Maine’s forest products sector contributes an estimated $8.1 billion and 31,822 jobs to our state’s economy. That’s about 4 percent of the jobs in Maine. Put another way, roughly 1 out of 25 jobs in Maine is associated with the forest products sector.
We all know that necessity is the mother of invention, which is why the Council teamed up with the University of Maine to build a roadmap for our industry, an effort endorsed by the 127th Legislature last spring in a resolution. January has been a month of announcements centered on efforts of many Maine companies and organizations to build this roadmap for Maine, so it’s a good time to let you know the progress of our efforts.
The good, the bad and the familiar — Many of the legislative debates we’ve been involved with in years past will be back, including arming rangers, attacks on Tree Growth, Sunday hunting, mining regulations, the citizen-initiated referendum process, landowner liability, biomass and scores of bills to improve the energy market in Maine.
A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Augusta Armory on a state exemption from “take” of three bat species for forestry and other land use activities.
In 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife issued a 4(d) exemption for forestry and related activities after it listed the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species due to the precipitous decline caused by the fungal white-nosed syndrome. Since Maine listed northern long-eared, little brown and small-footed bat as endangered or threatened, MFPC and others have worked with Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to develop an exemption modeled on the federal exemption. Once in place, there should be no question that forestry is not a concern for bats affected by a disease and not a habitat issue. Feb. 16 is the deadline for comments, which can be sent to Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State Street 41 SHS, Augusta ME 04333.
The 2nd annual International Mass Timber Conference also is coming up in Portland, Oregon, March 28-30, focusing on innovative building products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), nail-laminated timber, and other mass timber. Hundreds of attendees from 13 countries have registered so far and many more are expected. A pre-conference mass timber building tour precedes two days of educational panels, an expo, and networking events. More information.
UPDATE — Franklin County commissioners approved a $1 million budget for the unorganized territory for 2017-18, but rejected Sheriff Scott Nichols’ proposal for a UT deputy that would have added $100,000 to the UT budget in the first year. Commissioners also asked the sheriff to reimburse the county $170.37 for the mass mailing to UT residents about his proposal. A deputy delivered the letter to residences who could not be reached by the mailing. Commissioners later decided that Nichols would not have to repay the mail money.
“I wasn’t campaigning for the position, just trying to get the information outo the public,” Nichols said, according to Donna Perry’s story in the Sun Journal Jan. 3.
This week at the Legislature
Public Hearings Tuesday Jan. 3:Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Cross Building, Room 214. Testimony can delivered in person or emailed to ACF Clerk Rebecca Harvey.
LD 8An Act to Protect Maine’s Forest Rangers. Summary: This bill prohibits the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry from prohibiting a forest ranger from carrying a personal concealed firearm for the forest ranger’s protection while on duty.
MFPC position: Opposed. Since 1997, the Legislature has considered many divisive bills that would arm rangers since 1997.
LD 128An Act to Prohibit Foraging on Private Land Without Permission. Summary: This bill requires anyone harvesting edible wild food to have written permission or a bill of sale from the landowner before harvesting or transporting.
MFPC position: To be determined.While the council is not generally concerned with noncommercial foraging, we’re researching whether landowners would forfeit liability protection by allowing commercial foragers to access their land with or without permission.
On February 2, the members of the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative (MFPC, PLC, SWOAM, MDF) will be making a presentation to the Labor, Commerce Research and Economic Development Committee about our priorities to strengthen the economy and how the recently completed EDAT report addresses these priorities. This same group will be presenting on February 7 to the Energy and Utilities Committee about our priorities and findings in the EDAT report that relate to the topic of biomass energy in Maine.
Since 1961, the Maine Forest Products Council has represented our state’s diverse forest products community, including logging contractors, sawmills, paper mills, biomass energy, facilities, pellet manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, and the owners of more than nine million acres of commercial forestland in Maine.