MFPC Newsletter January-February 2020

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It’s getting fast and furious at the Legislature

This week may have looked deceptively quiet at the Legislature, but a lot of important issues were swirling just under the surface.

First, the pressure is intensifying. Committees have a deadline to report out bills by March 6, so they’re working fast and furiously. Here’s what is  happening on some bills of particular significance to our industry.

Last session, the Council tried hard to defeat LD 268 An Act To Create a Credit under the Commercial Forestry Excise Tax for Landowners Using Businesses Based in the United States, only to see it carried over. Fortunately, the governor vetoed it, saying “it could well run afoul of both the Commerce Clause and the foreign Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution . . . would likely expose the state to long and costly litigation ultimately with no benefit to Maine people,” and “could create a financial hole in the state’s critical fire protection services.” Her veto was sustained. 

The assault on the Tree Growth Tax continues, although LD 1150 An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law To Encourage Public Access, Rep. John Martin’s carried-over bill, is likely dead after Taxation voted 12-1 ought not to pass. The landowner community came out strongly against the bill, which was hugely important. An equally strong effort is needed to defeat Sen. Troy Jackson’s Tree Growth bill, LD 2061 An Act Regarding the Transportation of Products in the Forest Products Industry. Because of a snowstorm Feb. 6, a lot of Taxation Committee members missed the public hearing. So it’s really important to have a strong presence at the work session Tuesday, February 18, 1 p.m., State House, Room 127. Please let Taxation Committee members know you oppose this bill. Here are their emails and a link to the Council’s testimony.

Another issue that’s really getting hot involves the recent report from the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act and the resulting bill, LD 2094  to implement changes in the settlement, including allowing  the tribes to acquire land in trust anywhere in the state without requiring the approval of either the State or the municipality where the land is located; providing the Tribes with criminal and civil adjudicatory and legislative authority over all activities on Tribal Lands and giving the tribes regulatory power over rivers where they own more than 2 miles of frontage, including the upstream portions and tributaries.

The Judiciary Committee has invited several other legislative committees to join them at various times during the two days of public hearings today and Feb. 19 (see details below). Tim Woodcock of Eaton Peabody, who has long experience with the land claims settlement, will testify for MFPC. 

So get in the fast-and-furious mood, because things are only going to speed up. By March 20 bills must move to the House and Senate floors. The governor’s supplemental budget must be dealt with as well as any bond packages. We may need your help fast, so watch for emailed alerts. Statutory adjournment is April 15. Here’s what is happening next week:

  • PUBLIC HEARING – Energy, Utilities and Technology, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 1 p.m., Cross Building, Room 211:  LD 2097  An Act To Establish Requirements for the Construction of Elective Transmission Lines by Transmission and Distribution Utilities. 
  • WORK SESSION: Tuesday Feb. 18, 1 p.m., Taxation, State House, Room 127:  LD 2061 An Act Regarding the Transportation of Products in the Forest Products Industry. 
  • PUBLIC HEARING, Wednesday, Feb. 19, Judiciary, 9 a.m., State House, Room 228:  LD 2094 Judiciary An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act.

Great turnout and program at Legislative Breakfast

If you couldn’t make it to MFPC’s Legislative Breakfast Jan. 30, you missed a great get-together, with more than 70 people attending, including legislators, members and officials. Even more heartening was the enthusiasm for the program, which highlighted the important role Maine’s forests and forest products play in climate change and carbon sequestration.

“I received a lot of feedback from legislators,” said MFPC Lobbyist Michele MacLean, “and it was very bipartisan across the board, and the feedback has been pretty impressive.”
Executive Director Patrick Strauch started his presentation by showing the video above “What a tree can do” produced by Stora Enso) and then showed a PowerPoint presentation that took legislators and members through Maine’s “green” forest economy step by step. Catherine Robbins-Halstead, Scott Beal and Chris Fife provided updates on sawmills, pulp and paper, and trucking. Read more.

Legislators ‘ask a lot of questions’ at Robbins Lumber

Alden Robbins, left, leads legislators on a tour.

On January 29th, Robbins Lumber hosted 23 Maine state legislators, who toured the Eastern white pine sawmill in Searsmont.  The visit was part of Maine Development Foundation’s nonpartisan Policy Leaders Academy bus tour of the Midcoast region to see how the policies and laws they enact impact businesses and communities. “We thought the tour went very well,” said Jim Robbins Sr. “They all seemed to be very interested and asked lots of questions.  We received lots of compliments on the mill.  They seemed to be amazed at the technology. What we need is to have more of these tours visiting our member mills and woodlands. Congressman Golden was here visiting us this past Sunday.”

Congratulations to Jim Robbins Sr., the 2020 Mulrooney Award

The North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) recently honored Jim Robbins Sr. with an award named for John J. Mulrooney, a career lumber wholesaler who later served as NAWLA’s chief executive for nearly 20 years until his death in 1979. Since his passing, NAWLA has recognized an elite group of individuals who exemplify the qualities Mulrooney embodied: steadfast leadership, strategic thinking, personal integrity, and service to others.  Anyone who knows Robbins can see why he was chosen. Read more

BEP unanimously approves ozone petition

When a public hearing was held on the LePage administration’s petition to opt-out of the Ozone Transfer Region (OTR) on July 30, 2018, the room was packed and the testimony passionate. When the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP)unanimously voted to approve the Mills administration’s revised OTR petition on Feb. 6, there were only two people, including MFPC Communication Director Roberta Scruggs, in the audience. Only eight people submitted comments on the revised petitions, including five from the forest products industry who supported it. Read summary of comments. Before the vote, Jeff Crawford, who heads the Bureau of Air Quality, read a four-page memorandum summarizing the process that led the bureau to recommend the BEP adopt the proposed Section 176A(a)(2) Petition, including Revisions to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the Control of Ozone Air Pollution in Portland and the Midcoast.  

FOR/Maine moves forward on marketing/outreach plan

Executive Director Patrick Strauch and Communications Director Roberta Scruggs are part of a group working on choosing a company to work with FOR/Maine on a communications outreach program. By this week, the group had chosen two companies, Sutherland Weston Communications, Bangor, and Better Yet Studio, Portland as finalists and invited them to give presentations to the larger communications group Feb. 14, addressing how they would execute the contract, and addressing elements of the three major categories of work:

  • Marketing: How will you work with target audiences to develop effective messaging as well as an overall story of opportunity for Maine’s forest economy? Give examples of the tools that you will use to disseminate key messages to targeted audiences (infographics, videos, etc.). Please share a scenario based on one of the target FOR/Maine audiences or a past campaign you produced.
  • Website Development:  What does an interactive, multi-audience and multi-media website look like for this effort? Please describe your plan for updates and ongoing maintenance of the website.
  • Media Relations: How will you go about establishing the relationships necessary to become a trusted source for local, regional and national media? Over the next two years, how will you change the narrative that Maine’s forest industry is in decline? Share a sample story pitch that will achieve one of more of FOR/Maine’s communications priorities

“Once we have had the opportunity to meet the teams from each firm and hear about their plans for the project, we will identify a frontrunner and proceed with negotiations and any adjustments necessary to their plan before moving to contract,” said Brianna Bowman, FOR/Maine program director.

John Bryant and Tim Peabody present ATV Task Force report.

IFW and ACF review ATV report

It was standing room only Jan. 27 as co-chairs John Bryant, formerly of AFM, and Tim Peabody, deputy director of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, gave an excellent presentation of the ATV Task Force Report at a joint session of the Legislature’s IFW Committee and ACF Committee. The task force recommended size limits for ATV registration, trails built and maintained to BMPs, regular third-party compliance audits, increased funding for trails, and improved communication plans between state, ATV clubs, riders, and landowners. Meeting records, updates and more information is available on the Task Force website. “I believe we are answering the landowners’ concerns about maintaining ATV trails on private property and showing respect for the generous use of their land for recreation,” Peabody said. Related column by Tom Doak, Maine Woodland Owners.

Coming up

New England Region Council on Forest Engineering (NERCOFE), March 16-17. The first day of the conference is devoted to labor challenges in forestry.  NERCOFE 2020 agenda. Registration form. More information.

About MFPC 

Since 1961, the Maine Forest Products Council has been the voice of Maine’s forest economy. MFPC’s members are landowners, loggers, truckers, paper mills, tree farmers, foresters, lumber processors and the owners of more than 8 million acres of commercial forestland, but they are also bankers, lawyers and insurance executives. The Council represents members at the Maine Legislature and across the state, in Washington D.C. and across the U.S.

Patrick Strauch, Executive Director;

Pat Sirois, SFI Coordinator

Roberta Scruggs, Communications Director

Sue McCarthy, Office Manager