Working together for ‘better managed forests and a more successful economy’
Just before the award ceremony, Jim Irving was talking with MFPC Board members Jimmy Robbins and Steve Schley, who he’s known for years.
“They were saying very nice things about our forestry practices,” Irving told the standing-room-only crowd at the Blaine House. “And I said, now boys, number one thing, it’s the spouting whale that’s the first to get harpooned.”
He got a huge laugh from an audience that’s very familiar with Irving Woodland’s long quest to become part of the state’s Outcome Based Forestry (OBF) “policy experiment.” Irving Woodlands officially received the prestigious Austin H. Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award for “five generations of steadfast family commitment to forest stewardship,” but the speeches all focused on the company’s effort and investment in OBF.
“It’s been a great joy to me seeing what this state and this land can do when someone puts the time and effort and capital and human resources into it,” said Maine State Forester Doug Denico. “That’s what they have done.”
Jim Irving, who is president of J.D. Irving Limited, made a point of saying he received the award on behalf of the Irving team that earned it, adding “You folks did the job. You did it well.”
The Austin Wilkins Award recognizes people or organizations that stand above their peers to further forestry, forests or forestland conservation in the state of Maine. Started by the Maine TREE Foundation in 2004, it is the only award in Maine that recognizes stewardship of the working forest.
“We’re pleased to be the first forest products company in Maine to receive this award for this type of work on Outcome Based Forestry,” Irving said. “It’s a great recognition of our team.”
Gov. Angus King proposed the OBF program in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Irving Woodlands became the first company to sign an agreement for its 1.25 million acres.
“I want to congratulate them on staying the course,” Denico said. “Because a lot of folks started down that path and for various reasons gave up.”
Denico defines OBF as “the practice of forestry relying on scientific principles. Short and simple.” It’s an alternative to the state’s Forest Practices Act (FPA) procedures for landowners who have demonstrated their commitment to sustainable management. It allows more flexibility to effectively manage timberlands, reduce fragmentation between cuts, and increase pest and weed management. Landowners in the program also must have the staff and resources to commit to the OBF approach, which requires extensive oversight by the Maine Forest Service (MFS) and a panel of independent forestry experts. More information about OBF.
The state Bureau of Parks and Lands also participates on a smaller scale, applying OBF to three parcels in northern, western and eastern Maine. Katahdin Forest Management of Millinocket added its 300,000 acres to the program this year.
Denico has spent a great deal of time working with Irving’s foresters and had high praise for their commitment to forest stewards.
“Their deep care is always obvious on the ground,” he said. “They treat the land with deep respect.”
Gov. LePage also praised the Irving family’s commitment to Maine, saying they invested $30 million in a new state-of-the-art sawmill near Ashland and also stepped in to “help us revive our rail line up north.”
“Irving is a good neighbor from New Brunswick, but also is part of Maine, the fabric of Maine, and is becoming a major investor in our state,” Le Page said.
Irving responded by saying how much he appreciates the partnerships his company has formed here and the support they’ve received in Maine.
“The unique thing about this is, we’ve got a good community,” Irving said. “We’ve got the university, we’ve got the government and administration, and we’ve got the industry all working together for a common objective – better managed forests and a more successful economy. We’re raising the bar on sustainable forestry and that’s exciting.”
- Austin H. Wilkins – 2004
- Pingree Associates and Seven Islands Land Company – 2005
- No award given – 2006
- Sherry Huber and John Hagen – 2007
- Roger Milliken Jr. and Baskahegan Company – 2008
- Jensen Bissell and Baxter State Park Scientific Forest Management Area – 2009
- Prentiss & Carlisle Company – 2010
- Robbins Lumber Company – 2011
- Robert Linkletter and the Linkletter Family – 2012
- Maine Tree Farm Committee – 2013
- Chadbourne Tree Farms, LLC – 2014.