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.

Information on LD 1691 An Act to Ban Use of Aerial Herbicide Spraying for the Purpose of Deforestation

 

Topic Links
Glyphosate

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Effects on Wildlife, Aquatic, Terrestrial

Cancer Statistics
Aerial Applications
Silvicultural prescriptions
MFPC testimony Final MFPC testimony on LD 1691 An Act To Ban Use of Aerial Herbicide Spraying 5-15-2019
Landowner participants in our discussions
  • Weyerhaeuser
  • Katahdin Forest Management
  • Huber Resources
  • JD Irving Woodlands
  • BBC Woodlands
  • Seven Islands

 

Students get hands-on tour of how engineering leads to wind turbines, composites, pulp and paper, and more

Left to right,  Makaelyn Porter, Wyatt Nadeau, Dr. Sara Walton (UMaine), Kristen Fitzherbert (teacher), Breyauna Jacobs, and Lori Woodcock. The students and teacher are from Katahdin HS/Southern Aroostook schools.

By Pat Maloney, Project Learning Tree Maine Coordinator

This winter, I had a conversation with Roberta Scruggs, MFPC communications director, about new forest products and about the “world-leading, interdisciplinary center for research, education, and economic development encompassing material sciences, manufacturing, and the engineering of composites and structures” at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Hearing Roberta’s enthusiasm for the work at the university’s composite labs led to the realization that Project Learning Tree (PLT) could plan a visit for a couple of northern Maine schools to tour the composites center.

We often hear that students in northern Maine may no longer see job opportunities in the forests, with wood and with wood products. If that’s true, it may be because students don’t heard about the wind turbines, bridges, composites, pulp and paper, health and engineering research. Fortunately the PLT statewide network includes outstanding teachers who seek to bring the best of Maine to their students. So two science teachers, Susan Linscott, Lee Academy, and Rowena Harvey, Katahdin High School and Southern Aroostook Community School, took up the invitation for students to tour the labs.

On April 25, about 40 students explored the pulp and paper lab and experienced hands-on paper making experiments led by Dr. Sara Walton, lecturer in Chemical Engineering. They also examined mechanical limbs designed by UMaine students and learned about the importance of team work when designing new products. Teams may include students from various departments such as Human Dimensions of Climate Change, Graphic Design, Computing and Information Science and the English Department.

Dr. Bob Bowie, lecturer in the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Department, introduced the group to the development of cameras and medical equipment attached to drones! UMaine students have engineered products and cameras that can locate a missing person in a remote area and send information about the person’s heart, temperature, and other bodily functions back to a medical team. A helicopter team with essential information about the person’s condition is then dispatched to the exact location. 

How are wind turbines designed, built and engineered to last? The composite lab has on-going experiments and has “completed static strength testing of a 184-foot wind turbine.” The University of Maine team has been recognized for its testing quality, safety and attention to detail. Just imagine all the factors that must be explored, designed and developed in order to produce the best product.

Wind mills in the ocean? The Composite Lab has a water tank that tests for wave action both for wind turbines and for ships. Students heard about the enormous work that goes into design and experimentation. They learned how creative and challenging the life of an engineering student can be and how the impacts of their work may contribute to social and physical changes around the globe.

Dr. Bashir Khoda, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering, leads the Digital Manufacturing (DM) research laboratory at UMaine. He has developed and conducts the activity “3D printing – the future’’ with the help of Brandon Johnstone, a first-year mechanical engineering undergraduate student from Waterboro, ME. The objective of this activity is to encourage students towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) field and prepare them for success as they enter the future workforce. This activity is the winner of America Makes Innovation Sprint: Additive Manufacturing Curricula Challenge, 2017.

Dr. Lisa Weeks demonstrates a mechanical hand to Delaney Smart, Alexis DeLaite, and Susanna Owens, students at Lee Academy.

According to Khoda, 3D printing (3DP) or Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes are at the core of next generation of manufacturing techniques. This tool-less processes use incremental consolidation of feed-stock materials (polymeric, ceramic and metallic) in their various forms (liquid, powder, wire and derivatives) directly from the digitized model. The AM process permits the construction of any shape and architecture that can’t be done with traditional manufacturing processes. As a result, AM has the potential for reviving the community innovations as well as accelerate the domestic manufacturing competitiveness and hence the overall economy.

One group of students visited the mechanical engineering department where students enjoyed completing a hands-on design challenge with the mechanical engineering department, touring the physics labs, and having the opportunity to view the electron microscope.  Dr. Khoda and Dr. Lisa Weeks, a lecturer in Biomedical Engineering, gave dynamic presentations and students came away from the tour excited about engineering.”

If you are left with lots of questions about composites and all of the engineering disciplines at the University of Maine, checking out https://composites.umaine.edu/

With sincere thanks to many who made the tours possible: Huber Resources, Susan Linscott, Rowena Harvey, Sheila Pendse, the Maine TREE Foundation, tour guides at each of three lab sites that students visited and to Roberta Scruggs for her love of research into new forest products.

 

Girl Scouts eager to learn at 2nd Green ME Up festival

Thanks to volunteers, Girl Scouts learned how to read a tree cookie and some learned how to ID trees.

By Pat Maloney, Maine Project Learning Tree Coordinator

The Girl Scouts of Maine’s Earth Day celebration, Green ME Up at L.L. Bean in Freeport, is a fun day for both the Maine Project Learning Tree (PLT) volunteers and for Pat Sirois, coordinator of the Maine SFI Implementation Committee.

“My impression of the Girl Scouts is that they were a very engaging and interested group,” Sirois said. “Despite the sometimes heavy wind and rains, they stood there eager to learn that it’s OK to harvest a tree and that bigger is better when it comes to stream crossings.”

Pat Sirois and the ever-popular SFI flume table.

The Girl Scouts extended an invitation to PLT and SFI again this year, thanks to forester Sarah Medina, who has served on the Girl Scouts board, as well as the Maine TREE Foundation Board and Maine PLT Steering Committee. The April 20 event attracted more than 1,200 Girl Scouts to a wide variety of booths and demonstrations from Maine businesses and non-profits involved with recreation and alternative forms of energy.

Despite the wet and windy weather, the PLT “tree cookie” table attracted well over 600 girls and their families. Everyone enjoyed choosing their very own tree cookie and designing creative name tags. Thanks to our volunteers, the girls learned how to read a tree cookie and some learned how to ID trees.

PLT thanks  forester Mike Dann for cutting hundreds of tree cookies from his Dixmont woods and our tree cookie volunteers for their enthusiasm and dedication to working with our Maine youth. 

Fortunately for all, the SFI flume table and PLT were, once again, side by side. Throughout the day, people streamed through to learn about water and natural stream functions. Who doesn’t like to play with water? Well, you are welcome to do so while learning about forest management, stream flow and best management practices for water quality.

Sirois, Medina and Henry Whittemore, executive director of the Maine TREE Foundation, demonstrated hands-on ways to protect the streams that run through our forests to everyone from young Girl Scouts to their grandparents. 

The Girl Scouts of Maine event is one that we hope to join in the coming years and we do appreciate being part of the Earth Day Celebration.

Spruce/Fir Inventory and the Spruce Budworm

By Ken Laustsen, former biometrcian, Maine Forest Service

Within the last 100 years, Maine has experienced two major spruce budworm outbreaks (circa 1910 – 1920 and circa 1972 – 1985).  The most recent outbreak was severe enough to require a massive spray program and accelerated harvesting in attempts to mitigate inventory losses due to mortality.

An apparent peak, the 1970 statewide inventory estimated 127 million spruce/fir cords of pulpwood quality.  By 1981, the inventory had declined 9% to 115 million cords.  This data from Maine’s 1981 periodic inventory was used in various modeling projections and the bulk of those indicated that a continuing epidemic and harvest levels would totally deplete the spruce/fir resource by the year 2020.

The next available inventory in 1986, was a state-led effort to again get an estimate of inventory levels, right after the circa 1985 collapse of the outbreak.  This estimate of 91 million cords was a 21 percent decrease in just five years from 1981.  Inventories continued to decline mostly due to harvesting, bottoming out in 2008 and 2010 at 71 million cords of spruce/fir inventory.

Putting this into context with the previous epidemic, in 2008, 25 years after the start of the circa 1973 epidemic the spruce/fir inventory was 87 percent higher than a similar point in 1944, which had an inventory estimate of 38 million cords, which was 25 years after the circa 1919 outbreak.  The spray program, targeted harvesting, pulp mill conversion to hardwoods, and professional forest management; all helped to alleviate the dire projections of the early 1980s.

Help solve the mystery of Maine Forest Products Week

President Dwight Eisenhower proclaims the first National Forest Products Week in 1960.

By Roberta Scruggs, MFPC communications director

Can you help solve a 59-year-old mystery? Why has Maine, with one of the nation’s oldest forest product industries, only celebrated Forest Products Week twice in the past six decades? And why did the state celebrate in 1984 and 1985?

With the help of librarians across the state, we have gathered some interesting facts and one theory, but perhaps there’s more to discover. For example, does anybody remember a parade through the main streets of Augusta in 1984 to celebrate forest products?

On September 13, 1960, Congress passed a joint resolution and President Dwight Eisenhower signed a proclamation two days later, calling on the people of the United States to celebrate National Forest Products Week each year beginning with the third Sunday in October “with activities and ceremonies designed to focus attention on the importance of our forests and forest products to the Nation’s economy and welfare.”          

Since then most states with a forest products industry have done just what every president from Eisenhower to Donald Trump has urged. From Wisconsin to Florida to Oregon, there are festivities during the third week of October to highlight forest people, products and, of course, the economic impact of the industry.

Just not in Maine, even though our forest products industry is older than our nation. Starting in 1605, the availability and high quality of white pine played an important part in the development and economy of the region that would become Maine.

Yet the only celebration of Maine’s forests and forest products during the third week of October appears to be in the Bangor Daily News, which for decades has published a special forest products section. 

Even Maine Forest Products Council members with long, extensive knowledge of the state’s forest products industry had no idea why this national event has not been celebrated here, including consulting forester Fred Huntress; retired UMaine professor Max McCormick; industry analyst Lloyd Irland; state forester Doug Denico, and Ted Johnston, former MFPC executive director.

Maine’s reference librarians, however, are incredibly dogged. Alex Burnett, at the Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library, found the first hard evidence there had ever been a Maine Forest Products Week celebration, but it took some work.

“This isn’t easy to research, especially gubernatorial proclamations and especially before the 1990s, and therefore our research may not be comprehensive,” Burnett emailed. “We searched the entire Legislative Record back to 1897 and found no mention of a Maine Forest Products Week.”

Jimmy Robbins, age 11, of Searsmont, toots the horn while Tracy Hartford waits outside of a lumber truck outside in the University of Maine-Augusta Parking lot. This is National Forest Products Week, proclaimed by Gov. Joseph Brennan, in recognition of the importance of the forest industry to Maine. (Staff photo by Cheryl Denz).

However, he did unearth one long, exciting paragraph in the Maine Department of Conservation newsletter for October 17, 1984.

“National Forest Products Week is being observed through the nation October 21-27, and gets underway in Maine on October 21 with a parade of forest industry vehicles and gear beginning at 2:00 PM. The parade will start at the Turnpike Mall and travel to the Augusta Civic Center where Governor Joseph E. Brennan’s Maine Forest Products Week proclamation will be read and representatives from the Maine Forest Service and forest industry will make brief remarks. People are invited to the Civic Center or to view the parade as it travels east on Western Avenue to Capital Street, then north on State Street and Mt. Vernon Avenue to the Civic Center parking lot. A Special Forest Products Week Supplement in the Bangor Daily News, coordinated by Marshall Wiebe, will be published on October 19.”

A parade through Augusta’s streets must have been thoroughly covered by Maine’s news media, especially the Kennebec Journal, right? Sort of, but another report on the forest products industry captured the front page. 

Melanie Mohney, reference services, Maine State Library, refused to keep digging, even though she “checked both the Bangor Daily and the KJ for October 1984 (3rd Sunday – 30 October) and found nothing. If I think of another avenue, I will certainly pursue it.”

The next day, she had more information and a great find — a Forest Products Week photo that ran on the Local Page of the Kennebec Journal on Monday, Oct. 22, 1984.  It just happens to feature Jimmy Robbins (Jr.), age 11, standing beside a Robbins Lumber truck. Now he’s Jim A. Robbins, the current president of the Searsmont company, which was founded in 1881, and has been a long-time MFPC member.

Mohney also sent “a few more bits from the week of the 21st. They do not address the FPW specifically, but are industry related.”

Maine’s forest products industry did make the front page of the Kennebec Journal during Forest Products Week, on Friday, Oct. 26, 1984. The story was the first of a series on “the decline of Maine’s softwoods,” written by Bob Cummings, environmental writer for the Guy Gannett newspapers.

“Forest inventory paints a bleak picture,” the headline read, and the story focused on the state of Maine’s forests during “the worst budworm epidemic in modern times that has set the seeds of destruction for at least 5 million acres of the 7 million acre spruce and forest.”

Another lead came from Desiree Butterfield-Nagy, Special Collections Department at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library, and Betsy Paradis, local history and special collections librarian at the Bangor Public Library. They sent links to the 1984 BDN forest products section, which celebrated the industry, but also had a story about “Handling the spruce fir shortage in 20 years.” 

“There’s broad agreement today that spruce and fir of market age and maturity will be in short supply in 20 years,” author Jay Hutchins wrote.

The spruce budworm infestation began around 1970 and by 1975 not only Maine, but “the entire region from Ontario to Newfoundland was involved in the largest spruce budworm outbreak ever recorded,” according to The Spruce Budworm Outbreak in Maine in the 1970s. Maine poured countless hours and millions of dollars into efforts to combat it.

A simulation was conducted in 1983 by the Sewall Co., which estimated the harvest level then — approximately 2.9 million cords/year; about 6 million green tons — could not be sustained until the year 2020. Of course, no one knew then that the budworm infestation would soon be over. 

Dying firs turn red during the spruce budworm infestation.

In 2012, Forester Bill Brown of Seven Islands still vividly remembered watching the dying firs turning red and the World War II bombers spraying the forests in an effort to save them. He recalled the frantic struggle to build back-country roads so spruce and fir trees could be harvested before they died. He also described everyone’s amazement when spruce budworm abruptly disappeared in the mid-1980s.

“There was a spray program scheduled and all the entomologists and people from the spray program went out and they said, ‘Where did they all go?’” Brown said. “It was like the budworm had disappeared right off the face of the earth. The whole population just collapsed. Nobody had predicted that or expected that.”

Fortunately, the dire predictions about the future spruce-fir supply did not come true because two assumptions turned out to be wrong, says Ken Laustsen, former biometrician at the Maine Forest Service. 

  • Assumption #1 – The spruce budworm epidemic was going to continue to devastate northern Maine’s spruce-fir forests because the spray program was designed to only protect stands until they could be accessed and harvested. Then the epidemic crashed in 1985.
  • Assumption #2 – The harvest of spruce-fir was going to continue at levels seen from 1975 to the early 1980s. But all pulp/paper mills that could converted their raw material feedstock from spruce-fir to hardwood to the fullest extent possible, mainly because it was cheaper and quality paper could be made out of it.

In 1992, the harvest of hardwood pulpwood exceeded spruce-fir pulpwood for the first time ever. (See chart and more detailed information.) 

So let’s get back to solving our mystery. Kristi Bryant, at the Portland Room, Portland Public Library, couldn’t find any 1960s references to Maine Forest Products Week, despite searching the library’s Maine News Index and looking through many indexed articles about forestry. But she did develop a theory about why Maine celebrated Forest Products Week in 1984 and 1985.

“It is my assumption that the event that you found in October of 1984 could have been the beginning of the event,” Bryant emailed. “One of the reasons I suggest that is I found a book . . . The Natural Resource Industries of Maine: An assessment and statistical portrait has a profile of the Forest Products Industry in Maine and it states that the industry was in a decline following the early 1980s due to a decline in housing starts and building. Perhaps Governor Brennan was trying to prop up the wood products employees and industries by declaring Maine Forest Products Week in October of 1984.”

Gov. Joseph Brennan. (See Maine An Encyclopedia)

The devastation caused by the spruce budworm infestation also probably figured into to Gov. Brennan’s thinking.

Sam Howes, who handles archival records at the Maine State Archives, couldn’t find a governor’s proclamation for 1984, but located one for 1985. Here are the reasons Gov. Brennan cited for proclaiming Maine Forest Products Week:

WHEREAS, the forest products industry continues to play a vital role in the economic life of Maine, the nation’s most heavily forested state, from the growing and harvesting of trees to the manufacture of wood and paper products; and

WHEREAS, the demand for wood products is projected to grow throughout this century and into the next; and

WHEREAS, the forest products industry will continue to employ numerous Maine residents in both forest and factory as they work to meet this growing demand; and

WHEREAS, wood is a renewable resource which will never be depleted so long as our foresters and natural resource professionals continue to find ways to effectively manage our forests,

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH E. BRENNAN, Governor of the State of Maine, do hereby proclaim the week of October 20th through October 26th, 1985 as FOREST PRODUCTS WEEK throughout the State of Maine, and I urge all citizens to observe the important role that forest products play in our daily lives and in Maine’s economic life as well.”

The Irving Forest Products Sawmill in Dixfield

Everything Gov. Brennan proclaimed has, in fact, happened. Despite five mill closures from 2014 to 2015, forest products has an $8 billion impact on Maine’s economy, including about 33,000 direct and indirect jobs.

More importantly, a new, stronger forest economy is emerging in Maine. Just a back-of-the-envelope tally of investments announced, in progress or completed shows more than a half billion dollars in investments is revitalizing Maine’s forest economy.

Maine has something the world still wants and needs – enormous wood resources and well-trained, hard-working people who produce sustainable, renewable wood for an ever-growing global population. Studies show that as population increases, wood consumption also increases. By 2025, there will be an estimated eight billion people on earth and they will need more wood products, from lumber, to tissue paper, to biobased plastics. One of the facts Brennan noted — that wood is a renewable resource — is even more important today than it was then. Scientific advances also are using wood to make many new products, from cross laminated timber to cellulose based plastics to biofuels.

The Council believes there is plenty to celebrate in this New Forest Economy, so MFPC has asked Gov. Mills to proclaim Maine Forest Products week, Oct. 20-26, 2019, in conjunction with National Forest Products Week.

Once we hear back about the proclamation, we hope forest products businesses across Maine will plan events, tours and other activities – and MFPC will be happy to assist — to help our neighbors throughout the state understand the history of this industry and its importance to communities across the state today.

So let’s celebrate Maine Forest Products Week this year the Maine way. We have a great story to tell about our legendary industry.

Contact Roberta Scruggs at 207-622-9288 or rscruggs@maineforest.org.

 

MFPC Board finds common ground with ACF nominee

Amanda Beal, Gov. Janet Mills’ nominee for commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, speaks with MFPC Board.

The committee confirmation hearing for Amanda Beal, Governor Janet Mills’ nominee for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, is Thursday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m., before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Joint Standing Committee in Cross Building, Room 214.

When she met with the MFPC Board Jan. 29, Amanda Beal, nominee for commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF), acknowledged right from the start that her expertise is not in forestry, but in agriculture.

“I haven’t spent a lot of time in forestry. I definitely have a lot to learn there,” said Beal, who lives in Warren. “But what I come to this with is just a really genuine feeling and understanding and belief that our natural resources industries in Maine are the backbone of our economy and our culture and are incredibly important. And I think over the long time span, they are going to be the most enduring.”

Beal, currently executive director of the Maine Farmland Trust, grew up on her family’s commercial dairy farm in Litchfield. She earned a master’s degree from Tufts University’s Agriculture, Food and Environment program, and is a Ph.D. candidate in Natural Resources at the University of New Hampshire. She’s worked on agricultural issues as a policy advocate, a researcher, and the manager of a retail food store that supported numerous local farms.

Amanda Beal sees “a lot of similarities between agriculture and forestry.”

“You probably have a lot of questions that I don’t have answers to because I’ve only known for maybe a couple of days longer than you have that I would be the governor’s nominee for this position,” Beal said. “So I haven’t had a long time to be thinking and strategizing, but I am trying to get out and meet folks and just let you know that my ears are open and I’m really interested in hearing what you all have to say.”

Beal’s strong support for the state’s natural resource industries resonated with MFPC Board member John Cashwell.

“She went right to the fact that fishing, farming and forestry have been and will be ad infinitum the basis of a lot of the economics and character of the state of Maine,” Cashwell said. “They’re important issues. I think she’s ready to learn about the working forest. I didn’t hear anything in the conversation at the meeting that threw up flags.” 

Beal told the board she hopes to get a better understanding of ways that the department “can really support that forward-thinking and innovative work going forward. And really be a partner in making sure that you’re successful in reaching your goals.”

“I do understand that there are some real opportunities in forestry,” she said. “I’ve been following along with the FOR/Maine initiative and I’ve been really impressed that so many different people have come together to work on a vision and a roadmap for forestry. And that gives me hope and excitement for where things can go.”

From conversations she’s had so far, including with Executive Director Patrick Strauch, Beal sees “a lot of similarities between agriculture and forestry,” such as succession issues and a serious need for workers. Both industries are becoming more mechanized and the equipment is becoming more expensive. Both must find balance between environmental standards and production.  

“I think there is a lot that I can bring in terms of my perspective from working in agriculture so deeply and over the last 20 years of my professional career,” Beal said. “But I look forward to learning much, much more from everybody in this room and beyond.”

Jim Contino also noted common ground in the pressures faced by farmers and forestland owners in southern Maine from “development, small parcels and subdivisions to the farmlands. I think that’s one place where we can have some synergies between farming and forestry.”

“Amanda has dedicated much of her career to supporting Maine’s agricultural economy and bolstering conservation efforts across the state. Her wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills will be a valuable asset to the people of Maine as she undertakes the role of leading the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry,” said Gov. Mills. “I know that Amanda will build a team of intelligent people who are good listeners and who have common-sense and a bit of dirt under their nails so that we can bring together the diverse and equally important interests overseen by this department and ensure that everyone gets a fair shake from state government.”

Contino spoke about the need for outreach to forest landowners, saying, “There have been studies that show that the number one most credible source that could be reaching out to them are the state foresters, the extension folks, and that’s never really been resourced well. I think that’s an opportunity for you.”

Beal agreed, adding, “so many farmers have forest resources and they don’t see them as part of their business model. There’s a lot that could be done to help them understand that they could be managing in a way that would be very beneficial to their bottom line . . . It would help the farmers to be more viable, it would help to stave off the development pressure that people are experiencing, if we could really help them to see what they have there as an asset.”

Recently Beal had the opportunity to visit an active logging site and ride in a feller buncher, “which was amazing,” she said. “I really do hope I get to have more experiences like that to help me really understand what the core issues are and what some of the opportunities are that you’re excited about.”

Saying he was speaking on behalf of everyone in the room, Jason Brochu quickly invited her to visit any of their facilities.

“Just like farming we’ve automated,” Brochu said. “We have really high technology. I think people who come through our facilities are always surprised at what we’re able to do. There are so many similarities between what we do and farming. We have a long crop rotation, but we are basically farmers. If you can get out to the facilities when the dust settles – I know you’ll be very busy up front – I know everybody in here would extend that invitation to you.”

Strauch later told board members that Beal “is interested in people’s ideas about how to staff her agency. And I think that if we reach out to her, she will take in all that information. She’s interested in making the right decisions, being supportive of our industry, and I think she’s looking for our advice on getting the right people into the key jobs.  So I would encourage you all to talk with her and invite her out to your operations.”

Board member Terry Walters and MFPC lobbyist Michele MacLean both said they were “very impressed with her.”

“She’s definitely going to need help in forestry,” Walters said, “but I think it is incumbent upon us to try and assist her in finding good people for positions in ACF.”

“She exceeded my expectation,” MacLean said. “Obviously she doesn’t have the background in forestry and forest products but she seems open and interested and genuine in her desire to learn.” 

Mobilizations give Maine forest rangers vital experience

If a fire similar to the Baxter Park fire occurred today, Maine forest rangers would have the advantage of experience from managing large wildfires during national mobilizations. All photos courtesy of Maine Forest Service.

By Kent Nelson, Forest Ranger Specialist

Living in a “fire camp” is not very glamorous. It involves sleeping in a tent with up to 1,200 other firefighters nearby, limited showers and catered meals, 12- to 16- hour work days and no days off. The payoff comes when Maine’s forest rangers gain vital experience in managing large wildfires, which benefits both the Maine Forest Service (MFS) and Maine’s forest landowners. 

The key component of the mission of the Forest Protection Division is to protect forest resources, property, infrastructure, businesses and homes from wildfire. To be able to do that, forest rangers need as much wildland fire experience as possible.  Mobilizations last two weeks and provide large wildland fire (>2000+ acres) knowledge and skills. Forest rangers often doing hard labor on uncontained firelines in remote, rugged terrain. In many cases, Maine’s forest rangers have management level responsibility that affects the safety of firefighters, the public and property on a large scale.

“The qualifications and effectiveness of the Maine Forest Service today, concerning wildland fire management, as compared to that before we mobilized forest rangers nationally, has improved exponentially,” Chief Forest Ranger Bill Hamilton said.” The experience they gain is irreplaceable.”

During the fire season of 2018, Maine’s forest rangers dealt with 557 fires that burned 681 acres in Maine. They also made time for 26 separate mobilizations for out-of-state fire duty. If you include the civilian firefighters who worked with us, a total of 92 firefighters were mobilized to eleven different states as well as a remote section of Quebec, Canada. These mobilizations allowed them to get signed off for national fire qualifications. The positions ranged from entry level/upper level wildland firefighters and safety officer, to public information officer and air support group supervisor. They also went out as part of 20 person fire crews, four-person engine crews or individually, and as single resources.

Over the last few years Maine forest rangers have been dispatched to many parts of the country for most Incident Command System (ICS) positions from firefighter to incident commander. Maine, like other states, is challenged with a dwindling number of civilian call-when-needed firefighters. Crew mobilizations help to keep these firefighters motivated and fully trained, which is a high priority.

Before Maine’s forest rangers were mobilized, their experience on large wildfires was limited. In 1977, the Baxter State Park Fire burned about 1,800 acres in Baxter Park and about the same amount on mostly Great Northern land outside the park. While I mean no disrespect to the brave firefighters involved with that fire, newspaper reports indicate that “most of the fire crews were totally inexperienced.” There were 45 accidents associated with the fire (some that caused injuries) and 24 firefighters had to be rescued by helicopter as “wind whipped flames threatened their position.”

A review of the Baxter State Park fire, dated August 24, 1977, states there were “problems with using heavy equipment” in the rugged terrain and that “more training was needed for using portable fire pumps.” It also mentioned that the fire, which lasted a week, “wasn’t really organized until the fourth day of the fire.” In recent years, emergency management organizations and first responders have developed a much better system to avoid confusion on large incidents.

Maine forest rangers mobilized to several large wildfires during 2018, including the Carr Fire in northern California, which burned nearly 230,000 acres.

After the 9-11 terror attacks in 2001, all federal and state agencies were mandated to use the Incident Command System (ICS). It is now used on all large wildfires (and other natural disasters) and is well known by Maine’s forest rangers. The ICS system was designed to help incident managers organize and manage resources such as firefighters, vehicles and equipment. It is flexible and allows incident managers to change the amount of resources as the incident grows in size (and complexity) and eventually dies down. A team of safety officers are assigned to make sure firefighters are working safely and no one works more than 16 hours a day. Ask any forest ranger and they will agree that ICS can be learned through online courses and classroom courses, but is never really mastered until it you have used it on an incident.

Standardized wildland firefighting training has enabled firefighters from the eastern U.S. to become qualified to help our partners across the country. In Maine, this process starts with getting permission to mobilize from Chief Forest Ranger Bill Hamilton. It is his responsibility to make sure that there are enough forest rangers to handle any wildfires here in Maine before authorizing them to mobilize to other parts of the country. He considers these mobilizations as huge opportunities for the Maine Forest Service as well as for individuals who want to gain experience on large wildfires.

“The qualifications and effectiveness of the Maine Forest Service today, concerning wildland fire management, as compared to that before we mobilized forest rangers nationally, has improved exponentially,” Hamilton said.” The experience they gain is irreplaceable.”

On the financial side, national fire mobilizations also save the state thousands of dollars in salaries. When forest rangers are mobilized their salary and benefits are 100 percent reimbursed by the incident. In 2018, the Maine Forest Service realized $285,743 in salary savings for the hard work of Maine’s Forest Rangers on out-of-state wildfires. Additionally, engine assignments generated revenue that can be used to replace aging capital equipment.

Not all forest rangers chose to be mobilized on these fires. Some have family obligations, important court cases or other training or work commitments that prevent them from volunteering for this type of duty. In some cases, the Rangers that don’t mobilize work extra days to help patrol areas temporarily vacated by mobilized rangers. When this occurs, the USDA Forest Service reimburses their salary and benefits for those days worked here in Maine.

Out-of-state mobilizations of Maine forest rangers, such as Wes Hatch (above), improve qualifications and effectiveness of the Maine Forest Service, while providing financial benefits to the state.

Mobilizing Maine’s forest rangers helps them prepare for large wildfires here in Maine. Not only will they be ready for a large wildfire, but when out-of-state wildland fire resources are brought in to help on a large fire in Maine, the transition will go smoothly. Wildland fire mobilizations are considered a “two-way street.” Maine’s Forest Rangers are happy to help their fellow rangers on wildfires in other states. When we have another Baxter State Park fire, Moxie fire, Allagash fire or fires like the deadly ones of 1947 throughout Maine, then other state and federal firefighters may mobilize to Maine. Due to ICS and qualifications standardized by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), they can literally “hit the ground running.”

Lastly, these mobilizations also help Maine forest rangers strengthen their call-when-needed wildland firefighters. The Maine Forest Service relies on local wildland firefighters to help with wildfire suppression here in Maine. These firefighters have NWCG qualifications and take time off their regular jobs to help with in-state wildfires as well as occasional out-of-state fires. This helps them gain valuable experience and encourages them to continue to serve as on-call firefighters here in Maine. It also reduces the chance of injury, as these mobilizations expose them to established safety protocols and the ICS system.

Maine’s forest rangers are well respected throughout the national wildland fire community. They are proud to use their fire experience to save lives and reduce property loss here in Maine and across the nation. The benefits of out-of-state mobilizations are two-fold. They help improve qualifications and effectiveness of the agency as a whole, while providing financial benefits to the state. We are thankful to our private industry partners, department administration, the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center and all the others who work behind the scenes to make these mobilizations possible.

Let’s reinvigorate Project LandShare!

Landowners across Maine — from as far south as Standish to as far north as Estcourt on the Maine-Canadian border — placed Project LandShare signs on their property.

Click for larger image. Source: Maine Fish and Wildlife Magazine, fall 1989

One of Maine’s most unique, most neighborly traditions is that landowners have for centuries allowed people onto their land to hunt, fish, hike, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. When Project LandShare was started in 1989 by MFPC and the Maine TREE Foundation, it was an effort by the owners of forestland in Maine to make sure that tradition continued. Those were challenging times for Maine’s forest landowners — both large and small. The most recent spruce budworm epidemic had just run its course, leading to the death of millions of spruce and fir trees through the state, and the Maine Forest Practices Act was about to take effect, an effort to ensure forest management was based in science and protected the public interest.

 
Signs went up that read: “Project LandShare. Landowners providing public access. Your care will help keep these working woodlands open for everyone.” The signs had two messages. The first that was that owners of forest land are trying to maintain recreational opportunities for Maine people in spite of increasing use and pressures on the land. The other message was, “Please do your part to keep the land open – treat it with care and respect.”
 
Those messages still resonate today. That’s why the Maine Forest Products Council wants to reinvigorate and expand Project LandShare. Please send us your ideas. 

SFI Conference 2018

From left, John Bartow of the Empire State Forest Products Association, with Bethany and Pat Sirois, SIC Maine coordinator, and Gordon Gamble of Wagner Forest Management at the 2018 SFI Conference in Westminster, Colorado.

The SFI Annual Conference always brings together thought leaders and influencers, including forest sector representatives, conservation and community partners, and Indigenous leaders as well as some of the most engaged forest product customers in North America. The 2018 conference, Oct. 16-18 at Westminster, Colorado, focused on an important theme: When it comes to providing supply chain assurances, producing conservation outcomes, and supporting education and community engagement – Forests are the Answer.

“One of the accomplishments for SFI that stood out for me is that the program has grown to 320 million acres in the U.S. and Canada,” said Pat Sirois, Maine SIC coordinator. “That’s an additional 40 million in the last year. At the conference, we heard the term “scale” used often in relation to what can be accomplished with 320 million acres for a variety of issues from threatened habitats to climate change. Those discussions brought interests from all over North America, Europe and Scandinavia. You got the sense that opportunities for the SFI seem limitless.”

Vicki Christiansen, chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Delivering the keynote address was Dan Lambe, president, Arbor Day Foundation, who highlighted the creative and thoughtful pathways the Arbor Day Foundation and SFI are pursuing. Vicki Christiansen, newly appointed chief of the U.S. Forest Service participated in the “Inspiring Women Leaders in Sustainability” panel, which also included Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; Dana Collins, Executive Director, Canadian Institute of Forestry; Lisa Allen, State Forester, Missouri Department of Conservation, and Laura Schweitzer, Executive Director, Council of Western State Foresters/Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. The panel also discussed responsible forest management and forest health.

Also at the conference, four awards were announced that that recognize leadership in diversity, conservation, innovation, and community engagement.

This year’s winner of the SFI Implementation Committee Achievement Award (which SIC Maine won last year for the fourth time) went to the South Carolina SFI Implementation Committee which was  selected for its ability to build strong partnerships in ways that improve sustainable forestry and promote the SFI Program.

“SFI Implementation Committees do such good work and to be recognized among our peers is really special. The whole South Carolina committee deserves credit because recognition like this always comes down to excellent teamwork,” said Bart Copeland, Chair of the South Carolina SFI Implementation Committee and the Manager of Procurement and Certification Standards at Collum’s Lumber Products.

The South Carolina committee is working with Clemson University to launch a new Center for Excellence in Forestry Research. The committee is also fully supporting a visiting scholar fellowship in applied forestry. They are collaborating with the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation to create a cadre of landowner leaders to encourage resolution of heirs’ property issues. On the youth education front, the committee has joined multiple partners to develop a sustainable forestry exhibit at a nature center and the committee is also building on its partnership with South Carolina Tree Farm and Project Learning Tree, an initiative of SFI. Read more.

  • The SFI President’s Award went to Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and an SFI board member, who was recognized for her commitment to encouraging diversity in the forest sector and for her leadership in advancing sustainable forestry. As a senior executive, Ring inspires other women to take on leadership roles. She is well known for promoting diversity in the forest sector. Through the National Association of State Foresters and SFI, Ring has championed women for years.” Read more. 
  • The SFI Leadership in Conservation Award went to Brian J. Kernohan, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director of Policy at Hancock Natural Resource Group (HNRG), in recognition of his “strong leadership and collaboration skills can be seen in several research projects that are part of the SFI Conservation Impact Project and for his role on the SFI Conservation Impact Sounding Board.  Read more.
  • The Dr. Sharon Haines Memorial Award for Innovation and Leadership in Sustainability went to Jay Jensen, Director, Southern Regional Office, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) because he “embodies the collaborative and innovative spirit that Sharon brought to her life’s work. Throughout his career, Jay has been known for working in close cooperation with outside stakeholders to foster relationships built to achieve sustainability goals.” Read more.

TCTC log truck driver training program takes next step

Driver shortage drives new log truck training program at TCTC.

By Chris Fife, Weyerhaeuser

As Mainebiz recently reported, there is a serious shortage of truck drivers. Do you know someone with log trucking expertise and a desire to help the next generation of drivers get a start? Tri-County Technical Center (TCTC) in Dexter has a job for them.

Thanks to the generous support of MFPC members, including Pallet One, Pleasant River Lumber and Seven Islands, and a $20,000 grant from the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund, TCTC is moving ahead with the plan to add log truck and loader training  to its Commercial Driver’s License program (CDL training proposal). However, about $3,500 in donations are still needed. TCTC also is planning to hire a Logging Training-Behind-the-Wheel Instructor, said CDL instructor Vickki Kimball said. (Logging Instructor job posting.)

TCTC will build on its highly successful CDL Training Program adding log truck driving and loading skills. The program will start in November with a maximum of 10 students who will work with the trainer to learn woods trucking and loading of timber for transport. Safety in all aspects of this training is paramount. Students will learn and will strictly adhere to safe practices and OSHA regulations. The program is also looking to incorporate Certified Logging Professional training. The plan will create a true career pathway.

Norman Beckwith made a long successful career trucking for Comstock Woodlands. With more than 40 years of trucking under his belt, he knows a few things about how to get logs from the woods to the mill and he has more than a few stories to share. As part of the roll out of the log truck driver training, Norm visited the CDL classes and talked with the students about the challenges and joys of driving log trucks. This is a key part of selecting students for the program. After hearing from Norm, students expressed excitement about the opportunity to drive for the forest industry.

If you would like to support the program you can send a donation directly to Maine School Administrative District 46, where the Tri County Technical Center (TCTC) is located. Checks should be made out to MSAD #46 C/O TCTC and mailed to Maine School Administrative District 46, 175 Fern Road, Suite 1, Dexter, ME 04930. The Tax Id # is 01-0275044.

 

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News Archive

Calendar of Events

129th First Regular Session of Maine Legislature

The First Regular Session begins Wednesday, December 5, 2018. Statutory Adjournment is Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
When: Wed December 5 2018 12:00 AM - Wed June 19 2019 12:00 AM

MFPC Golf Tournament

MFPC's annual golf tournament - email Sue McCarthy if you would like to sponsor or play in the tournament.
adminassist@maineforest.org
When: Thu July 11 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM

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