What is Outcome Based Forestry?

The outcome based forestry (OBF)  policy experiment, which was approved by the Legislature in 2001, didn’t get launched until the Irving Woodlands and Bureau of Public Land recently entered into agreements with the Maine Forest Service.  Dr. Maxwell McCormack’s two-page description of the program — What is Outcome Based Forestry? — in the February SWOAM newsletter is very good.

Several landowners have been contemplating involvement over the years. In fact, in 2007 when MFS Director Alec Giffen presented LD 1924 to  the 123th Legislature he was optimistic that raising the acreage cap so landowners could enter their entire acreage into the program. In his testimony, Giffen told the ACF Committee, “We have had some success in recent discussions with a large landowner, and we hope we are very close to drafting an agreement. In fact, if you enact this legislation, we hope to have an agreement in place by the end of this year. We also have had productive discussions with another landowner, but we are still in the early stages and cannot forecast an outcome on these discussions.” The bill, which passed without debate, repealed the 100,000 acre cap on individual agreements, the 200,000 acre overall cap and the requirement to include ownerships less than 1,000 acres. Yet still no landowners came forward until 2012.

Why would a landowner be interested in participating in the program as an alternative to the current procedures in the Forest Practices Act (FPA)?  Because some landowners are willing to obtain better operational efficiencies and silvicultural flexibility on their lands in exchange for more total operational oversight by the MFS and its Scientific Advisory Panel.

This policy experiment allows the Legislature and citizens of Maine to pick up on where we left off in 2000, during a heated anti-clearcutting debate that resulted in the FPA and several forest referendums. At the time, the objective was to stabilize Maine’s forest economy and create a political solution in the FPA  regulations. The FPA has served us well, and will continue to do so.

Since that time we have a sophisticated inventory program managed by the MFS  so we can monitor harvest sustainability.  Maine also has 9.4 million certified acres – more than any other state. We also have more data on how much the past harvesting practices enhanced today’s wildlife habitat. We also need to look at ways to manage the landscape in light of a new budworm infestation making its way toward Maine. The bug is indiscriminate as it eats its way through Maine killing trees in FPA retention zones and riparian protection zones alike. For all of these reasons the OBF experiment offers an opportunity to advance forest policy in Maine.