MFPC newsletter January 2021

MFPC preliminary watch list has 106 bills, including many familiar ones
 
Despite a pandemic and a crisis in national leadership, Maine’s forest industry keeps adapting to changing conditions as it works to remain competitive in a global marketplace. Many Maine residents, especially those in rural communities, are dependent on our members’ success in surviving these challenges. So we want to ensure that every newly elected Maine legislator understands the relationship between supporting businesses in their community and protecting jobs.
 
Legislative exuberance is rarely limited so as of Friday, Rep. Christopher Kessler, D-South Portland, of South Portland, had the highest LR number on the list – LR 1957 An Act To Enact the Zero Tolerance Hazardous Air Emissions Act.
 
So far only about 119 bills have become LDs (Legislative Documents), according to the Legislative Information Office. It will take several weeks before we will know the content of all the bills that will eventually come before legislative committees. Read more.
 
130th Legislature – possible bills of interest
 
Our biggest challenge: How to reach legislators in a ‘virtual’ session
 
The biggest challenge facing the Maine Forest Products Council right now, along with every advocacy organization in the state, is how to speak for members during the first “virtual” session of 130th Legislature.
 
As with so many things right now, we are uncharted territory. Here’s what I know now, but keep in mind things are changing rapidly all the time.
Don’t expect to be in a committee room with legislators around the horseshoe this session. Instead everybody will be looking through a computer screen.
 
Due to the pandemic, this legislative session is going to be totally remote. The State House is closed to the public, and pretty much closed to legislators. There will be no legislative sessions or joint sessions of the House and Senate until much later in the spring. Since we can’t talk to them in the halls, legislators are going to be overwhelmed with information from alternative sources, such as calls, emails, texts etc., from various interest groups across the state. Read more.
 
Some Maine businesses can start applying for another round of PPP loans this week
 
Starting this week and closing March 31, 2021, small businesses that have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic can soon receive a first or second forgivable loan under the newly revived Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the newly revived PPP program, Congress designated $137 billion for “second-draw” loans as part of a larger funding and relief package. The bill, signed into law on Dec. 27, includes a total of $284.5 billion for PPP loans. The renewed PPP loans are available through small community lenders starting this week
 
In the first round of funding, 28,270 Maine businesses received (PPP) loans totaling more than $2.2 billion in funding from the Small Business Administration SBA. See Maine recipients.
 
Businesses applying for a second loan will be required to show substantial revenue decline and meet other requirements. The newly approved PPP loans have tighter restrictions to ensure more small businesses are targeted after critics found billions of dollars went to large corporations.
For the first time, total State Park attendance topped 3 million visitor-days
 
2021 Camping Reservations Open Feb. 1
 
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) has compiled its year-end Maine State Park visitation statistics. As expected, 2020 activity broke all records for recreation visits, which includes day-use and camping. For the first time, total State Park attendance topped three million visitor-days. Despite pandemic-related spring closures and season-long capacity limitations, a total of 3,067,112 people visited Maine State Parks.
 
In 2020, the BPL welcomed 2,786,750 day-use visitors, up 74,532 (3%) from 2019; and 280,362 camping visitors, up 21,871 (8%) from 2019. 2018 edged out 2019 as the second-highest year for recreation visits, followed by 2016 and 2017. Read more.
 
LUPC plans to measure effectiveness of update adjacency principle
 
The Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) updated its long-standing policy on the adjacency principle in 2019 and revisited the issue at its virtual meeting Wednesday. This was a large, significant change and will affect the location of development in the Unorganized Territories for years to come. (Learn about what changed and why change was needed.)
 
The Commission is committed to tracking the impact of those changes and has developed a work plan to guide data collection over time. The work plan has been revised based on feedback from public comments last fall and will be considered by the Commission at its meeting on January 13, 2021. You can download or view the workplan from the Commission’s website. Also available on the website is the first annual report of development activity from 2019 – 2020 for topics covered by the workplan.
 
Please contact Ben Godsoe, 207-287-2619, of the LUPC staff if you have questions, need assistance, or want to discuss the work plan. 
 
News from UMaine and other affiliated members
 
$4.8M will upgrade UMaine Forest Bioproducts Institute facilities, bolster research into renewable fuel, heating oil, chemicals, plastics
 
The University of Maine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) will upgrade its Technology Research Center (TRC) in Old Town and Process Development Center (PDC) in Jenness Hall to bolster ongoing efforts to create new bioproducts, increase production and find uses for woody biomass materials typically considered waste.
 
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) awarded FBRI $4.8 million on Jan. 7, 2021, for its research in crafting renewable fuel, heating oil, chemicals, plastics and other goods from woody biomass at a large scale. Institute director Hemant Pendse says his team will invest about $2 million in processing technology infrastructure improvements for the off-campus TRC facility, as well as the on-campus PDC facility, with the balance supporting ongoing research.
 
“This significant investment will allow us to rapidly advance development in several major areas of ongoing research,” said Institute Director Hemant Pendse. Read more.
 
Great news from CLP!
 
For the 16th straight year, contractors in the CLP mechanical category will pay less for workers’ compensation rates. The CLP mechanical rate for new and renewal policies through April 2021 will be 49 percent less than non-certified workers. Maine’s rate for mechanical logging the lowest in the nation, saving the industry millions of dollars over time.
  • The conventional logger workers compensation rate has continued to drop overall since 2008. It is currently 60 percent less than the rate was in 1993. Again, one of the lowest in the country.
  • The Maine Department of Labor statistics for the most recent year, reports the incidence rate for occupational injuries and illnesses, for the logging sector is one half that of the national average.
  • CLP continues to partner with Maine’s Sustainable Forest Initiative and Maine Forest Service to promote use of BMPs and sound forest management in Maine. In 2020 SFI has made a generous contribution to fund 100 additional onsite logging evaluations.
  • In calendar year 2020, 25 new individuals in three classes, and 225 loggers in 12 online recertification have participated in training, and education. In addition, we continue to complete performance-based worksite reviews, which provides the opportunity for one-on-one coaching.
  • Maine Tree Foundation looks to expand the “value of certification” for loggers and will receive funding to partially pay for the cost of certification and recertification for the next three years. This is great news! Download CLP 2020 Activity Report.
 
The Maine Invasive Species Network has announced that the agenda is available and registration is now open for the 2021 Maine Invasive Species Network Annual Meeting, to be held virtually from 9-11am on Feb. 23- 24. Closer to the date, MISN will send a Zoom link for the meeting.
 
The network is seeking Society of American Foresters and Maine Board of Pesticide Control continuing education credits and will update the agenda when it’s known how many credits are approved.
 
There will be time on Feb. 24 for community announcements. Please contact Gary Fish, the meeting moderator, if you would like to make an announcement during this time.
 
Short Span Steel Bridge 2-Part Webinar
 
Hosted by the New England Regional Council on Forest Engineering (NERCOFE) and presented by the Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance
 
The Short Span Steel Bridge Alliance (SSSBA) will offer members of the New England Region Council on Forest Engineering (NERCOFE) a “not too technical” two-part webinar that covers safe and cost-effective design, detail, fabrication, and installation of short span steel bridges.There are two scheduled sessions, one on Jan. 15, and the other on the 29. 
 
Short span bridges provide vital links to operate our nation’s forests. But, environmental regulations and complex terrain can make it difficult to install, maintain, and replace structurally deficient bridges. In addition, tight budgets and the need for longer lasting structures presents additional challenges for the professionals that manage private and public forests. 
 
To help address these challenges, the steel industry has developed technological and design innovations for bridges under 140 feet that save significant time and costs for today’s forest engineers and managers. T
 
Each of these sessions have been awarded 1 Category 1 CEU from both the State of Maine and SAF. Read more.
 
Submitting Forest Operations Notifications with new Forest Online Resource Tool
 
Maine Forest Service online session 8 a.m., Jan. 20
 
To help landowners, loggers, and foresters become familiar with the new online system, the Maine Forest Service will offer a public, online overview and demonstration session. This session will contain:
 
  • A 40-45 minute overview of FOResT followed by 15-20 minutes for attendees to ask questions.
  • 10 minute break
  • 1.5 hour in-depth demo of FOResT followed by 30 minutes for attendees to ask questions.
  • Future sessions will begin at 8 am on the following Wednesdays: Feb. 3, Feb. 17, March 3, March 17, March, 31. 
  • All sessions will be recorded for those who are unable to attend or would like to review what was covered.
  • Sign up for the January 20th session.
  • If you have any questions or have trouble signing up, contact the Maine Forest Service at forestinfo@maine.gov or 207-287-2791. More information
Cote hired as MPGA deputy director
 
The Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA) announced this week that it has hired James Cote as its executive deputy director. (Photo at left)
 
From 2008-2010, Cote served as MFPC’s director of government relations and communications and in 2019 was appointed to the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission by Governor Mills. He also serves the Maine Trappers Association as its legislative liaison. Cote can be contacted at jcote@maineguides.org.
 
Maine Woodland Owners will hold “virtual” Forestry Forum Jan. 21
 
Maine Woodland Owners (MWO) largest event of the year will be held on Zoom during the third day of the virtual Maine Agricultural Trades Show and is open to the public.
 
The afternoon presentation, “What Small Woodland Owners Should Know About Carbon Markets,” starts at 1 p.m. and will feature Senator Angus King who will provide an overview of the “Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act,” followed by a representative from Maine’s Climate Council to discuss the role forests can play in meeting the state’s carbon reduction goals. These will be followed by an overview of the carbon market, current carbon offset projects in Maine, and companies who work in the carbon credits market.
 
For more information about the event and how to attend, visit Maine Woodland Owners website, www.mainewoodlandowners.org, or contact Jennifer Hicks, Director of Communications and Outreach at jenn@mainewoodlandowners.org, (207) 626-0005. 
 
Maine TREE chooses director of education
 
The Maine Timber Research and Environmental Education Foundation (Maine TREE) has hired Jessie Rack (see photo at left) as its new director of education.This position is responsible for sustaining and expanding Maine TREE’s capacity to meet the needs of schools, teachers, parents, students, and other partner organizations for environmental education programs connected to Maine’s forests. In her most recent role, Jessie coordinated the University of Arizona’s Supporting Environmental Education and Communities Program, providing environmental education outreach to Title I K-12 classrooms.
 
She earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut and been an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist across the region.
 
“I am excited to be joining Maine TREE because it gives me the opportunity to help connect Maine teachers and their students with the forest, giving them the tools to engage safely and effectively with nature,” Rack said. “I’ve used the Project Learning Tree curriculum for many years and love how it is both multidisciplinary and inclusive in its approach to teaching and learning.”
 
 To learn more about Maine TREE’s forest-based education efforts, visit www.mainetree.org or email info@mainetree.org
 
Covid-19 federal and state resources and guidance
 
MFPC has created a page on our website to list forest products industry resources and guidance documents that we hope will prove useful to members and others. We will be updating it daily. If you see something online that would be helpful to others, please email it to Roberta Scruggs. Most recent posts:
 
Contact MFPC staff
 
Patrick Strauch, Executive Director, cell 207-841-6869.
Pat Sirois, SFI Coordinator, cell 207-837-0101.
Roberta Scruggs, Communications Director, cell 207-689-6401.
Sue McCarthy, Office Manager, cell 207-841-1651.
MFPC Office: 207-622-9288.