MFPC tour gives LUPC executive director insights into ‘markets all along the wood fiber supply chain’

At Height of Land in Rangeley, Judy East gets a panoramic of LUPC zones in Township D, including lands managed by Wagner.

Executive Director Patrick Strauch was happy to oblige when Judy East, executive director of Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC), expressed interest in touring forestlands owned or managed by MFPC members.

“I appreciated Judy’s initiative and genuine interest in seeing the forests through our perspective, especially in the COVID environment,” Strauch said. 

Scott Henker (center) of Weyerhaeuser discusses natural spruce/fir thinning with Patrick Strauch and Judy East..

The tour on Aug. 20-21, organized by Gordon Gamble, Wagner Forest Management; Hannah Stevens, Seven Islands, Chris Fife, Weyerhaeuser, and the MFPC staff, and had an ambitious itinerary.

Observing social distancing guidelines, Strauch and East drove separately from Bangor to begin the tour at Stratton Lumber in Strong. Then they visited Weyerhaeuser lands, with lunch at Flagstaff Lake, and traveled to Rangeley for a tour of Seven Islands lands. On Aug. 21, they toured Wagner-managed lands and ND Paper.

“The tour gave me real insight into the critical significance of markets all along the wood fiber supply chain,” East said. “Everyone we met spoke of their impact. Whether it was the influence of the varied decisions of many landowners, the flow of raw material, the ability to move by-products and end products, or the interruptions caused by the explosion in Jay, markets came up time and time again.”

When East was confirmed as executive director last November, LUPC’s press release described her as bringing “over three decades of rural land use planning and conservation experience to LUPC.” She earned a M.Sc. Planning degree from the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. She also holds an B.Sc. Biology Specialist degree (Freshwater Ecology), from the University of Toronto, where she majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Economics.

“Judy seemed enthused about the entire tour,” Gamble said. “Dave Harvey (ND Paper) told me they were at the Rumford wood yard for almost two hours.” 

Harvey gave East an overview of ND Paper’s mills in Rumford and Old Town.  

“I explained our procurement of pulpwood into satellite chip Plants for processing into paper chips,” Harvey said. “I also tried to impress on her how interconnected land management is to mills, both sawmills and pulp mills. Additionally, how interconnected pulp mills are to sawmills as a market for residuals.”

The Weyerhaeuser team  focused on softwood management connecting our planning and harvests to what East had just seen at the mill.

“Our senior leadership team toured with her, visiting an active cut-to-length operation overlooking Flagstaff Lake that provided an opportunity to talk about viewsheds and the way working forest protects them,” Fife said. 

From left, Pete Johnson, Walker Day and Nick Baser of Seven Islands talk with Strauch and East.

Hannah Stevens of Seven Islands said it was important that East was able to get out in the field with foresters, learn about various management styles, landowner objectives, and meet with individuals.

“We talked a lot about long-term planning, and how decisions and investments made today promote a healthy and productive forest into the future,” Stevens said. “We talked about the need for regulatory stability in achieving those long-term goals, and the tour emphasized the ‘big picture’ by demonstrating how markets and regulatory stability affect forest management, and the health of the forest and economy.  

“Everyone enjoyed meeting her, and we were impressed with her engagement and interest in what we were doing,” Stevens added. “She seemed genuinely interested in the perspective of the forestry sector, and undoubtedly walked away with a better understanding of the challenges (and opportunities) the industry faces. It’s a positive thing for both sides to have a personal connection, rather than just a company or agency name.”  

East also was happy to hear the perspectives of MFPC members.

“I sincerely appreciate the time taken by so many at the mills, in the woodyards, and in the woods,” East said. “The tour also impressed upon me the vastness of the Unorganized Territories and I really look forward to another tour in the northern region next year.”