting rigorous assessment of each, while remaining aware of new opportunities through participation at national and global trade shows and conferences.

Community: FOR/Maine’s efforts remain grounded in the forest economies that support and are supported by industrial development. Lessons learned through listening sessions in Phase I continue to guide Phase II’s work, and the committee is focusing on pre-development and implementation needs through conducting readiness trainings and workshops that will seed relationships between investors and community leaders, and demystify funding mechanisms that may make investment in Maine’s forest economy attractive.

Workforce: The Workforce Committee, a new addition to Phase II, is focusing on mainstreaming the forest economy in existing workforce efforts, understanding the demand for workers, and developing outreach and recruitment strategies informed by a clear and compelling career pathway. This work is just beginning and a strategy and implementation plan are emerging.

Schley had high praise for the industry’s partners in the FOR/Maine effort, such as Maine’s congressional delegation, Maine Development Foundation, Biobased Maine, the University of Maine, Maine Technology Institute and others, including “the incredible contributions by all of our member companies of their time and effort.”

“As you get opportunities,” Schley told the MFPC Board, “don’t forget to remind the governor, commissioners and legislators that we’re looking at the opportunity to add 30% growth to an $8 billion industry. The number of jobs and economic value that comes from going from $8 billion to $12 billion is so much – it’s an exponential difference – than taking a $500 million industry and making it a $1.5 billion industry. That growth factor is just extraordinary. So we’re hopeful to make that happen.”

Baskahegan sells carbon offsets from Maine forest

The project comprises over 86,000 acres of hardwood and conifer forest in northern Washington County

Baskahegan Co., a Forest Stewardship Council® certified forest, recently announced the sale of carbon offset credits from the Bluesource – Baskahegan Improved Forest Management Project in Brookton, Maine. In 2018, the project generated nearly 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission reductions. The offset credits were sold into the California cap-and-trade market to help regulated entities meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements and into the voluntary market to help corporations achieve sustainability goals.

The project comprises over 86,000 acres of hardwood and conifer forest in northern Washington County. A generation of careful forest management has produced a standing volume of trees well in excess of average stocking levels in Maine. 

“Managing our forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change is a reflection of the family’s values and completely consistent with our long-term objectives for the forest,” said Baskahegan President Roger Milliken. “In addition to providing sustainable annual harvests of valuable timber, the protection of wildlife habitats and the provision of clean water, we are happy that our management also contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC), applauded the move by Baskahegan, which is a member of the council. 

“The Council includes a diversity of landowners and manufacturers all focused on growing trees and making wood products that sequester carbon from the atmosphere,” Strauch said. “We concur with this recent statement by the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change: ‘In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.’”

A recent statement by the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change: ‘In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.’”

Bluesource completed the carbon calculations on the property and led the project through a series of standards, regulatory bodies and third-party auditors including the American Carbon Registry, S&A Carbon, LLC, and ultimately the California Air Resources Board. Bluesource also facilitated the sale of credits to ensure revenue was generated from Baskahegan’s sustainable actions.

“The Baskahegan project is an excellent example of how the California market is incentivizing landowners across the country to manage their land in ways that benefit air, water and wildlife, as opposed to solely focusing on timber revenues. Bluesource is proud to have partnered with Baskahegan to make this carbon project such a success,” said Josh Strauss, Bluesource vice president of Blue Source.

Bluesource is a market-maker, advisor and capital source for environmental markets. For more than 20 years, Bluesource has been a leader in climate change and low carbon environmental products and services.

“Maine’s private forest lands bring many benefits to our state, but their importance to the climate is often overlooked,” said Mark Berry, direct of the Nature Conservancy’s forest program in Maine. “Baskahegan’s forest carbon offset project underscores their long-term commitment to forest stewardship, and will help ensure the sustainability of forest management and timber harvest on this property for the next 100 years.”

Baskahegan is a family company dedicated to the long-term stewardship to develop the natural potential of Baskahegan’s forest to produce value for both present and future generations.

“I think about my three young kids whenever I am on Baskahegan land,” said John Manganello, Baskahegan vice president and a fourth-generation owner. “It is good knowing that this landscape will be managed to benefit future generations of all stakeholders. This project indicates our continued commitment to sustainable forestry while enabling Maine’s greatest natural resource be part of the needed climate change solution for years to come.” The company will celebrate its 100th year in 2020.

MFPC Special Report: How drones are changing forestry

By Roberta Scruggs, MFPC communication director

When Regional Forest Ranger Jeff Currier first suggested that the Maine Forest Service explore using drones, he sold the idea with a scenario everyone who works in the woods fears and many have experienced. Driving past or walking through a forest and thinking, “I smell wood smoke.”

Tracking that smell is tough, especially when the sun is setting, the wind drops and it’s too late to call in a helicopter. The traditional response, Currier said, was to walk through the woods, sometimes for hours, trying to locate the smoke’s source. Now, there’s a more high-tech option.

“With a drone and georeferencing of the photos and the video,” Currier said, “I can take a GPS point and say, ‘OK, ranger, plug these coordinates in and walk directly to it.’”

Regional Ranger Jeff Currier gets ready to fly MFS drone.

Currier has a 17-second video (above) illustrating that exact scenario. Lightning ignited a fire that rangers could smell, but not see. Currier sent  up a drone, panned 360 degrees, spotted smoke, flew the drone to it and pointed the camera down at a small fire.

“Every fire starts small, so we want to kill them quick,” Currier said. “It’s just incredible how much time the drone saves. How much energy it saves. How much smarter we can be. It’s a really great tool. And this is just the beginning.”

In Maine, drones already are contributing to sustainable forest management plans, monitoring harvest operations, finding forest fires, tracking invasive insect infestations, search and rescue, and much more.

“Right now, we’re using UAVs to help identify wet areas that need to be checked ahead of spray operations and to monitor active harvest operations for BMPs and utilization,” said Chris Fife, Weyerhaeuser’s public affairs manager for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The world’s first quadcopter was invented in 1907  by brothers Jacques and Louis Bréguet of France. It was unsteerable, required four men to steady it and lifted just 2 feet off the ground in its first flight. Wikipedia

Drones are often referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which refers only to the aircraft, not the ground control and communications units, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  They’ve been around a lot longer than you might think. As with many technologies, the first uses were military, including development of the first machine that today’s users might recognize as a drone, which dates to 1907

Think of Maine’s 17.6 million acres of forestland – as well as the rest of the world — as a giant laboratory where ingenious new uses for drones are discovered all the time. Drones are being used to catch fishwash windows, and sell homes 68 percent faster than houses without aerial images, according to MLS statistics.

Sales really took off in 2016 when DJI, the world’s largest manufacturer, released its Phantom 4, with smart computer vision and machine learning technology. It could avoid obstacles and intelligently track and photograph people, animals, or objects.

Since then, it’s become hard to even keep track of the ways drones have impacted society.

On Nov. 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the latest statistics on U.S. drones: 

  • 1,499,839 Drones Registered
    • 1,079,610 Recreational Drones Registered (up from 878,000 in January 2018). Recreational users receive one identification number for all the drones they own.
    • 416,210 Commercial Drones Registered (up from 122,000 commercial, public and other drones), which are individually registered. 
  • 158,554 Remote Pilots Certified

The FAA regulations for small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations other than model aircraft – Part 107 of FAA regulations – cover a broad spectrum of commercial and government uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. It’s very important to be understand and follow the FAA rules. See Fact Sheet.

Another milestone for drones nationwide came in October, when U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the FAA had awarded air carrier and operator certification to an UAS delivery company, UPS Flight Forward.

“This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare and building on the success of the national UAS Integration Pilot Program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation,” Chao said.

Uses in Maine also are expanding. For example, the Certified Logging Professional program (CLP) purchased a drone with a grant from the Northeastern Loggers Association last January and CLP instructor Yves Levesque is now a certified UAS pilot. Several videos he’s shot are posted on CLP’s facebook page.

“We will now provide this service to CLPs and other interested organizations,” said Mike St. Peter, CLP director. “We also are looking forward to using the drone for training and education programs.”

Jason Irish of Irish Family Logging in Peru took the photo above. He’s been exploring ways to use his UAV for the past three years.

Jason Irish of Irish Family Logging in Peru has been exploring ways to use his UAV for the past three years. See video.

“It’s paid for itself many times over,” Irish said. “It’s most valuable in counting bundles. It saves me a lot of time and a lot of walking. I can count bundles in about five minutes. Sometimes I get a call from the feller buncher about how he should get around some ledges. I can put the drone up and say go to the left to get around the ledges.”

The cost of UAVs varies widely. MFS, for example, now has seven drones. The first (and best) MFS drone cost about $2,500, Currier said, mid-level drones about $800 each, and entry-level drones, $400 each.

Soon the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Department (ACF) will have even more UAS. On Oct. 31, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL), Maine Natural Areas Program and Maine Forest Service were awarded a $10, 792 grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund  to support deployment of drones for natural resource monitoring and enforcement. ACF intends to purchase up to 15 drones, FAA-sponsored training, and software to store and process drone images. 

“Drones have great potential to increase our efficiency of monitoring forests, wetlands, and waters, and they can also be a really useful tool for highlighting Maine’s outstanding recreational resources.” said BPL Director Andy Cutko. “We’re thrilled to have MOHF support to help us adapt to this emerging technology.”

Research also is emerging that illustrates the value of UAS in New England’s forests. Benjamin T. Fraser and Russell G. Congalton, of the N.H. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, reported their research in the January 2019 issue of Forests.

“Our results demonstrated the ability to comprehensively map nearly 400 hectares of forest area, using a UAS, in only a few weeks time,” they wrote. “They also showed the significant benefit that could be gained from deploying UAS to capture forest landscape composition.”

Another important way that drones are being used in forestry isn’t likely to be needed much in Maine, since our forests regenerate naturally, but it’s extremely important to forest restoration worldwide. Drones can plant trees.

In Myanmar, for example, a project is under way to restore a billion mangrove trees in an area the size of Rhode Island. Planting by hand takes time, money and lots of workers, but two operators working with 10 drones can, at least theoretically, plant 400,000 trees in a day by firing biodegradable pods with a germinated seed and nutrients into the ground.

A bit closer to home, the Nature Conservancy is using a drone to aid its reforestation efforts in northeast Minnesota and UAVs are being called “game-changers for wildlife population monitoring.

“The drone corridor has transformed Central New York and the Mohawk Valley into a global leader of this next-generation technology, while diversifying New York’s economy,” Gov. Cuomo said.

New York State, which has an $13 billion forest products industry, is even betting on drones for economic development. On Nov. 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced completion of a 50-mile UAS corridor between Syracuse and Rome that will provide a legal testing ground for a wide variety of new technologies, including hardware, software, counter-drone solutions, drone detection, and more.

Of course, new technology can also have a dark side. Drones have interfered with firefighting in forests out west, although there have been no “incursions” in Maine, according to MFS. A Pennsylvania man was indicted in September for allegedly using a drone to drop explosives near his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. A drone operated by a youngster hovered over Fenway Park last spring, putting Red Sox players and fans on edge.

In 2017, the U.S. Army banned soldiers from using any unmanned aircraft manufactured by DJI,  alleging the Chinese company shared critical infrastructure and law enforcement data with the Chinese government. Last May, the Homeland Security Department warned companies their data could be at risk if they use DJI drones. In October, the U.S. Interior Department, which has more than 800 drones, announced it would ground all its drones manufactured in China or containing Chinese-made parts, pending a review of the agency’s growing unmanned aircraft program.

Seven Islands forester Walker Day with Waylon.

Walker Day, who grew up in Lovell, began flying drones as a forestry student at the University of Maine, where he graduated in 2017. Thanks to a partnership formed between Seven Islands Land Co. and the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, he was awarded the first applied forest technology internship.

The Wheatland Geospatial Lab not only has specialized equipment, including a $30,000 UAV, the staff also has a great deal of experience.

“They’re the go-to guys,” Day said. “They know everything about this stuff.”

Now Day is a forester for Seven Islands in Rangeley and also chairs MFPC’s Drone Committee. Day uses a DJI Phantom 4 pro, owned by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, to monitor the trust’s forestland. 

“You can tell hardwood, softwood easily,” Day said. “You can pick out your dead trees. We use it sometimes if we have areas with a lot of blowdowns. A few years ago we had a huge windstorm that came through and we thought we had a lot of blowdowns there. So it’s an easy way find out that we need to go in and salvage those.”

At first, everybody worries that a UAV will be hard to pilot, Day said, but they’re easy to fly and hard to lose.

“There’s a button on the remote controller and before you take off it updates the home point,” Day said. “So if you lose connection with the remote controller, once it gets to 15 percent battery life, it will automatically fly itself back and land.”

The appeal of UAS in forestry is “pretty obvious,” said Tony Guay, remote sensing specialist at Wheatland Geospatial Lab. “It’s the ability to take a pretty high-tech piece of equipment, that’s very mobile and easy to carry, and deploy it on a job site for evaluating a stand for harvest, for example, or doing post-harvest site inspection.”

David Sandilands, Wheatland Geospatial Lab’s aerial survey pilot and remote sensing technician, added, “It also adds a layer of safety where it can be deployed from the side of the road. The forester parks next to the stand and he or she can look over the area, fly over the area and inspect it without having to walk out into the woods where it’s easy to fall or trip.”

Tony Guay, remote sensing specialist at UMaine’s Wheatland Geospatial Lab.

The Wheatland Geospatial Lab team also provides a service that’s valuable to mills. Historically, mill workers have “eyeballed” a chip pile, but estimating the size of the chip or log pile with a UAS is more accurate, safer, and can be completed in about 15 minutes. It doesn’t interrupt production because the pilot sets up on the edge of the mill property.

“These piles get wide and spread out and chips make strange shapes up top and you can’t account for that when you can’t see it,” Guay said. “So we started working with Verso and a couple of other mills where we would fly the UAVs over these piles. We give them cubic yards or cubic meters or cubic feet and they can see month to month the percentage of change. It’s very critical for them to have an accurate accounting of what’s out there.”

However, UAS do have limits. They’re only allowed fly 400 feet above the ground and generally aren’t equipped to fly in below-freezing temperatures, Day said, but he’s found a model that can fly at about five degrees because it has an insulated compartment for lithium batteries.

“The biggest hindrance and roadblock for us right now is the rule is that you can’t fly beyond visual line of sight,” Day said. “You have to be able to see the aircraft the whole time you’re flying it with your naked eye, unaided by binoculars or anything.”

FAA waivers to that rule are possible, he said, but rare.

Allison Kanoti, Maine state entomologist, also sees limitations related to battery life, flight distance, and processing power.

Close-up of the top of an ash tree shot with a drone. Jeff Currier photo.

“I see them as most helpful at this stage in the game in more intensive survey activities, such as mapping small areas of browntail moth damage; following up on data collected from fixed-wing aircraft; getting a closer look at upper canopy areas,” Kanoti said. “They are also potentially helpful in tracking changes at particular areas, such as the hemlock impact plots we have in southern Maine, and in timing more resource-intense flights. For instance, we used a UAV to look at development of late-summer feeding damage ahead of scheduling flights with the more expensive fixed-wing aircraft flights.” 

Another limitation is that the drone’s view may be blocked by the tree canopy.

“In a forest environment these photo-based techniques see what the camera sees,” Sandilands said. “So when you’ve got a closed-canopy forest you’re not going to see the ground, unless it’s post-harvest.”

There is, however, another tool that can penetrate dense tree canopy — Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which now is becoming a more useful tool in Maine, Guay said, since data is available for much of the state.

Laser pulses are fired at the trees below and the time it takes for wavelengths to bounce back is used to create a 3D picture of what lies beneath. The data is combined with information from satellites to give an accurate “fix” of the UAV position. LIDAR can record information starting from the top of the canopy to the ground, which is highly valuable for understanding forest structure and shape of the trees.

In Scotland, for example, UAVs equipped with LIDAR are being used to build up an accurate map of the health of the forest floor and help protect native Scottish plants threatened by invasive species.

UAVs can also produce an orthophoto mosaic, Guay said, “which essentially is taking a photo and correcting it so the features that are in the photograph are in their true map position. So you’re taking a photo or set of photos and turning them into a map.”

Another application that’s important to Maine’s forest industry, where workers are often in remote locations, is search and rescue. A recent report by DJI noted stories in English-language news publications about lives saved that were saved when drones were used in search and rescue operations.

“Increasingly, UAS are proven to be essential tools for a wide range of lifesaving missions around the world,” said Dr. Robert Bowie of Down East Emergency Medical Institute (DEEMI), a nonprofit based in Orono.

In 2015, DEEMI became the first civilian search and rescue organization to receive FAA permission to use drones. They’ve proven their value in search and rescue, he added, by helping find people in places helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can’t reach.

UAS with heat sensors can spot lost or injured people and deliver precision location information, Bowie said. They can even send information about the lost person’s medical status so that rescuers can bring the right treatment. They also can deliver supplies, including cell phones.  

“We have a duty to use every tool we have at our disposal to help find, assess and intervene on behalf of the lost or injured patient,” Bowie said. “This includes UAS technology with imaging and sensor platforms to help find them faster and more reliably.”

Under Maine law, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) has the authority “to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe and timely recovery” of lost or missing persons.

IFW doesn’t own any UAVs, Col. Dan Scott said, because they are too expensive, especially to deploy across the state; limited by dense tree canopy, and can be borrowed (along with UAV pilots) from other law enforcement agencies, such as the Maine State Police, Maine Forest Service or local search and rescue groups. The state police, for example, used drones a total of 41 times in 2018, according to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy annual report on UAVs.

“On rare occasions, other agencies have assisted us with a drone in a search and rescue,” Mark Latti, IFW communication director, said in an email, “but Major (Chris) Cloutier said that we have found their use in search and rescue operations ‘extremely limited.’”

Lt. Kevin Adam, search and rescue coordinator for the Warden Service, says drones are most useful in searches around open water and open land and they also “have to be very careful how we deploy them because we might have helicopters and fixed wing airplanes around.”  

The fact that UAS  have to be in sight of the operator does limit their effectiveness, including the ability to drop supplies to lost persons, Adam said. “That’s at the most 1,500 feet,” he said, “so we could get people there (to help) quickly.”

“They’re certainly a tool, though, in search and rescue,” Adam said. “I could see how you could use them, for instance, in a scenario like the other night with that rescue on the Penobscot River (in Old Town, Nov. 11). You could have used a drone to maybe drop ropes.”

This photo was taken using a drone with a thermal imaging camera during a winter night time training in early October with about 3 inches of fresh snow. It shows two searchers and the “lost” person being located. Photo courtesy of Bryan Courtois

Bryan Courtois is president of Pine Tree Search, education director for the Maine Association for Search and Rescue (MASAR) and a certified UAS pilot. He agrees that  “drones can be effective in the right conditions. Large open areas such as fields, open water, thin ice, swamps, etc. would be good candidates. Areas with tree cover would not be a good use of the drone. ”

The Maine Warden Service has called on Maine All Terrain Search and Rescue (MATSAR) and the York County Emergency Management Agency (YCEMA) to deploy UAS, Courtois said. The YCEMA has several drones, including two with thermal imaging cameras.

“Another good use for the drone would be to look at areas that would be potentially dangerous for people such as fast-moving water, chemical spills etc.,” Courtois said. “The drone can also be used to get an overhead view of an area such as a climbing accident, which would allow the (search and rescue) command to see the area without being in harm’s way.”

As Ranger Jeff Currier emphasized, people across the state are discovering ways that  UAS can make a difference in Maine’s forests.

Remember Currier’s video of the forest fire caused by lightning? Because Currier had a UAS, he directed rangers to the exact GPS coordinate of the fire. An engine with 1,000 gallons of water was brought to a nearby road and rangers strung out 1,500 feet of hose. In an hour, the fire was out.

“We are just scratching the surface with the very most rudimentary uses of unmanned aerial systems and there are tons and tons of resources out there that are going to help us fine-tune it,” Currier said. “I think we’re going to show people very quickly that we can save time and money and put them to use to do good.”

This hearing on OTR petition was not like the last one

What a difference 16 months makes! When a public hearing was held on the LePage administration’s petition to opt-out of the Ozone Transfer Region (OTR) on July 30, 2018, the room was packed and the testimony passionate. When the Mills administration’s revised petition went before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection Thursday, only six people testified — five, including four from MFPC, in support — just one against. And even the lone opponent, John Chandler, who represented the American Lung Association, said the revised petition was “more palatable” than the earlier version. 

Scott Beal, Ken Gallant and Scott Reed wait to testify in support of OTR petition.

MFPC’s response was low-key, but very supportive of the revised petition.  Brian Rayback of Pierce Atwood, represented the Council, and members Scott Beal of Woodland Pump, Ken Gallant of Verso, and Scott Reed of ND Paper, spelled out why their companies strongly support the revised petition.

“On behalf of the 400 men and women who call Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue home,” Beal said, “we support this proposal and we certainly hope this board will do the same.”

The BEP Board listened attentively, but asked few questions. The deadline for comments is Dec. 23. Read entire revised petition. More information.

We’re also gearing up for the Jan. 8 start of the short session of Maine’s 129th Legislature. We have new bills (see right) that might affect our industry, but we only have their titles so far, no text. There are bills carried over to deal with, too, before adjournment April 15.

The whole debate about some of these issues was just postponed until this session, including Rep. John Martin’s bill LD 1150 An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law To Encourage Public Access.

There will be a lot of workforce initiative bills supporting technical and community college programs, as well as a number of bills concerning tribal issues, such as water quality. 

There were a number of bills proposed for this session concerning glysophate, but only one approved by Legislative Council, which banned spraying around schools and playgrounds.

The landowners who were involved in the aerial application of glysophate have done a lot of work this summer. We had an audit done of aerial applications and took some ACF Committee members on tour to learn more.

That gives you a flavor of what’s coming our way in the Legislature.

On another front, I was named to Maine’s Climate Change Council, representing forest interests, and we’ve had a series of meetings so far. I’ve been assigned to the Natural and Working Lands group. We meet the first Friday of each month, so our next meeting (open to the public) is January 3, at the Deering Building, Room 101, 90 Blossom Lane, Augusta. Another industry representative on the Climate Change Council is Benedict Cracolici, Energy Manager for Sappi North America, who serves on the Transportation working group  as well as the overall Council.

This is going to be an interesting issue for us, at least from the point of view of lands, emissions and our mills. Eric Kingsley, Peter Triandafillou and Jason Brochu are working on a white paper to organize and circulate our thoughts and circulate, so that we can come up with a good, collective position on the whole issue of climate change.

There’s this tug between what it means to sequester wood – and in some people’s minds that means take wood off the market – versus a balanced approach that both grows wood and sequesters wood into wood products as well. The interesting thing is we’ve got a lot of mills that are coming up with alternatives to petroleum-based products in the packaging they’re creating. So in my mind we’re in position to paint a pretty good picture of where we fit in the green economy.

We need to make sure things stay voluntary and that there is balanced approach, not a regulatory approach to managing. We’re green. We’re the good guys.

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