By Pattie Cormier, special to the Portland Press Herald
Working woodlands are critical to Maine’s identity. Maine is the most forested state in the nation, percentage-wise, with 17.5 million acres of forest covering 89% of the landscape.
Mainers have worked and played in the woods and manufactured and used wood products harvested from the state’s forests for generations. Maine’s forests provide wildlife habitat, sustain cold water fisheries, absorb and store carbon dioxide and provide clean water and clean air. Maine’s environment, culture, economy and future depend on the choices we make today about our state’s abundant forests.
Maine’s forests are also the source of wood, the renewable material we use in our everyday lives. When we use wood for building, heating and making things, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and more carbon-intensive materials, helping reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions.
That is the key point overlooked in a recent op-ed by Zack Porter and Joan Maloof (“Commentary: Don’t be fooled by myths of carbon in Maine, New England wood products,” Nov. 7). The authors argue that all timber harvesting should cease on New England’s public and private lands, that we should leave the forests to grow old, and that this step alone would magically remove more carbon from the atmosphere.
The reality is we are a wood-using society. If we don’t harvest and process the wood we use here in New England, make no mistake, the wood will be harvested and processed somewhere else and we will import it. That harvesting often will take place in other places that do not have the same environmental protections that we do. So, in addition to losing the economic activity involved in processing wood products locally, we outsource our environmental problems – out of sight, out of mind.
Then consider the carbon impacts of using non-wood materials for construction. Concrete and steel are far more carbon intense than wood. We need to reduce carbon emissions in the short term, and one good way to do this is by using wood to replace concrete and steel where appropriate.
If we’re going to continue to realize climate benefits from standing forests and wood products, we need to make it worthwhile for Mainers to own, keep, and properly manage their woodlands. Instead, we’re losing forestland at a rate of approximately 10,000 acres per year to development.
Maine’s forestry community cares about the environment and is engaged, innovative, and ready to work with all interests to protect and conserve Maine’s forests and forest economy. A thriving, modern forest products sector is a great tool to ensure healthy, sustainable forests and rural communities and create a healthy forest that is resilient and capable of adapting to climate change.
Maine’s forests do well when we do well. Doing well in Maine’s forests and for the forestry community requires being more informed. There are countless resources available to everyone to learn about the important choices being made today in Maine and the direction we are heading.
A search for the Maine Forest Action Plan and Maine’s Forest Carbon Program Task Force Final Report will serve as excellent starting places. The door is open to everyone to become engaged in the process. A visit to the Maine Forest Service Policy and Management web page is a great resource to explore and add your voice to the ongoing conversations about the future of Maine’s forest lands.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patty Cormier was appointed Maine state forester in 2019. She served as a district forester for the Maine Forest Service for 20 years, covering the Midcoast and western mountain regions.