Did You know
After some of the toughest years in the long history of Maine’s forest products industry, a new, stronger forest economy is emerging thanks to investments of about $1 billion.

SFI invites participation in SFI Standard Revision process

SFI’s mission is to advance sustainability through forest-focused collaborations. As part of the collaborative process, SFI invites all interested parties to participate in the SFI Standard Revision process.

The first draft of the new SFI Standards will be available for public comment on May 1, 2020. This will launch a 60-day public comment period that will be open through June 30th. This draft will include recommendations by the Standards Revision Task Groups, the SFI Resources Committee and the SFI Board of Directors based on comments SFI received during the first public comment period last year. You will receive a dedicated email about the launch of the public comment period on May 1st with the link to the online platform. Information will also be posted on our website.

SFI originally planned to conduct regional workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada, but due to COVID-19 we canceled those in-person workshops. In order to present the major enhancements, as well as provide opportunity to comment on the proposed revisions and enhancements, SFI will conduct nine webinars (see chart below) focused on specific themes and requirements in the Standards. Below is the complete schedule and scope for the webinars.

If you are unable to attend a webinar, you can still submit comments online and SFI will record all workshop webinars and make them available after the meetings.

SFI Standard Revision Process Webinars Schedule


Click on the title of a webinar below to link to the Zoom meeting.

INTRODUCTION OF NEW DRAFT STANDARDS
May 5, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00 EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
SFI will present the major enhancements to the SFI Standards based on the first comment period. This webinar will serve as an informative webinar to introduce the series of themed webinars.
LOGGER TRAINING AND EDUCATION
May 6, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00 EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
Logger training and education is a critical requirement in the SFI Standard to ensure all wood is harvested in a responsible way. This webinar will focus on new enhancements to the logger training requirements as well as increased recognition of Certified Logging Companies.
INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW DRAFT STANDARDS - FRENCH SESSION
May 15, 2020: 1:00 – 4:00 EDT (10:00 – 1:00 PDT)
SFI will present this webinar in French with a focus on the major enhancements to the SFI Standards.
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION & ADAPTATION
May 21, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00 EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
SFI identified the need to address climate change mitigation and adaptation in the SFI Standard through a new Objective. This webinar will focus on the new Objective, Performance Measures and Indicators.
CONSERVATION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
May 26, 2020: 1:00 – 4:00 EDT (10:00 – 1:00 PDT)
This webinar will focus on the enhancements to Objective 4 in the Forest Management Standard and Objective 1 in the Fiber Sourcing Standard related to the conservation of biological diversity. SFI will share enhancements related to forest conversion in the Forest Management Standard.
CHAIN OF CUSTODY, SFI LABELS AND CLAIMS, AND CONTROVERSIAL SOURCES
May 28, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00 EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
This webinar will focus on proposed enhancements to the SFI Chain of Custody Standard, labels and claims intended to provide greater clarity and consistency throughout the Standard. In addition, the webinar will review a proposed new definition for controversial sources.
INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVE
June 8, 2020: 1:00 – 4:00 EDT (10:00 – 1:00 PDT)
This webinar will focus on receiving input on how SFI addresses Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the SFI Standard. Enhancements to the Standard were made to ensure meaningful relationship-building and rights recognition processes.
URBAN FORESTRY
June 9, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00 EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
Urban and community forests are a significant resource in North America and are likely to continue to increase in significance based upon demographic, economic, and environmental trends. This webinar will explore the potential value of collaborating to develop a customized urban forest certification standard.
RECAP WEBINAR
June 25, 2020: 1:00 – 3:00EDT (10:00 – 12:00 PDT)
This webinar will recap all discussions and conversations from the previous webinars and allow anyone to comment on other parts of the SFI Standards revision that may not have been discussed.

SWIFT action positively impacts women in forestry

University of Maine conducts research in Demeritt Forest adjacent to campus.

ORONO — Just as a healthy forest is a diverse forest, a healthy forestry industry is a diverse forestry industry.

Judging by the numbers, the profession could stand some variety. For instance, in Maine, just  8 percent of licensed foresters (52 of 680) are women. 

The Journal of Forestry published the study, “An Adaptive and Evidence-Based Approach to Building and Retaining Gender Diversity within a University Forestry Education Program: A Case Study of SWIFT,” in February. 

Educational institutions have a role in increasing those numbers. Research has indicated that colleges and universities’ success or failure to recruit and retain gender diversity directly influences the diversity of applicants for forestry jobs.

In 2016, a group of female University of Maine faculty and students concerned with the low number of women graduating from UMaine with bachelor’s degrees in forestry formed SWIFT (Supporting Women in Forestry Today).

The goal: To increase and retain the number of women in forestry — from education to employment.

That requires plugging “leaks” in the education-to-employment pipeline. Leaks can spring because of an unwelcoming climate, the perception that forestry is a “male” profession, a lack of a sense of belonging, and a perceived dearth of opportunities, says Mindy Crandall, a former UMaine assistant professor of forest landscape management.  

During Crandall’s case study of SWIFT, women surveyed in the UMaine School of Forest Resources listed the top three challenges facing women in forestry as: bias, microaggressions and discrimination; isolation, lack of support and networking struggles; and unequal pay and inequality (in 2016), and challenges and barriers to addressing discrimination (in 2019).

“Increasing demographic diversity in forestry benefits us all, on an individual and collective level,” writes Crandall, now an assistant professor at Oregon State University. “Forestry needs creativity more than ever as we balance competing objectives and social preferences related to land management.”

SWIFT takes an adaptive and evidence-based approach while hosting events each academic year to create an inclusive environment. 

Educational readings, discussions, panel sessions, social events, and hands-on training showed promise as ways to effectively engage women in the forestry profession and increase the likelihood they will complete the program and join the workforce, says Crandall.

Respondents reported feeling more aware, connected, confident, and equipped to recognize and respond to bias and discrimination than before SWIFT. 

In 2019, a respondent wrote: “In the past, I sometimes wondered if negative experiences I had as a woman in forestry were due to something I was doing wrong. When encountering gender bias, I would feel uncertain and not respond effectively. Those experiences made me feel isolated and alone. Now I am able to recognize those experiences for what they are, and I know that they are happening because I am a woman and not because of something that is my fault.”

While enrollment of women has increased since 2009 in the School of Forest Resources, in several years, no (2014) or one (2009, 2016) woman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forestry. 

And although women accounted for 43 percent of graduate students in 2018–19 in the School of Forest Resources, most did not have an undergraduate forestry degree. Crandall says this indicates a potential lack of awareness to enter the profession at an earlier stage.

That lack of awareness could stem from few visible role models. UMaine had one tenure-track female faculty member within its Society of American Foresters’ accredited forestry program between 1981 and 2006. And none from 2006 to 2014.

Crandall says while it’s too soon to quantitatively assess SWIFT’s impact on female student enrollment and graduation rates, the case study provides evidence that small-scale groups like SWIFT can instigate larger-scale positive changes for women in forestry. 

A female student survey respondent wrote that an inclusive environment can help women in college avoid “turning away from what they love professionally to do what feels safer and more inclusive.’”

Another wrote that SWIFT was “reinforcing an image that we, as a department, are doing more than talking about enacting change. It shows organization, longevity, and a positive trajectory for shattering glass ceilings.” 

While progress has been made, the survey results are in line with other studies that emphasize both perceived and actual professional and social penalties for women who speak up. 

And despite the emergence of the #MeToo movement between the two survey periods (2016 and 2019), Crandall says it’s still difficult for women in forestry to interrupt harassment, bias, discrimination, and safety issues.

Multiple survey respondents across both survey years cited the need to address: the confidence gap between men and women; safety; the perception of men that women have physical limitations in the field; a lack of diversity and representation in forestry; and “straight up” sexual harassment.

Multiple survey respondents across both survey years cited the need to address: the confidence gap between men and women; safety; the perception of men that women have physical limitations in the field; a lack of diversity and representation in forestry; and “straight up” sexual harassment.

Crandall says SWIFT’s organizational framework could be adapted and incorporated in other settings that have a goal of improving experiences and retention of women in forestry.

Laura Kenefic, faculty associate in the UMaine School of Forest Resources and a U.S. Forest Service research forester; Jessica Leahy, professor in the UMaine School of Forest Resources; Kara Costanza, U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist; and Jenna Zukswert, a former UMaine employee who’s now a Ph.D. student at the State University of New York, conducted the research with Crandall.

The Journal of Forestry published the study, “An Adaptive and Evidence-Based Approach to Building and Retaining Gender Diversity within a University Forestry Education Program: A Case Study of SWIFT,” in February. 

Contact: Mindy Crandall, Mindy.Crandall@oregonstate.edu, 541.737.7408; Jessica Leahy, jessica.leahy@maine.edu; Laura Kenefic, laura.kenefic@usda.gov; Beth Staples, beth.staples@maine.edu, 207.581.3777

 

Covid-19 federal and state resources and guidance

For more on the Paycheck Protection Program, please go here.

For more on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, please click here

 

Information is posted in the order that MFPC received it

Rep. Golden

Join a Tele-Town Hall With Congressman Jared Golden: On Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9,  at 6:30 p.m., Congressman Jared Golden is holding listening sessions by phone for Maine small businesses to  hear from small businesses about their challenges during the coronavirus crisis and what resources they will need going forward. SBA Administrator Amy Bassett, Maine Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors, and representatives of the state’s credit unions and banks will be joining Congressman Golden to answer questions and offer guidance about the programs and resources available to help small businesses stay afloat during this crisis. If you would like to participate, please register online at golden.house.gov/live and call 855-962-1151 when the event starts. In the meantime, take a look at Rep. Golden’s Small Business Resource Page for more information on the small business loans, grants, and other federal programs available during these challenging times.

Maine State Chamber of Commerce: Amy K. Bassett, district director of SBA’s Maine district office, is this week’s special guest on The Bottom Line podcast broadcasting live at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 9. She will join The Bottom Line co-hosts Dana Connors of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and John Williams of Williams Broadcasting to discuss the latest developments and challenges businesses are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and accessing the programs available to businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic through the federal rescue package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. To listen live, visit www.williamsbroadcasting.net and scroll down to “Listen Online,” or catch up with the archived shows.

U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Guidance Letter 15-20 (UIPL) providing guidance to states for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). For department resources on COVID-19, please visit: https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus.

Preti Flaherty PF-COVID-19 Financial Relief Evaluation and Selection Tool

Pierce Atwood COVID-19 directory page where all alerts and updates are posted.  

Resources for timber harvesting and haulers

Additional Resources from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities

Governor’s office and state agencies

Maine Small Business Development Centers Webinars

Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program

Affiliation rules applicable to U.S. SBA Paycheck Protection Program

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

COVID-19: Legal Update – Eaton Peabody

CISA_Guidance_on_the_Essential_Critical_Infrastructure_Workforce_Version_2.0_Updated

What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency –For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles:

On March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a waiver to the Hours of Service Rule for commercial vehicle drivers transporting materials related to the COVID-19 outbreak in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This declaration exempted medical supplies and food products specifically, yet it was unclear how shipments of paper products and manufacturing inputs were considered. On March 18, the FMCSA revised and expanded the emergency declaration. The revised declaration is much more amenable to paper products and provides further clarity for the industry’s shipments. However, more clarity regarding whether pulp and paper-based packaging is included in the exemption is needed. AF&PA sent a letter to FMSCA requesting that pulp and paper-based packaging materials are explicitly included in the text of the declaration. More information at FMCSA.

FMCSA Hours of Service National Emergency Declaration

FMCSA Commercial Driver’s License Actions

Is wood pulp covered under FMCSA’s waiver? According to AF&PA, wood pulp is covered if it is being used as a precursor to one of the essential items listed in the exemption as follows: (1) medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; (2) supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants or (3) food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;

Does the declaration cover packaging for food — for example, produce containers? Yes, packaging is covered as a precursor necessary to the production and transportation of products covered under the emergency exemption, according to AF&PA.

U.S. Department of Labor Q&A Guidance on Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

  • Fact Sheet for Employees
  • Fact Sheet for Employers
  • Questions and Answers document – addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.
 
  • IRS Filing and Payment Relief Regulation and Guidance: In Notice 2020-18, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced special Federal income tax return filing and payment relief in response to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency. Linked here are answers to frequently asked questions related to the relief provided in the Notice. These questions and answers will be updated periodically and are designed to be a flexible tool to communicate information to taxpayers and tax professionals in this changing environment.
  • EEOC Guidance on Worker Temperature Tests: On March 18, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance to clarify that employee temperature testing for COVID-19 at operating work sites at this time would not constitute a “medical examination” prohibited by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This guidance is responsive to a request AF&PA made to the Administration following up on member concerns. The guidance also addresses other workplace safety issues pertinent to facilities operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as how much information an employer may request from an employee who calls in sick, and whether an employer can require a sick employee to go home, require a doctor’s note to certify that an employee is fit to return to work, and screen job applicants for COVID-19. You can access the new EEOC guidance here.
  • Trade – Canada and Mexico: On March 18, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau agreed to close the border separating the two countries temporarily to non-essential travel. The restrictions do not apply to trade in goods. On March 20, the U.S. and Mexico likewise announced restrictions on non-essential travel beginning March 21.
  • USTR Section 301 China Tariffs: USTR issued a press release and a Federal Register notice (here) announcing that it is seeking comments on potential modifications to existing Section 301 China tariffs in line with COVID-19 pandemic. USTR’s release stresses that submissions, and consideration of those submissions, would be limited to products subject to the tariff actions and relevant to the medical response to the coronavirus.USTR’s notice indicates that any such changes would likely be in the form of modifications to existing tariff lists, as opposed to exclusions. That view is supported by explicit statements that these modifications would be separate from existing exclusions processes currently still running for List 3 and List 4A products. Comments should be submitted using the Federal eRulemaking Portal on Docket No. USTR-2020-0014. USTR is requesting that comments be submitted “promptly” but no later than June 25, 2020.
  • EPA Compliance Guidance: On Thursday, March 26, U.S. EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) issued a temporary policy on how the Agency would use enforcement discretion to address noncompliance with environmental requirements that results from the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is retroactive to March 13. Key points include:
    — Duration: The policy is temporary but applies to actions/omissions that occur while it is in effect, even after the policy is terminated. Its scope will be reassessed on a regular basis, and EPA will provide at least seven days’ notice of its termination.
    — Conditions: Generally, if compliance is “not reasonably practicable,” facilities should minimize the effects and duration of noncompliance, and identify the nature and dates of noncompliance, how COVID-19 caused the noncompliance, steps taken to return to compliance, and document this.
    — Routine compliance monitoring and reporting: Specifically, if routine monitoring and reporting obligations — including compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification — is “not reasonably practicable” and “COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance” entities should maintain the requested documentation internally for possible later inspection by the state or EPA. EPA does not expect to seek penalties in situations where they agree that “COVID-19 was the cause of noncompliance and the entity provides the supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”
    –Absent exigent circumstances, once the policy is no longer in effect, EPA does not plan to ask facilities to “catch-up” missed monitoring or reporting if it pertains to a requirement with intervals of less than three months.
    — For semi-annual or annual obligations, EPA expects entities to take reasonable measures to resume compliance activities as soon as possible and note the reason for the delay when submitting late information.
    — States: As many states and tribes run delegated environmental programs, the policy acknowledges they may take a different approach.
    — Settlement agreements: For EPA settlement agreements, OECA advises parties to use notice procedures that are set forth therein; EPA intends to treat routine monitoring and reporting obligations the same way as described above. However, for those consent decrees imposed by courts, the courts retain their own jurisdiction.
    — Exclusions: The guidance does not apply to criminal violations, Superfund and RCRA corrective actions, accidental releases, and imports.

Details of Gov. Mills’ Executive Order, effective April 2

The Executive Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2020 and will last until at least April 30, 2020. The Governor may amend, rescind, or renew this timeline at her discretion. The Governor also extended the closure of restaurants and bars statewide

The order requires that Maine people remain at home unless to leave for an essential job or an essential activity. Essential jobs are defined under Governor Mills’ March 24 Executive Order outlining essential businesses and operations. 

Essential personal activities include the following with relation to an individual, their family, household members, pets, or livestock:

  1. Obtaining necessary supplies for household consumption or use, such as groceries, and supplies and equipment needed to work from home, laundry, and products needed to maintain safety, sanitation, and essential maintenance of the home or residence.
  2. Obtaining medication or medical supplies and seeking medical or behavioral health or emergency services.
  3. Providing care, including transportation, of oneself, a family member, friend, pet or livestock in another household or location for essential health and safety activities and to obtain necessary supplies and services. 
  4. Traveling to and from an educational institution for purposes of receiving meals or instructional materials for distance learning.
  5. Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running, or biking, but, only in compliance with the social gathering restriction in Executive Order 14 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the U.S. and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. Travel required by a law enforcement officer or court order; and
  7. Traveling to and from a federal, State, or local government building for a necessary purpose.

Travel Restrictions

The Order prohibits the use of public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be done from home and limits the number of people traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for essential personal activities.

Termination of In-Person Instruction at Schools

Public and private schools and higher education institutions statewide have terminated in-classroom instruction in accordance with the Governor’s March 15 recommendation. The Governor today ordered that all such schools shall continue to cease classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020, or until further Order.

Restricting Number of People in Essential Stores

Governor Mills’ Executive Order restricts the number of people allowed at essential businesses at any one time, mandates that they conduct as much business as possible by curbside order and pick up or delivery to limit in-person contact, and enforce physical distancing in and around their facilities by prominently posting signs at public entrances and on the floor to notify customers to stay six-feet apart. It also requires that they disinfect the handles of every cart and basket between uses, minimize customer handling of unpurchased merchandise and offer separate operating hours for Maine people over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions.

Under the Executive order, essential stores with retail spaces of:

  • Less than 7,500 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 5. Examples of such stores include gas stations and convenience and specialty food stores.
  • More than 7,500 and less than 25,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 15. Examples of such stores include stand-alone pharmacies and certain hardware stores.
  • More than 25,000 and less than 50,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 50.  Examples of such stores include mid-sized and locally owned grocery stores. 
  • More than 50,000 and less than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 75.  Examples of such stores include chain grocery stores.
  • More than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 100 and install protective shields between customers and checkout clerks as soon as practicable. Examples of such stores include Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.

Retailers must enforce these limits and a six-foot separation between any customers waiting in lines. Any essential business which violates this Order will be subject to further on-site restrictions or closure until those violations are addressed. These new requirements adjust and mandate prior recommendations from the Governor regarding essential businesses and operations.

Preemption

The Order preempts any local ordinance or emergency order of the same subject matter that is less restrictive than or otherwise inconsistent with this Order.

Enforcement

This Order shall be enforced by law enforcement as necessary and violations are a class E crime subject to up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. In addition, compliance with Section IV of this Order may also be enforced by government officials who regulate licenses, permits or any other authorization to operate a business or occupy a building. It is the Governor’s hope that compliance will be voluntary, and that formal enforcement will not be necessary. 

Understanding public access to private land in Maine

Hi, neighbor! Maine has a lot of great traditions, but there’s a very special one – unique in our nation – that binds us all together into one big community. Maine landowners have traditionally allowed the public to use their properties for recreational activities, while in other states access to private land is often severely restricted.

This tradition is especially important because Maine is 89 percent forested – the nation’s largest percentage – including the largest contiguous block of undeveloped forestland east of the Mississippi. Of Maine’s 17.6 million forested acres, 15.9 million acres are private commercial forestland. So if you love the outdoors, you’ve probably hiked, biked, fished, hunted, ridden a snowmobile or ATV, or just enjoyed the beautiful scenery in our working forests.

North Maine Woods photo by John Hurteau

The Council’s report — Understanding public access to private working forests in Maine — is designed to tell you about the variety of ways that landowners not only try to be neighborly, but also to be good stewards of our forests. You might know Maine’s forest products industry has an $8.5 billion economic impact. You or a family member may even be one of more than 33,000 Mainers who work directly or indirectly in our industry. But some information here still may be a surprise. For example, did you know Maine has about 4 millions of acres of conserved lands? That’s more acres than Yellowstone (2,219,791) and Everglades (1,507,850) national parks combined.

We also want to reach out to our neighbors about some concerns. Recently, we’ve noticed some disturbing themes in the media, in public comments on land issues, and even at the Maine Legislature. People are speaking and writing about our forestlands as if they owned them. They are saying “our access roads,” and “these are not just roads for logging trucks to use.” Some refer to working forests as “pristine wilderness.” Some complain about the sights and sounds of our people doing their jobs and some even insist, “the land is our heritage, and it should belong to all Maine residents.”

Such comments show a serious misunderstanding of the nature of a working forest and the tradition of public access. So we just want to set the record straight.

Although landowners have traditionally allowed public access, the type and extent of recreational use allowed is at the discretion of the landowner. Uses must be safe and compatible with timber harvesting. Landowners make access decisions based on their own policies and activities, the land’s location, and the history of public behavior on their property. Compatible uses might range from none, to non-motorized, to unrestricted.

Logging roads and bridges are private infrastructure, paid for and maintained by landowners to facilitate the movement of forest products to mills. Roads are built and maintained for timber harvesting and it costs a lot of money to keep them ready for logging trucks. Recreational use of these roads is a secondary benefit, not a design purpose. At the very least, anyone using a logging road should understand that logging trucks have the right of way.

Our fundamental concern is that the rights of private landowners not be limited in order to fulfill the desires or meet the demands of recreational visitors seeking a “wilderness experience.” It is wrong to impose a visual and land use regime on the working forest landscape, because that would limit landowners’ opportunities and their willingness to allow public access.

Fortunately, many recreational users do understand that public use of private land is a privilege and not a right, so they are working more closely with landowners. They recognize and respect the sights and sounds of sustainable forest management. They also understand the forest products industry is crucial to our state’s economy.

Landowners also recognize the importance to our economy and quality of life of keeping private land open for public recreational use. With 90 percent of Maine’s forestland in private hands, it would be a small world for all if we could only hike, hunt, ride recreational vehicles, take photos or watch wildlife on our own property.

Even though growing and harvesting timber is the primary objective on these forestlands, landowners strongly support many other compatible uses, including protecting wildlife habitat, allowing recreation and encouraging renewable energy. We hope those who enjoy recreational access to working forests will work with us to make sure it can be preserved.

Great turnout and program at Legislative Breakfast

Executive Director Patrick Strauch

Attendance was great at the MFPC’s Legislative breakfast — more than 70 people, including about 30 legislators — at the Senator Inn Jan. 30. But 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.
 
“Maine should provide incentives for traditional and new construction methods that utilize wood as a primary building material, and actively support the use of products that have lower carbon footprints in the construction of public buildings,” Strauch said. “Long-lived wood products from sustainably managed forests have the benefit of storing carbon while leaving a growing resource that continues to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.”

Catherine Robbins-Halstead

Following Strauch’s presentation was an update on sawmillsupdate on sawmills by Catherine Robbins-Halstead, manager and co-owner, Robbins Lumber in Searsmont. She is part of the fifth generation to run this family-owned mill.

“By 2050, we will be adding 2.3 billion people to the world’s population,” Robbins-Halstead said. “That is 80 million people per year – the equivalent of a new United States every 4 years. They will all need homes. These homes can be made out of wood.  A 20-story building of wood grows every 13 minutes in North America. The average wooden urban house can store 48 metric tons of carbon. ”

Scott Beal, Communications and Environmental Manager at Woodland Pulp, provided a pulp and paper update, emphasizing recycling and renewability in the industry.

“The Kraft pulping process is a process that is unique to our industry” Beal said. “It is a process that was, arguably, at the vanguard of the business of recycling. It is a process that is in every sense of the term, ‘carbon neutral.’ And last, but certainly not least, it is a process that is in every sense of the word: ‘renewable.’”

Chris Fife

Finally, Chris Fife, public affairs manager at Weyerhaeuser, talked about the strong industry support that allowed for Tri-County Technical Center (TCTC) in Dexter to add log truck and loader training to its commercial driver’s license training program. The Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund contributed $20,000 and other MFPC members also donated, including Pallet One, Pleasant River Lumber and Seven Islands. Weyerhaeuser also loaned an experienced logging truck drive to the program. 

“Five students who received their Class As enrolled in the program last spring and are currently working with Mark Niles – a 40-year career as a logging truck driver — who is on Weyerhaeuser’s payroll,” TCTC Director Patrick O’Neill wrote in a letter to Chris Fife. “He is on loan to us every other day and takes these five trainees out to wood lots to observe harvesting, loading and mill deliveries.  The students have actually moved loads to local mills and processing plants as they gain experience driving and handling this type of cargo.”

FOR/Maine focuses on Phase II — implementation

MFPC Board members listened to wide-ranging reports and discussed issues from work force options to the progress of FOR/Maine .

The Forest Opportunity Roadmap is now rolling into Phase II, which is “an implementation of the possibilities and pursuits that we identified in the data gathering process (Phase I),” said Steve Schley, chair of the FOR/Maine Executive Committee.

“We’re looking at some of these technologies and we’re actually entertaining CEOs of companies who are coming to Maine and saying, ‘Where might your ideas fit our forest economy and add to diversify and strengthen in existing operations and/or new operations?” Schley told the MFPC Board.

The work of FOR/Maine continues to be accomplished through a robust and dynamic committee structure, said Brianna Bowman, FOR/Maine program director, who has prepared the report below outlining what Phase II will mean for each committee. There also is a new FOR-Maine Phase II  fact sheet and a presentation on How Maine Developed a Vision & Strategic Plan For Its Forest Sector. FOR Maine also has sent out a request for proposals for a communication and outreach plan.

Market Attraction: In Phase I, the Global Market Analysis committee focused on identifying opportunities for expansion of Maine’s forest economy based on an understanding of wood availability, global market dynamics and the existing industry operators in Maine. Findings from this report indicated that Maine can be globally competitive in the production of 6 products (list here). In Phase II, Global Analysis work has shifted towards Market Attraction. The Market Attraction committee has initiated an RFP process to secure a consultant who will guide market attraction efforts for these six products by assessing our business attraction environment, recommending and developing marketing materials, and providing FOR/Maine with the information and connections necessary to generate and develop leads, resulting in the attraction of companies to Maine who will use our abundant softwood pulp and residuals. This committee is also exploring options for streamlining our business attraction pipeline, and creating specific contacts and protocols for forest industry leads.

Wood Supply: Understanding Maine’s wood supply has been foundational to the FOR/Maine effort as we seek to expand the forest economy while preserving a legacy of sustainable forest management. In Phase I the wood supply committee identified that Maine’s abundance of spruce-fir and residuals provide opportunities for growth, and that a significant amount of the wood resource is located on parcels controlled by small landowners. In Phase II, the Wood Supply Committee will continue to refine yield curves to explore scenarios for growth in the industry, and will work to engage small landowners to educate them on a variety of options for land management.

Transportation: The work of identifying priority improvements to Maine’s transportation infrastructure that will benefit the forest economy has been underway since before FOR/Maine was formalized and will continue into Phase II. A recent report from AECOM identifies the current state and potential improvements to Maine’s ports, rail and roads. The Transportation Committee is in the process of determining the best options for adoption or implementation of select findings from the report, and continues to strengthen relationships with Maine DOT.

Emerging Technology: The work of the Emerging Technology committee will remain consistent to the Phase I mission of identifying and amplifying emerging technologies that are a potential win for Maine. Monthly stakeholder inquiries track new developments and partnerships between Maine & Co, MITC, the University of Maine, DECD and Biobased Maine continue to evolve. Phase II work is focusing on formalizing a process for identifying promising technologies and companies, assessing their readiness for development in Maine, and handing off the lead to Market Attraction. The committee is interested in focusing their list of potential technologies and conducting rigorous assessment of each, while remaining aware of new opportunities through participation at national and global trade shows and conferences.

Community: FOR/Maine’s efforts remain grounded in the forest economies that support and are supported by industrial development. Lessons learned through listening sessions in Phase I continue to guide Phase II’s work, and the committee is focusing on pre-development and implementation needs through conducting readiness trainings and workshops that will seed relationships between investors and community leaders, and demystify funding mechanisms that may make investment in Maine’s forest economy attractive.

Workforce: The Workforce Committee, a new addition to Phase II, is focusing on mainstreaming the forest economy in existing workforce efforts, understanding the demand for workers, and developing outreach and recruitment strategies informed by a clear and compelling career pathway. This work is just beginning and a strategy and implementation plan are emerging.

Schley had high praise for the industry’s partners in the FOR/Maine effort, such as Maine’s congressional delegation, Maine Development Foundation, Biobased Maine, the University of Maine, Maine Technology Institute and others, including “the incredible contributions by all of our member companies of their time and effort.”

“As you get opportunities,” Schley told the MFPC Board, “don’t forget to remind the governor, commissioners and legislators that we’re looking at the opportunity to add 30% growth to an $8 billion industry. The number of jobs and economic value that comes from going from $8 billion to $12 billion is so much – it’s an exponential difference – than taking a $500 million industry and making it a $1.5 billion industry. That growth factor is just extraordinary. So we’re hopeful to make that happen.”

Baskahegan sells carbon offsets from Maine forest

The project comprises over 86,000 acres of hardwood and conifer forest in northern Washington County

Baskahegan Co., a Forest Stewardship Council® certified forest, recently announced the sale of carbon offset credits from the Bluesource – Baskahegan Improved Forest Management Project in Brookton, Maine. In 2018, the project generated nearly 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission reductions. The offset credits were sold into the California cap-and-trade market to help regulated entities meet greenhouse gas reduction requirements and into the voluntary market to help corporations achieve sustainability goals.

The project comprises over 86,000 acres of hardwood and conifer forest in northern Washington County. A generation of careful forest management has produced a standing volume of trees well in excess of average stocking levels in Maine. 

“Managing our forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change is a reflection of the family’s values and completely consistent with our long-term objectives for the forest,” said Baskahegan President Roger Milliken. “In addition to providing sustainable annual harvests of valuable timber, the protection of wildlife habitats and the provision of clean water, we are happy that our management also contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC), applauded the move by Baskahegan, which is a member of the council. 

“The Council includes a diversity of landowners and manufacturers all focused on growing trees and making wood products that sequester carbon from the atmosphere,” Strauch said. “We concur with this recent statement by the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change: ‘In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.’”

A recent statement by the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change: ‘In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.’”

Bluesource completed the carbon calculations on the property and led the project through a series of standards, regulatory bodies and third-party auditors including the American Carbon Registry, S&A Carbon, LLC, and ultimately the California Air Resources Board. Bluesource also facilitated the sale of credits to ensure revenue was generated from Baskahegan’s sustainable actions.

“The Baskahegan project is an excellent example of how the California market is incentivizing landowners across the country to manage their land in ways that benefit air, water and wildlife, as opposed to solely focusing on timber revenues. Bluesource is proud to have partnered with Baskahegan to make this carbon project such a success,” said Josh Strauss, Bluesource vice president of Blue Source.

Bluesource is a market-maker, advisor and capital source for environmental markets. For more than 20 years, Bluesource has been a leader in climate change and low carbon environmental products and services.

“Maine’s private forest lands bring many benefits to our state, but their importance to the climate is often overlooked,” said Mark Berry, direct of the Nature Conservancy’s forest program in Maine. “Baskahegan’s forest carbon offset project underscores their long-term commitment to forest stewardship, and will help ensure the sustainability of forest management and timber harvest on this property for the next 100 years.”

Baskahegan is a family company dedicated to the long-term stewardship to develop the natural potential of Baskahegan’s forest to produce value for both present and future generations.

“I think about my three young kids whenever I am on Baskahegan land,” said John Manganello, Baskahegan vice president and a fourth-generation owner. “It is good knowing that this landscape will be managed to benefit future generations of all stakeholders. This project indicates our continued commitment to sustainable forestry while enabling Maine’s greatest natural resource be part of the needed climate change solution for years to come.” The company will celebrate its 100th year in 2020.

MFPC Special Report: How drones are changing forestry

By Roberta Scruggs, MFPC communication director

When Regional Forest Ranger Jeff Currier first suggested that the Maine Forest Service explore using drones, he sold the idea with a scenario everyone who works in the woods fears and many have experienced. Driving past or walking through a forest and thinking, “I smell wood smoke.”

Tracking that smell is tough, especially when the sun is setting, the wind drops and it’s too late to call in a helicopter. The traditional response, Currier said, was to walk through the woods, sometimes for hours, trying to locate the smoke’s source. Now, there’s a more high-tech option.

“With a drone and georeferencing of the photos and the video,” Currier said, “I can take a GPS point and say, ‘OK, ranger, plug these coordinates in and walk directly to it.’”

Regional Ranger Jeff Currier gets ready to fly MFS drone.

Currier has a 17-second video (above) illustrating that exact scenario. Lightning ignited a fire that rangers could smell, but not see. Currier sent  up a drone, panned 360 degrees, spotted smoke, flew the drone to it and pointed the camera down at a small fire.

“Every fire starts small, so we want to kill them quick,” Currier said. “It’s just incredible how much time the drone saves. How much energy it saves. How much smarter we can be. It’s a really great tool. And this is just the beginning.”

In Maine, drones already are contributing to sustainable forest management plans, monitoring harvest operations, finding forest fires, tracking invasive insect infestations, search and rescue, and much more.

“Right now, we’re using UAVs to help identify wet areas that need to be checked ahead of spray operations and to monitor active harvest operations for BMPs and utilization,” said Chris Fife, Weyerhaeuser’s public affairs manager for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The world’s first quadcopter was invented in 1907  by brothers Jacques and Louis Bréguet of France. It was unsteerable, required four men to steady it and lifted just 2 feet off the ground in its first flight. Wikipedia

Drones are often referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which refers only to the aircraft, not the ground control and communications units, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  They’ve been around a lot longer than you might think. As with many technologies, the first uses were military, including development of the first machine that today’s users might recognize as a drone, which dates to 1907

Think of Maine’s 17.6 million acres of forestland – as well as the rest of the world — as a giant laboratory where ingenious new uses for drones are discovered all the time. Drones are being used to catch fishwash windows, and sell homes 68 percent faster than houses without aerial images, according to MLS statistics.

Sales really took off in 2016 when DJI, the world’s largest manufacturer, released its Phantom 4, with smart computer vision and machine learning technology. It could avoid obstacles and intelligently track and photograph people, animals, or objects.

Since then, it’s become hard to even keep track of the ways drones have impacted society.

On Nov. 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the latest statistics on U.S. drones: 

  • 1,499,839 Drones Registered
    • 1,079,610 Recreational Drones Registered (up from 878,000 in January 2018). Recreational users receive one identification number for all the drones they own.
    • 416,210 Commercial Drones Registered (up from 122,000 commercial, public and other drones), which are individually registered. 
  • 158,554 Remote Pilots Certified

The FAA regulations for small unmanned aircraft (UAS) operations other than model aircraft – Part 107 of FAA regulations – cover a broad spectrum of commercial and government uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. It’s very important to be understand and follow the FAA rules. See Fact Sheet.

Another milestone for drones nationwide came in October, when U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the FAA had awarded air carrier and operator certification to an UAS delivery company, UPS Flight Forward.

“This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare and building on the success of the national UAS Integration Pilot Program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation,” Chao said.

Uses in Maine also are expanding. For example, the Certified Logging Professional program (CLP) purchased a drone with a grant from the Northeastern Loggers Association last January and CLP instructor Yves Levesque is now a certified UAS pilot. Several videos he’s shot are posted on CLP’s facebook page.

“We will now provide this service to CLPs and other interested organizations,” said Mike St. Peter, CLP director. “We also are looking forward to using the drone for training and education programs.”

Jason Irish of Irish Family Logging in Peru took the photo above. He’s been exploring ways to use his UAV for the past three years.

Jason Irish of Irish Family Logging in Peru has been exploring ways to use his UAV for the past three years. See video.

“It’s paid for itself many times over,” Irish said. “It’s most valuable in counting bundles. It saves me a lot of time and a lot of walking. I can count bundles in about five minutes. Sometimes I get a call from the feller buncher about how he should get around some ledges. I can put the drone up and say go to the left to get around the ledges.”

The cost of UAVs varies widely. MFS, for example, now has seven drones. The first (and best) MFS drone cost about $2,500, Currier said, mid-level drones about $800 each, and entry-level drones, $400 each.

Soon the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Department (ACF) will have even more UAS. On Oct. 31, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL), Maine Natural Areas Program and Maine Forest Service were awarded a $10, 792 grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund  to support deployment of drones for natural resource monitoring and enforcement. ACF intends to purchase up to 15 drones, FAA-sponsored training, and software to store and process drone images. 

“Drones have great potential to increase our efficiency of monitoring forests, wetlands, and waters, and they can also be a really useful tool for highlighting Maine’s outstanding recreational resources.” said BPL Director Andy Cutko. “We’re thrilled to have MOHF support to help us adapt to this emerging technology.”

Research also is emerging that illustrates the value of UAS in New England’s forests. Benjamin T. Fraser and Russell G. Congalton, of the N.H. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, reported their research in the January 2019 issue of Forests.

“Our results demonstrated the ability to comprehensively map nearly 400 hectares of forest area, using a UAS, in only a few weeks time,” they wrote. “They also showed the significant benefit that could be gained from deploying UAS to capture forest landscape composition.”

Another important way that drones are being used in forestry isn’t likely to be needed much in Maine, since our forests regenerate naturally, but it’s extremely important to forest restoration worldwide. Drones can plant trees.

In Myanmar, for example, a project is under way to restore a billion mangrove trees in an area the size of Rhode Island. Planting by hand takes time, money and lots of workers, but two operators working with 10 drones can, at least theoretically, plant 400,000 trees in a day by firing biodegradable pods with a germinated seed and nutrients into the ground.

A bit closer to home, the Nature Conservancy is using a drone to aid its reforestation efforts in northeast Minnesota and UAVs are being called “game-changers for wildlife population monitoring.

“The drone corridor has transformed Central New York and the Mohawk Valley into a global leader of this next-generation technology, while diversifying New York’s economy,” Gov. Cuomo said.

New York State, which has an $13 billion forest products industry, is even betting on drones for economic development. On Nov. 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced completion of a 50-mile UAS corridor between Syracuse and Rome that will provide a legal testing ground for a wide variety of new technologies, including hardware, software, counter-drone solutions, drone detection, and more.

Of course, new technology can also have a dark side. Drones have interfered with firefighting in forests out west, although there have been no “incursions” in Maine, according to MFS. A Pennsylvania man was indicted in September for allegedly using a drone to drop explosives near his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. A drone operated by a youngster hovered over Fenway Park last spring, putting Red Sox players and fans on edge.

In 2017, the U.S. Army banned soldiers from using any unmanned aircraft manufactured by DJI,  alleging the Chinese company shared critical infrastructure and law enforcement data with the Chinese government. Last May, the Homeland Security Department warned companies their data could be at risk if they use DJI drones. In October, the U.S. Interior Department, which has more than 800 drones, announced it would ground all its drones manufactured in China or containing Chinese-made parts, pending a review of the agency’s growing unmanned aircraft program.

Seven Islands forester Walker Day with Waylon.

Walker Day, who grew up in Lovell, began flying drones as a forestry student at the University of Maine, where he graduated in 2017. Thanks to a partnership formed between Seven Islands Land Co. and the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory, he was awarded the first applied forest technology internship.

The Wheatland Geospatial Lab not only has specialized equipment, including a $30,000 UAV, the staff also has a great deal of experience.

“They’re the go-to guys,” Day said. “They know everything about this stuff.”

Now Day is a forester for Seven Islands in Rangeley and also chairs MFPC’s Drone Committee. Day uses a DJI Phantom 4 pro, owned by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, to monitor the trust’s forestland. 

“You can tell hardwood, softwood easily,” Day said. “You can pick out your dead trees. We use it sometimes if we have areas with a lot of blowdowns. A few years ago we had a huge windstorm that came through and we thought we had a lot of blowdowns there. So it’s an easy way find out that we need to go in and salvage those.”

At first, everybody worries that a UAV will be hard to pilot, Day said, but they’re easy to fly and hard to lose.

“There’s a button on the remote controller and before you take off it updates the home point,” Day said. “So if you lose connection with the remote controller, once it gets to 15 percent battery life, it will automatically fly itself back and land.”

The appeal of UAS in forestry is “pretty obvious,” said Tony Guay, remote sensing specialist at Wheatland Geospatial Lab. “It’s the ability to take a pretty high-tech piece of equipment, that’s very mobile and easy to carry, and deploy it on a job site for evaluating a stand for harvest, for example, or doing post-harvest site inspection.”

David Sandilands, Wheatland Geospatial Lab’s aerial survey pilot and remote sensing technician, added, “It also adds a layer of safety where it can be deployed from the side of the road. The forester parks next to the stand and he or she can look over the area, fly over the area and inspect it without having to walk out into the woods where it’s easy to fall or trip.”

Tony Guay, remote sensing specialist at UMaine’s Wheatland Geospatial Lab.

The Wheatland Geospatial Lab team also provides a service that’s valuable to mills. Historically, mill workers have “eyeballed” a chip pile, but estimating the size of the chip or log pile with a UAS is more accurate, safer, and can be completed in about 15 minutes. It doesn’t interrupt production because the pilot sets up on the edge of the mill property.

“These piles get wide and spread out and chips make strange shapes up top and you can’t account for that when you can’t see it,” Guay said. “So we started working with Verso and a couple of other mills where we would fly the UAVs over these piles. We give them cubic yards or cubic meters or cubic feet and they can see month to month the percentage of change. It’s very critical for them to have an accurate accounting of what’s out there.”

However, UAS do have limits. They’re only allowed fly 400 feet above the ground and generally aren’t equipped to fly in below-freezing temperatures, Day said, but he’s found a model that can fly at about five degrees because it has an insulated compartment for lithium batteries.

“The biggest hindrance and roadblock for us right now is the rule is that you can’t fly beyond visual line of sight,” Day said. “You have to be able to see the aircraft the whole time you’re flying it with your naked eye, unaided by binoculars or anything.”

FAA waivers to that rule are possible, he said, but rare.

Allison Kanoti, Maine state entomologist, also sees limitations related to battery life, flight distance, and processing power.

Close-up of the top of an ash tree shot with a drone. Jeff Currier photo.

“I see them as most helpful at this stage in the game in more intensive survey activities, such as mapping small areas of browntail moth damage; following up on data collected from fixed-wing aircraft; getting a closer look at upper canopy areas,” Kanoti said. “They are also potentially helpful in tracking changes at particular areas, such as the hemlock impact plots we have in southern Maine, and in timing more resource-intense flights. For instance, we used a UAV to look at development of late-summer feeding damage ahead of scheduling flights with the more expensive fixed-wing aircraft flights.” 

Another limitation is that the drone’s view may be blocked by the tree canopy.

“In a forest environment these photo-based techniques see what the camera sees,” Sandilands said. “So when you’ve got a closed-canopy forest you’re not going to see the ground, unless it’s post-harvest.”

There is, however, another tool that can penetrate dense tree canopy — Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which now is becoming a more useful tool in Maine, Guay said, since data is available for much of the state.

Laser pulses are fired at the trees below and the time it takes for wavelengths to bounce back is used to create a 3D picture of what lies beneath. The data is combined with information from satellites to give an accurate “fix” of the UAV position. LIDAR can record information starting from the top of the canopy to the ground, which is highly valuable for understanding forest structure and shape of the trees.

In Scotland, for example, UAVs equipped with LIDAR are being used to build up an accurate map of the health of the forest floor and help protect native Scottish plants threatened by invasive species.

UAVs can also produce an orthophoto mosaic, Guay said, “which essentially is taking a photo and correcting it so the features that are in the photograph are in their true map position. So you’re taking a photo or set of photos and turning them into a map.”

Another application that’s important to Maine’s forest industry, where workers are often in remote locations, is search and rescue. A recent report by DJI noted stories in English-language news publications about lives saved that were saved when drones were used in search and rescue operations.

“Increasingly, UAS are proven to be essential tools for a wide range of lifesaving missions around the world,” said Dr. Robert Bowie of Down East Emergency Medical Institute (DEEMI), a nonprofit based in Orono.

In 2015, DEEMI became the first civilian search and rescue organization to receive FAA permission to use drones. They’ve proven their value in search and rescue, he added, by helping find people in places helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can’t reach.

UAS with heat sensors can spot lost or injured people and deliver precision location information, Bowie said. They can even send information about the lost person’s medical status so that rescuers can bring the right treatment. They also can deliver supplies, including cell phones.  

“We have a duty to use every tool we have at our disposal to help find, assess and intervene on behalf of the lost or injured patient,” Bowie said. “This includes UAS technology with imaging and sensor platforms to help find them faster and more reliably.”

Under Maine law, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) has the authority “to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe and timely recovery” of lost or missing persons.

IFW doesn’t own any UAVs, Col. Dan Scott said, because they are too expensive, especially to deploy across the state; limited by dense tree canopy, and can be borrowed (along with UAV pilots) from other law enforcement agencies, such as the Maine State Police, Maine Forest Service or local search and rescue groups. The state police, for example, used drones a total of 41 times in 2018, according to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy annual report on UAVs.

“On rare occasions, other agencies have assisted us with a drone in a search and rescue,” Mark Latti, IFW communication director, said in an email, “but Major (Chris) Cloutier said that we have found their use in search and rescue operations ‘extremely limited.’”

Lt. Kevin Adam, search and rescue coordinator for the Warden Service, says drones are most useful in searches around open water and open land and they also “have to be very careful how we deploy them because we might have helicopters and fixed wing airplanes around.”  

The fact that UAS  have to be in sight of the operator does limit their effectiveness, including the ability to drop supplies to lost persons, Adam said. “That’s at the most 1,500 feet,” he said, “so we could get people there (to help) quickly.”

“They’re certainly a tool, though, in search and rescue,” Adam said. “I could see how you could use them, for instance, in a scenario like the other night with that rescue on the Penobscot River (in Old Town, Nov. 11). You could have used a drone to maybe drop ropes.”

This photo was taken using a drone with a thermal imaging camera during a winter night time training in early October with about 3 inches of fresh snow. It shows two searchers and the “lost” person being located. Photo courtesy of Bryan Courtois

Bryan Courtois is president of Pine Tree Search, education director for the Maine Association for Search and Rescue (MASAR) and a certified UAS pilot. He agrees that  “drones can be effective in the right conditions. Large open areas such as fields, open water, thin ice, swamps, etc. would be good candidates. Areas with tree cover would not be a good use of the drone. ”

The Maine Warden Service has called on Maine All Terrain Search and Rescue (MATSAR) and the York County Emergency Management Agency (YCEMA) to deploy UAS, Courtois said. The YCEMA has several drones, including two with thermal imaging cameras.

“Another good use for the drone would be to look at areas that would be potentially dangerous for people such as fast-moving water, chemical spills etc.,” Courtois said. “The drone can also be used to get an overhead view of an area such as a climbing accident, which would allow the (search and rescue) command to see the area without being in harm’s way.”

As Ranger Jeff Currier emphasized, people across the state are discovering ways that  UAS can make a difference in Maine’s forests.

Remember Currier’s video of the forest fire caused by lightning? Because Currier had a UAS, he directed rangers to the exact GPS coordinate of the fire. An engine with 1,000 gallons of water was brought to a nearby road and rangers strung out 1,500 feet of hose. In an hour, the fire was out.

“We are just scratching the surface with the very most rudimentary uses of unmanned aerial systems and there are tons and tons of resources out there that are going to help us fine-tune it,” Currier said. “I think we’re going to show people very quickly that we can save time and money and put them to use to do good.”

This hearing on OTR petition was not like the last one

What a difference 16 months makes! 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 Mills administration’s revised petition went before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection Thursday, only six people testified — five, including four from MFPC, in support — just one against. And even the lone opponent, John Chandler, who represented the American Lung Association, said the revised petition was “more palatable” than the earlier version. 

Scott Beal, Ken Gallant and Scott Reed wait to testify in support of OTR petition.

MFPC’s response was low-key, but very supportive of the revised petition.  Brian Rayback of Pierce Atwood, represented the Council, and members Scott Beal of Woodland Pump, Ken Gallant of Verso, and Scott Reed of ND Paper, spelled out why their companies strongly support the revised petition.

“On behalf of the 400 men and women who call Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue home,” Beal said, “we support this proposal and we certainly hope this board will do the same.”

The BEP Board listened attentively, but asked few questions. The deadline for comments is Dec. 23. Read entire revised petition. More information.

We’re also gearing up for the Jan. 8 start of the short session of Maine’s 129th Legislature. We have new bills (see right) that might affect our industry, but we only have their titles so far, no text. There are bills carried over to deal with, too, before adjournment April 15.

The whole debate about some of these issues was just postponed until this session, including Rep. John Martin’s bill LD 1150 An Act To Amend the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law To Encourage Public Access.

There will be a lot of workforce initiative bills supporting technical and community college programs, as well as a number of bills concerning tribal issues, such as water quality. 

There were a number of bills proposed for this session concerning glysophate, but only one approved by Legislative Council, which banned spraying around schools and playgrounds.

The landowners who were involved in the aerial application of glysophate have done a lot of work this summer. We had an audit done of aerial applications and took some ACF Committee members on tour to learn more.

That gives you a flavor of what’s coming our way in the Legislature.

On another front, I was named to Maine’s Climate Change Council, representing forest interests, and we’ve had a series of meetings so far. I’ve been assigned to the Natural and Working Lands group. We meet the first Friday of each month, so our next meeting (open to the public) is January 3, at the Deering Building, Room 101, 90 Blossom Lane, Augusta. Another industry representative on the Climate Change Council is Benedict Cracolici, Energy Manager for Sappi North America, who serves on the Transportation working group  as well as the overall Council.

This is going to be an interesting issue for us, at least from the point of view of lands, emissions and our mills. Eric Kingsley, Peter Triandafillou and Jason Brochu are working on a white paper to organize and circulate our thoughts and circulate, so that we can come up with a good, collective position on the whole issue of climate change.

There’s this tug between what it means to sequester wood – and in some people’s minds that means take wood off the market – versus a balanced approach that both grows wood and sequesters wood into wood products as well. The interesting thing is we’ve got a lot of mills that are coming up with alternatives to petroleum-based products in the packaging they’re creating. So in my mind we’re in position to paint a pretty good picture of where we fit in the green economy.

We need to make sure things stay voluntary and that there is balanced approach, not a regulatory approach to managing. We’re green. We’re the good guys.

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