March 29, 2013

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NRN proposes ACF merger organization plan

Executive Director Patrick Strauch outlines the proposed structure to ACF Committee members.
Executive Director Patrick Strauch outlines the proposed structure to ACF Committee members.

The rustling of pages was the only sound to be heard during the most exciting moment of the public hearing this week on LD 837, the bill that attempts to sort out the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry merger.

When the Natural Resource Network’s testimony was handed out to the committee, the first page was a proposed organizational chart for the merged department — the very thing that legislators wanted most, but hadn’t yet received. Read more.

Other action at the Legislature

Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick, introduced LD 385, An Act To Improve Wind Energy Development Permitting by request from NRCM. Audubon and the AMC relating to modifications of the wind power act. MFPC spoke against a provision to allow the presence of a Maine Natural Areas Program community type to qualify as a prohibition against wind power permitting. This is a dangerous precedent for landowners working in the MNAP. Fortunately the Maine DEP agreed with MFPC’s position and suggested the provisions in the section were not needed.

  • LD 616, An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development. This bill would allowed individual townships within the unorganized territory (under the jurisdiction of the Land Use Planning Commission) to withdraw  from being listed in the expedited zone of the wind power act. Many individuals from Lexington township were present who were interested in returning to the standard LURC rezoning procedure that is perceived to provide greater opportunities for the citizens of the region to have their voices heard and they argued for due process. MFPC testified that wind power opportunities are viewed by many commercial forestland owners as an important option to diversify their incomes. MFPC also argued that the ability of a township exit the region would create  instability for contractors who began projects that followed the rules and who would suffer severe inequity.
  • LD 800, An Act To Expand Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Opportunities, was the first of several Sunday hunting bills. Opposition to this bill was strong and it is not expected to pass in committee.
  • LD 512, An Act To Allow Licensed Foresters To Use Mechanics Liens There was no opposition to the idea that foresters should have the right to place a mechanics’ lean on property of landowners not honoring payment terms for services. The Association of Consulting Foresters did a good job in presenting its case.

Next week we are looking at:

  • A proposal to provide more guidance to counties in selecting LUPC commissioners (included in LD 987)
  • IF&W bills on setback distances for beaver traps and a resolve to study issues with Bear Hunting; Landowner permission for placement of cameras (LD 1040); vernal pool law revisions LDs 674 and 794.
  • Continued vigilance on the governor’s budget and determining the BETR programs future.

Age panelMaine workers needed as retirements increase

How many logging equipment operators does Maine need? An average of 44 each year from 2010 to 2020, according to a labor analysis provided at MFPC’s request by the Maine Department of Labor Center for Workforce Research and Information. Jobs also will be opening up in for production, machine installation and repair, and trucking. Read more.

Economic impact study discussed with UMaine

An MFPC subcommittee had a very productive discussion in Orono Thursday about how best to determine the economic impact of Maine’s forest products industry.

Steve Schley, chairs the subcommittee. Other members are Treasurer John Gray, Peter Triandafillou, Jim Robbins Sr., and Dick Robertson. They were aacompanied by Communications Director Roberta Scruggs. Doug Denico and Don Mansius of the Maine Forest Service also attended at MFPC’s invitation. UMaine was represented by  Bob Wagner, director of the School of Forest Resources, Rob Lilieholm, associate professor of Forest Policy, and Todd Gabe, professor of economics.

Statistics concerning our industry are badly out of date, but MFPC board members want to make sure that all contributing forest product sectors are counted, from finance to energy. They emphasized that we need accurate and credible — “bulletproof” some called it.

Gabe plans to take a preliminary look at the sectors the subcommittee identified and the group will meet again to review them.

We need great new bumper stickers!

MFPC has signed up for a booth at the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Expo in Bangor May 17-18. Executive Director Patrick Strauch thinks we should have some great bumper stickers to hand out. But what should they say? Please send your great, funny, memorable ideas to