By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
The staff has been busy this fall with activities on your behalf. The annual meeting is always a lot of work for Sue McCarthy, but she handles the event every year with great confidence and ability. I’m always glad to see everyone and am reminded of former executive director Abby Holman’s words that we represent “the good guys” — and gals. It was also rewarding to see Roberta Scruggs so excited about her forest economy assignment. In the past year some of her former press colleagues have hinted that she has crossed over to the dark side by working for our industry, but she has responded by seeking out the facts and the stories of our people in the industry, I think she would agree that we are the good guys and gals and we look forward to getting our message of opportunity out to Maine people.
Legislative Committee activity:
- Tax Expenditure Committee: The first meeting of this committee occurred with the next slated for October. Jon Block from Pierce Atwood has been participating in these meetings and reporting back to me. He has established a separate working group that is paying for his involvement and individual members are encouraged to join to take advantage of his expertise. To provide some context on just the dependence of our membership on the BETR program, my quick analysis shows participation by member categories to total $15,308,694. This is roughly composed of paper mills, sawmills, composite board and loggers.
The group’s objective is to find a replacement for the $40 million in cuts to revenue-sharing currently in the budget. Other important tax programs that are critical to the forest manufacturing industry will be discussed. This bears careful watching!
- Rangers and Guns: There have been three meetings of this group with John Cashwell representing SWOAM and Mark Doty representing MFPC. At the second meeting the landowners (represented by Patrick and Tom Doak) made a presentation expressing concern over arming the rangers. The fundamental concern being that were are creating more of a public safety function within the Forest Protection division, Rather than emphasizing the needed focus on resource protection. At the third meeting we presented a concept draft of creating a new category of Conservation Officers that were transferred to the Warden Service and focused on high risk forestry enforcement activities, keeping the rangers in a more resource protection role. There was lots of discussion in a group dominated by public safety officials, but we’ll keep you posted as the group works towards its final report. Recent editorials show how volatile this issue has become.
- Maine’s Workforce and Economic Development Committee met to discuss next steps. It looks like consensus is centering on establishing some public hearings to gather more information on how to enhance Maine’s workplace.
- The Utilities Committee met to discuss Renewable Energy Policies on Sept. 20. I believe some of the pending issues on wind power zoning in the UT will come up during these off session meetings and we will follow that discussion.
- The mining regulations are out for public comment with a hearing scheduled for October 17, MFPC will comment on the rules but the technical nature of the discussion will require input from experts working for individual members.
- We anticipate that the EPA general use permit for aerial application of pesticides will be out soon and we will keep you posted.
- MFPC submitted comments on the air quality rules, including pointing out that, “The facts, the law and the science support the proposed change to the State Implementation Plan. Maine has been in compliance with ozone standards since 2004. Approval will not lead to harmful ozone levels in Maine, other states, or the Canadian provinces. Emissions from Maine sources neither cause nor contribute to excessive levels of ozone found in parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other states. As a society we set a goal, assuming no reductions would occur in Maine smokestack emissions. In fact, Maine mills reduced emissions and met the goal without the need to be “taxed” by the requirement to purchase emission offset credits. We found another path to reach our high standard. “
Landowner Committee: On September 5, the committee met at the Huber offices in Old Town. Much of the meeting was focused on organizing our efforts around covering county government issues since both LUPC planning and UT budgets are managed at the county level. County MFPC chairs were established and a network of communication will be set u by staff to keep members informed. For example, Sue Aygarn of LandVest reported that the request for individuals in Washington County interested in serving as a LUPC commissioner was advertised and names are being evaluated. Current LUPC topics on forest management roads and regional planning were discussed. Patrick also updated the group on the amicus brief filed by MFPC in the Goose Rocks Beach case, which will be argued before the Law Court on November 19 at 2:55 p.m. in Bangor. The Law Court now live streams oral arguments on its website so you can log on and listen as well.
Wildlife Committee: Read Barry Burgason’s report.
September has been a busy month with the annual meeting, pending legislative tour, economic publication and an awakening Legislature. This fall Roberta and I will be available to do talks about our economic opportunities for the forest industry starting with a series of discussions with public groups in Aroostook — all set up by Don Tardie. We’ll even make an appearance on the Potato Pickers morning show (5 a.m.)
We will be trying to build momentum on the importance of our industry to the state of Maine, trying to get into the political platforms of all the candidates and moving Maine into a stronger manufacturing economy. Let us know if you see opportunities for us to present this information to your management team or to business leaders in your area.