According to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, the Washington Post has found that agriculture, logging and forestry professions have the highest self-reported levels of happiness, and lowest reported levels of stress, of any major industry category. The study cracks this up to a fact that we all know a little too well – these professions all take place outside in nature, which is one of the happiest places you can be!
This study is encouraging, as opportunities to work in Maine’s woods are abundant. In fact, according to research done by FOR/Maine, the forest products industry will need to attract 5,000 new workers by 2030, largely due to Maine’s aging workforce. Considering the number of workforce development bills in the pipeline this year, it is clear that the Legislature will be focused on addressing Maine’s challenging workforce dynamics. This is great news. As an industry, we need to spread the word that opportunities in Maine’s woods are abundant, and they’re among the best jobs out there.
In other news, the Bangor Daily News recently reported about a new facility owned by Standard Biocarbon in Enfield that plans to be New England’s first mass producer of biochar. This facility, which will be located on the same site as Pleasant River Lumber, will utilize chips, a byproduct of the sawmill operation, to create biochar, a charcoal-like substance that is useful for building soil and helping it retain water for longer while reducing the need for fertilizer. Biochar also sequesters carbon, and it is being researched as a potential tool for Maine wild blueberry growers to combat the effects of climate change on their crops. This plant, which will produce about 100 tons of biochar per month, is expected to be up and running as soon as April or May.
The Maine Forest Products Council welcomes Standard Biocarbon to the state, and we wish them well as they bring a new forest-based product to consumers.
On a less positive note, just when you think we have reached a new level of collaboration in Maine, demonstrating to other regions the balance of public-private partnerships that make Maine unique, a coalition of of 37 environmental groups have joined forces as the Environmental Priorities Coalition to promote seven bills they’ve identified as priority.
Considering that this group purportedly seeks to “secure the future of Maine’s forests,” it’s troubling that our industry is not reflected in their coalition or positions. By working together, our industry has created some real benefits for the people of Maine including unparalleled recreational access, critical wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and important economic resources in some of the most rural corners of the state. Yet several proposals championed by this coalition seek to regulate and control the progress our industry has made without so much as a discussion with us.
The Council will participate in these debates in Augusta to hopefully interject some perspectives of reality into a group seemingly uninterested in recognizing the importance of collaboration and respect for private forestland and wood manufacturers.
Finally, Council had to make the tough decision to postpone our Legislative Breakfast Reception that was to take place on January 26 due to a winter storm. This event has been rescheduled for March 9. Details are on the invitation included within this newsletter.
PS: I am pleased to announce that Stacy Bettencourt of Jefferson has accepted the position as our new office manager! Her first day will be February 21. We think she will be a great fit and look forward to formally introducing her in our next newsletter.