Woods and Wildlife Tour for legislators is ‘eye-opening’

legislative tour photos

 “Eye-opening” was one word used to describe the Maine Woods and Wildlife Tour for legislators on Oct. 2-3.

Twenty-two legislators joined staff, members and presenters for the tour, which was co-sponsored by MFPC and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Legislators enjoyed a look at a high-tech sawmill at Kennebec Lumber in Solon and saw a modern, mechanized logging site with Wagner Forest Management. They also received important information on spruce budworm, heard a status report on Maine’s bear population in preparation for the upcoming battle over hunting methods, and got a sneak preview of the new MFPC report on Maine’s Forest Economy. (See Tour itinerary and list of participants and sponsors).

Rep. Paul Gilbert and Andrew Brown of Wagner.
Rep. Paul Gilbert and Andrew Brown of Wagner Forest Management.

Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, (a member of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development and Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future) summed up in an email what many legislators told us about the tour.

“I enjoyed it and found it to be interesting, informative and fun,” Rep. Gilbert said. “The hosts were very welcoming, presenters were knowledgeable, and the food was great and the lodging very comfortable. Thank you all for what you did to make this a success. I wouldn’t change a thing and I would recommend the tour to anyone.”

MFPC and IFW staff members also were enthusiastic about the benefits for all who participated.

“It was good to get the new legislators out into the field and let our members tell them about our industry,” said Executive Director Patrick Strauch. “It’s great for them to meet foresters, loggers, biologists, sawmill workers. It’s a good investment for us because when we see them in the halls of the State Capitol, they’ll understand more about who we represent and the scope of our industry.”

“It was a great tour,” said Doug Rafferty, IFW director of public information and education, “I think the legislators got a lot out of it. I know I did.”

IFW wildife biologist Randy Cross gave a fascinating talk about Maine's bears.
IFW wildife biologist Randy Cross gave a fascinating talk about bears.

Pat Sirois, director of Maine’s SFI Implementation Committee, thought legislators “were more open to the notion of a working forest. The tours I’ve been involved in during the late 1990s and early 2000s seemed always to have a tone of concern about the sustainability of Maine’s forest, which was likely the residual from multiple statewide referenda repeatedly calling the question.  Time has passed and the sky hasn’t fallen as many have predicted. More lands are third party certified for sustainability in Maine than anywhere in the country. As a result there seems to be greater confidence or at least an openness to the notion that we have a strong industry with a long-term perspective.”

Sirois also thought seeing Wagner’s logging site helped legislators better understand the spruce budworm presentation that evening by Dr. Bill Livingston of the University of Maine and Dave Struble, state entomologist for the Maine Forest Service.

“The budworm piece went particularly well,” Sirois said. “Dr. Livingston’s presentation came across as very credible and convincing.  I really got a sense the legislators wanted to understand what their role could be as this issue develops.”

Sue McCarthy, MFPC office manager, described the legislators as “a great group of people eager to learn about our organization.  A few of them had been on our tour before but were still interested.”

McCarthy expressed MFPC’s thanks to Suzie Hockmeyer of Northern Outdoors, for the “fantastic” food, lodging and hospitality, including providing free beer for “Happy Hour.” She also praised the MFPC members who helped sponsor the tour, saying, “Their generous support helps us in our mission to effectively represent  and to promote the Maine forest products industry in Augusta and abroad.”

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