Questions about arming rangers go unanswered
Arming Maine’s forest rangers ran headlong into another controversial issue at the Legislature last week as a task force report provoked sharp questions (which no one was available to answer), skepticism, frustration and even laughter.
“If you want to kill a bill — and they know this as well as we do — if there’s no funding, we can pass all the bills we want and it’s dead on arrival, said Rep. Ricky Long, R-Sherman. “I think they’ve come up with a nice, neat way to say, ‘Well, boys do what you want but it doesn’t matter.'” Read more.
Legislative update and my view of ranger task force
By Patrick Strauch, MFPC Executive Director
My thanks to Mark Doty, John Cashwell and Tom Doak as we all took turns representing the large and small landowner slots on the task force, it was not an easy assignment because that group was focused on an expanded public safety role for the rangers while we were trying to explain the how limited resources need to be focused on resource protection. Commissioner Walt Whitcomb presented the group with a compromise position based on research based on rangers in other states. In this proposal a smaller unit of conservation officers would be created to deal with potentially more risky encounters (I.e. arson investigations, delivery of summonses) and the rangers would remain in a core position of fire fighting and resource protection. This proposal did not make it in to the final report, but it was a compromise we supported.
The Criminal Justice Committee was wise to decide to send their chairs to consult with the chairs of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee so that a discussion of both policy and funding can take place.
For rangers to be trained at a level to work with other law enforcement personnel the costs and time commitment will be high. In the meantime budworm, ash borers, woolly adelgid and more harmful insects are marching our way; outreach to southern Maine forest landowners to promote forestry is waning, and the state foresters’ role in budworm salvage operations is being planned. We are hopeful that this discussion can take place in the ACF Committee and will keep you up-to-date on this issue, so that you can let your legislators know your views.
EUT Committee discussing renewable energy bills
The Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee (EUT) has conducted several meetings to review hold-over bills from last session. A cluster of renewable energy bills as well as the committee’s role in the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard were discussed. Carryover bills must be voted out of committees by Friday, Jan. 24.
Determining an overall bill that encompasses feed in tariffs, net energy billing increases and removal of the 100 megawatt cap on the RPS standard for hydropower seems like a daunting task for the committee with limited time dedicated this session to hold over bills. Presentations by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) were informative but sobering. PUC Chairman Tom Welch said he believes no matter what we do to install hydro or increase gas capacity, we will be living with high electricity prices for the next three years (the time it would take to bring these resources on line.) Director of Energy Patrick Woodcock commented on the renewable energy matrix presented by the PUC as informative, but all scenarios will add to the cost of energy.
On Wednesday, the EUT Committee discused LD 616, which is a process to exclude certain townships from the expedited wind energy zones. It is a challenging and precedent-setting issue for landowners who have been focused on creating expanded zoning opportunities in the unorganized territories instead of reducing zoned uses. That’s why we are concerned with the precedent that will be established. MFPC was instrumental in bringing the planning process closer to the people of the region through regional planning, but the idea of creating rights for individuals within the UT to de-zone uses on the land of others is problematic. It would be a similar battle in organized towns if zones were changed to limit uses. Several options are being discussed and will be reported in the newsletter in the future.
- After six meetings the Tax Expenditure Task Force did not achieve consensus on any actions, but have listed items discussed as a group in their final report. The objective was to find savings/funding that would fill the $40 million gap, which otherwise would be achieved through reduced revenue sharing to municipalities. A specific proposal to tax amusements and entertainment was abruptly dropped by the committee at their last meeting. Some committee members believe business needs to feel the pain (i.e. cuts to BETR), a frustrating proposition to those manufacturers struggling to survive in Maine. Thanks to Jon Block at Pierce Atwood for his insights into the task force process.
- The BETR /BETE Task Force reach agreement on a four-year plan to transition BETR into BETE. There was some disagreement about allowing retail businesses into the BETE program. Faced with a loss of revenue sharing, the Maine Municipal Association, in general, is against losing any taxable property to BETE.
Last chance to win a Fish Friendly Ice Shack!
What makes them “Fish Friendly?” Proceeds from the raffle will be used to upgrade snowmobile stream crossings to improve fish passage and habitat connectivity. Snowmobile trails can impact stream crossings and fragment habitat just as roads do.
The value of each ice shack is estimated at $2,000. These raffle tickets — $10 each and three for $20 — make great stocking stuffers and might just provide you or your favorite angler with a very Happy New Year! The drawing will be held Monday, Dec. 30, and you don’t have to be present to win. The ice shacks can be taken apart for easy transport and then easily reassembled. Watch a short, fun video on how to assemble the ice shack.
To find out how to buy tickets, visit: www.sfimaine.org.
Second printing of Maine’s Forest Economy available
It was an excellent problem to have. The first 1,000-plus copies of Maine’s Forest Economy, MFPC’s state of our industry publication, were so popular we just did a second printing of 1,000-plus copies.
We made a few changes for the second printing. Alert readers may notice the photo of Patrick Strauch on the back cover has been replaced at his request. But the most important change is an drop — from 10.3 million to 9.4 million — in the total number of forestland acres in Maine certified as sustainably managed by Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS).
Ken Laustsen, Maine Forest Service biometrician, revised the total after receiving confirmation from Jennifer Hushaw of the Maine Tree Farm Program, that the state has 413,000 ATFS certified acres, rather than the 1.3 million noted on the ATFS website. Maine still has the most certified acres of any state.
MFPC also is proceeding with a pocket-size, condensed version of Maine’s Forest Economy, which should be available in January.
NEFA report on Maine released
You might also be interested in the new publication on The Economic Importance of Maine’s Forest-Based Economy by the North East State Foresters Association. The economic figures echo those in the MFPC report and NEFA cites the research Dr. Todd Gabe of the University of Maine conducted for MFPC as a source. The NEFA report provides detailed statistics on types of trees, timber volumes, carbon and other forestry topics.
While noting that “it is challenging to estimate the specific contribution made by the forest environment to recreation and tourism expenditures,” NEFA reports forest-based recreational activities annually contribute $2.8 billion and 19,800 jobs to the Maine economy (compared to $1.15 billion and 12,000 jobs in NEFA’s 2007 report). Fall foliage viewing was “the largest contributor with over 45 percent of the total sales, and is followed by, in order, wildlife watching, hunting, downhill skiing, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and hiking.”
NEFA’s report on New York is available online and reports are “coming soon” on Vermont and New Hampshire.
MFS Chapter 20 and Chapter 26 rules for public comment
Chapter 20, Forest Regeneration and Clearcutting Standards: This rule amendment places Forest Operations Notification requirements in a new, separate rule, per legislative direction; updates definitions to reflect past rule changes in other chapters; removes the requirement that a licensed professional forester certify that regeneration standards have been met for Category 2 and Category 3 clearcuts; and, removes the requirement that a landowner file a report along with certification that the regeneration standards have been met for Category 2 and Category 3 clearcuts.
Chapter 26, Forest Operations Notification Standards: This rule amendment places Forest Operations Notification requirements in a new, separate rule, per legislative direction; provides an exemption for certified erosion control contractors under certain circumstances, and adds forestry activities in the LUPC jurisdiction and “chop and drop” activities to the notification process.
PUBLIC HEARINGS: None anticipated.
COMMENT DEADLINE: 5 p.m., January 3, 2014
CONTACT PERSON FOR THIS FILING / SMALL BUSINESS INFORMATION: Donald J. Mansius, Director, Forest Policy and Management, Maine Forest Service, 22 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333. Telephone: (207) 287-4906. E-mail: Donald Mansius.
E-MAIL FOR AGENCY RULE-MAKING LIAISON: Mari Wells.
Forest products sectors of potential growth in Aroostook
Mark Draper, Tri-Community Landfill, was appointed by the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) Board to chair the Aroostook County Community Guided Planning and Zoning (CGPZ) steering committee. The committee met for the second time in Caribou on December 11. Members are mindful of the need for environmental protection but are genuinely interested in economic development and identifying new areas for appropriate business, residential and/or recreational uses.
Jay Kamm, Senior Planner NMDC, reviewed information gathered to-date, including industrial facilities map, prime agricultural soils map, LUPC zoning map and Maine Revenue Service tax parcel map. All of these may be viewed at NMDC’s web page devoted to the CGZP project.
Bob Dorsey, president of Aroostook Partnership for Progress, presented very interesting information on the economic challenges and priorities of the County. Working with Mobilize Maine, Aroostook Partnership for Progress (NMDC, the four Aroostook colleges and over 170 businesses represented by Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development) has six subcommittees working on various aspects of economic development. Natural resource based, forest products and agriculture are sectors of potential growth. Key to Aroostook’s future is retaining and increasing the 18-44 year old age bracket. Topics ranged from education and workforce training to utilities and transportation infrastructure.
Although specific to Aroostook, there are many similarities to other primarily rural counties such as Washington and Piscataquis.
The CGPZ committee meets on the second Tuesday of the month at NMDC in Caribou. The public is welcome to attend. Public input will be sought this winter at three regional meetings (Aroostook NW, NE and S) once sufficient data has been gathered to start discussing data, priorities and options. Options may include, but are not limited to, developing strategies, proposing new zoning on LUPC’s Land Use Guidance Maps and creating new zones in Chapter 10 Land Use Districts and Standards.
— Sarah Medina of Seven Islands, CGPZ Steering Committee
Results now available from two CFRU funded studies
- 2. Modeling the Influence of Forest Structure on Microsite Habitat Use by Snowshoe Hares: : Snowshoe hare is an important prey species in Maine and this study examined within-stand (microsite) forest structural characteristics that promote high use by hares. Silvicultural practices that create dense areas of conifer and deciduous saplings should receive high within-stand use by hares in winter.
- 3. Effectiveness of State Regulations to Protect Deer Wintering Habitats in Maine: : This study evaluated the effectiveness of zoning to protect wintering habitat for white-tailed deer across commercially managed forestlands in northern Maine. Results indicate that current stand and landscape conditions will likely not meet deer management objectives and expanded zoning would be extremely costly to landowners, with uncertain future benefits for deer and general forest biodiversity.