The industry lobbied hard and successfully on biomass bill
Two themes have dominated during the last few months: Energy and the path forward for Maine’s forest products industry. While biomass certainly grabbed the headlines in the Legislature and several in Congress, a lot more has been going on. Here are some of the highlights.
The Press Herald and Bangor Daily News ultimately called LD 1676, An Act To Establish a Process for the Procurement of Biomass Resources a “biomass bailout.” Even MFPC members initially were divided on this bill, but with a lot of work by many parties the final language addressed many of the concerns in the original language. The debates in the House and Senate demonstrated bipartisan concern about the health of the logging community and sawmills, and acknowledged the challenge of biomass economics. The bill passed, 25-9 in the Senate and 104-40 in the House. (See roll calls.) Fortunately, legislators decided the goal — saving loggers jobs and giving the industry a two-year bridge to find other biomass options – was worth the public money. Gov. Paul R. LePage signed it into law April 16.
Another positive step for biomass came April 20, when the U.S. Senate passed the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012), which includes a provision affirming the carbon benefits of forest biomass as an important part of the U.S. energy solution. The tri-partisan provision, offered by Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Angus King (I-ME), received unanimous support by the Senate earlier this year. The Senate and House will now seek to reconcile their respective bills.
- LD 1481 An Act To Protect Maine’s Natural Resources Jobs by Exempting from Sales Tax Petroleum Products Used in Commercial Farming, Fishing and Forestry grants a sales tax exemption or refund for fuel used in commercial agricultural production, aquacultural production and wood harvesting. It passed both houses (see roll calls), was included in an omnibus spending bill, LD 1606, and signed into law.
- LD 1691 An Act To Improve the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law Program died quickly with a unanimous ought not to pass vote in the Taxation Committee. For parcels enrolled on or after April 1, 2017, it would have included harvesting as an expressly stated activity for land in the program; increase the minimum size of parcels for inclusion from 10 to 25 acres, and disqualify from the program any parcel of land that is located within 10 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Executive Director Patrick Strauch will be working with the membership this summer to address concerns voiced by the governor.
- LD 1600 An Act Regarding Consent to Land Transfers to the Federal Government seemed like a real long shot at first, but a toned down version opposing creation of national monuments in Maine became public law by very slim margins, 18-17 in the Senate and 77-73 in the House. (See roll calls). It was called a “largely symbolic vote” by the Press Herald, but was welcomed by park/monument opponents who also celebrated Patten residents 121-53 vote against supporting a proposed national park in a nonbinding referendum April 19.
- Gov. LePage’s veto of LD 1398 An Act To Reduce Electric Rates for Maine Businesses was overridden Friday, 110-38 in the House and 33-2 in the Senate. The bill provides that $3,000,000 of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Trust Fund revenue is to be returned to certain affected customers in the form of an annual disbursement during fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Progress on forest economy ‘roadmap’
House and Senate pass resolve supporting a strategic plan ‘under the hammer’
“We, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh Legislature now assembled in the Second Regular Session, on behalf of the people we represent, acknowledge and commend the collaboration between the University of Maine Center for Research on Sustainable Forests and representatives of Maine’s forest-based industry, including woodland owners, wood-using mills and businesses and loggers, to develop and implement a strategic vision and road map to increase economic development in the State’s forest products sector.”
As reported earlier, the support of a strategic planning initiative was kicked off by a presentation by Dr. Robert Wagner of the University of Maine at a special MFPC briefing for legislative leaders in late January. Wagner proposed that Maine follow the lead of the European Union, Sweden, Finland and Minnesota, and develop a strategic plan for our state’s forest economy, including a comprehensive analysis of Maine’s forest products sector, the current and potential markets, and what must be done to capture these markets. MFPC proposed the legislative resolve to encourage the research-based plan. See Strategic Planning Initiative for Maine’s Forest-Based Economy.
Loss for Maine, gain for Indiana
Wagner to lead Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue
Robert Wagner, director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF) and Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU) at the University of Maine, announced this week that he has accepted a position as Professor and Head of Purdue’s Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, effective October 1.
“I have enjoyed my 18 years in Maine enormously,” Dr. Wagner said. “A clear highlight of my career has been the privilege of working closely with Maine’s forest managers through the CFRU, MFPC, and other efforts. I will sorely miss the many friends and colleagues that I have made in Maine’s forestry community. They are some of the best people I have known.”
Wagner is looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities that will come in leading Purdue’s Forestry & Natural Resources faculty, staff, and students. He also looks forward to learning more about growing high-value hardwoods.
Wagner received his bachelor’s degree in forest management from Utah State University, his master’s in forest ecology/ silviculture from the University of Washington, and his Ph.D in silviculture/vegetation management from Oregon State University. He served as a program leader and senior scientist at the Ontario Forest Research Institute in Ontario Canada before joining the faculty in the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine. During his tenure, he also served as director of UMaine’s School of Forest Resources and was the Henry W. Saunders Distinguished Professor in Forestry.
Dr. Wagner has worked closely with MFPC on a number of projects, most recently the two-year effort to create a strategic plan for the coming budworm infestation. “I will be in Maine through the summer,” Wagner said, “so I plan to keep carrying the ball on the (forest industry) vision and roadmap. It is good idea that should keep going with or without me.”
LEED recognizes SFI, ATFS, CSA and PEFC
The range of legal and responsible forest products available for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credit has grown in a positive direction. In April, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) issued a LEED alternative compliance path (ACP) that recognizes wood and paper from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) standards. The ACP will apply to all LEED v4 rating systems, including Homes v4 and to all LEED 2009 rating systems.
“We applaud leaders from the U.S. Green Building Council as this change across all LEED rating tools takes a stance against illegal wood and reinforces the value of certified and responsibly sourced forest products,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc. “SFI employs rigorous standards that ensure not only a responsibly managed forest, but also that only legal sources of fiber are brought into SFI-certified supply chains.”
This is welcome news for architects, builders and consumers seeking legal, responsibly sourced and certified forest products from well-managed forests. Higher building materials standards will also help to develop new markets for responsibly-sourced wood products, which will drive forest improvements at the landowner level.
According to the 2015 USGBC GreenBuilding Economic Impact Study, green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs and generate $190.3 billion in labor earnings. The industry’s direct contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP) is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015–2018.
“This is a milestone for family woodland owners, Tree Farmers, and forest conservation in America,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation (AFF). “Family landowners are a critical group of individuals that steward our forests, providing local sustainable wood fiber while also conserving clean water and air, wildlife habitat, and ensuring the overall health of our forests.” Read more.
50th anniversary Allagash prints
Proceeds from Maine artist Mark McCollugh’s painting benefit the Allagash Waterway
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands is now offering 500 signed, numbered, limited edition art prints of a painting by noted wildlife artist Mark McCollough. McCollough’s painting depicts a family poling and paddling canoes below Allagash Falls in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW). The prints are being sold to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) and to support the AWW Permanent Endowment Fund.
“The Allagash Wilderness Waterway’s unique, north flowing series of dams, lakes and rivers has contributed to the Maine economy for three centuries,” said Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. “The Waterway is still going strong on the occasion of its 50th anniversary as a significant recreational designation.”
“The painting by Mark McCollough captures both the traditional and modern use of the waterway with the iconic image of the Allagash Falls in the background, it truly is an outstanding work of art,” said AWW Superintendent, Matthew LaRoche.
Only 500 of the prints will be made available, each signed and numbered by the artist. They are 24” X 20” in size, including a surrounding two inch border. The prints cost $50.00 each, plus tax, shipping and handling. They can be ordered through the State Park Reservations Office at 1-800-332-1501 (within Maine), or 207-624-9950. Prints can also be purchased at most Allagash Ranger Stations and at the Bureau of Parks and Lands office in Augusta. Go to: www.maine.gov/allagash for more information regarding the prints or general information on the AWW.
Here are some resources to help you stay safe.
- Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farms, Falmouth, ME, Noon
- Mather Auditorium, Wells Reserve, Wells, ME, 6:00 p.m.
Regional expert Dr. Thomas Mather will speak about the best science-based methods for tick exposure prevention. Dr. Mather has dedicated his career at the University of Rhode Island Center for Vector-Borne Disease to the research of tick exposure and Lyme disease prevention. His talk will include strategies for avoiding ticks and tick-borne diseases including:
- Tick minimizing home landscape design
- Tick check techniques
- Personal repellents/protectants
Updates on the state of Lyme disease and tick monitoring in Maine will be provided by Sara Robinson, Epidemiologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Chuck Lebelczyk, entomologist with Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Maine CDC Health Corps will be present to answer questions on Lyme disease.
Space for both presentations is limited! Pre-registration is required! To register, please go to maine.gov/healthylawns or call (207) 287-2731.
Save these dates!
2016 MFPC golf tournament, July 14, at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course, Bangor. Brian Flewelling and Sue McCarthy will be sending out invitations and sponsorship requests in early May. We need sponsors, raffle items and, of course, girls/guys who just want to have fun. More information.
2016 MFPC Annual Meeting, Sept. 18-19. This meeting is all about the future of our industry. We’ll be staying at the Hollywood Casino in Bangor, touring the Composite Center and the Process Development Center at the University of Maine, and holding our business meeting at the Wells Center in Orono. Of course, there also will be plenty of time for fun and fellowship. We’ll begin on Sunday with golf and a barbecue at the beautiful Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono. On Monday morning, we’ll have breakfast and our business meeting at the Wells Center at the University, before setting off to find out about amazing new products at the Composite Center and the Process Development Center. The evening banquet will be held at the Hollywood Casino. Start thinking now about who you want to nominate for an MFPC award this year.