“Maine’s Working Forest: Take Another Look” will be the Council’s focus as we celebrate Maine Forest Products Week October 20-26 in conjunction with National Forest Products Week. This is a terrific opportunity to let our neighbors across Maine know the industry is rebounding and that forest industry impacts are felt in every county across our state.
Building upon the work of FOR/Maine and its associated publicity, plus all the investments in research and facilities in recent years, we will focus on the bright future of Maine forest products, from traditional manufacturing to hi-tech wood fabrics, and the related benefits for people, including sustaining our environment, supporting our economy, providing wildlife habitat, and affording opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The four themes for Forest Products Week messaging are: Economic Impact and Jobs, Forest Recreation and Public Access, New products and uses for wood, and, Stewardship, Sustainability and Climate Change
We will convey statewide economic impacts with special importance to rural economies and highlight the myriad of jobs, careers, and new technologies within the forest products industry. People will be reminded of all the recreational opportunities, and corresponding health benefits, that are available to them on (primarily) private forest lands. We will showcase new uses of wood, from food grade packaging and release papers, to nanocellulose insulation and bio-fuels. And we will stress the value of forests in cycling and renewal, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services.
The MFPC Communications Committee is working with Roberta Scruggs, communications director, to coordinate messaging. Our goal is to reach multiple audiences in a variety of ways, from print to social media to events. We will celebrate statewide, though much of the activity will be focused locally and be personally meaningful to the particular audience. For example, a forester may lead a walk and do some Project Learning Tree activities with a school group or a forest products company manager may speak to the local chamber about innovative technology. Social media, radio, TV, print and face-to-face meetings will all be employed. Here are some Ways to celebrate Maine Forest Products Week.
How will you participate? Will you offer a facility tour, hold an open house, write an op-ed or take a school or community group on a walk in the woods? Will you speak to a local civic organization, or better yet, get the members out in the woods or at manufacturing facility? Participate in an event such as a job fair or staff a booth at a local fall event in your region? Write a letter to the editor, do an interview, or write newspaper or newsletter articles? Just think of the impact if everyone of us in the industry reached at least few people. We have not celebrated National Forest Products week in Maine (the most heavily forested state in the nation) since 1985. Let’s make up for lost opportunities!
The possibilities are almost endless. So please let us know what you are planning and if the Council can help you in any way.
Maine Forest Products Council 59th Annual Meeting
Sugarloaf Ski Resort, September 15-16th
Dear Members and Friends,
The Maine Forest Products Council invites you to attend our 59th annual membership meeting at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort on 5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, ME. This year, attendees will have the opportunity to play golf at the Sugarloaf Golf Course on Sunday and enjoy a BBQ at Strokes Bar and Grille right at the clubhouse.
Monday morning starts off with an early breakfast at the hotel before our annual membership meeting. The meeting will involve an election of officers, and a report of legislative activities.
The rest of the morning will be devoted to work force issues. We’ll start off with a presentation by Ryan Wallace, director of the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research, Muskie School of Public Service, on an overview of the work force issues facing Maine’s forest products industry, followed by a panel discussion.
The afternoon session will focus on the outlook for lumber, wood products, and pulp and paper in the U.S. and across the global markets. We are in discussions now about an experienced, knowledgeable pulp and paper speaker, but our speaker on wood products already is confirmed.
William Perritt is Executive Editor for Fast markets RISI’s North American Wood fiber & Biomass Markets, News Editor for International Wood Fiber Report, and editor of Log Lines. He also produces RISI’s North American and European Wood Biomass Project databases. Perritt has covered pulpwood market news for decades and is in regular contact with industry sources, including in Maine.
“Getting a RISI person to speak is outstanding because they are very knowledgeable, able to accurately convey trends and most importantly, they are neutral arbiters, said Ron Lovaglio. “They tell it like it is.”
DON’T WAIT! REGISTER NOW.
Message from MFPC Board President Gordon Gamble, of Wagner Forest Management: “The success of this meeting depends greatly on membership support. As a MFPC member, I would like to extend to you the opportunity to participate as a sponsor. As you know, sponsorship is an essential component to all the events we hold, and it is especially important to subsidize the cost of the events. This allows broader participation of our members by keeping individual expense down. A special form for sponsorship registration is enclosed with your registration materials. We hope that you will join us for our biggest event of the year. Registration forms for all events and meals are below. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our staff at 622-9288 or email Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.”
All attendees will make their own reservations directly with the Reservations Department. To do so, please call 1-800-843-5623. Be sure when making your reservations you tell them that you are with the Maine Forest Products Council Group. A deposit of 50% will be required at the time the reservation is made. They will accept, MasterCard, Visa, Discover or American Express. You may choose from the following list of rooms that are available. All the rates are subject to the current Maine State room and lodging tax of 7% plus a resort charge of 4%.
Hotel Alcove……………………… $105
Hotel Superior/Queen Bed….. $115
Hotel Superior / 2 Queen……..$125
Hotel One Bedroom Suite……. $165
Hotel Two Bedroom Suite……. $195
Sunday and Monday events
Sunday – Golf – T-Times starting at 11:00 to 12:20
18 holes of golf, golf cart @ SugarLoaf Golf Course ……………………………………….……….…….. $95.00
Sunday – 19th Hole Reception
6:00 pm — 19th Hole Reception……………………………………………………………. ……….……….…. $50.00
Monday – Breakfast 7:30 a.m. – ………………………………………………………………………………… $20.00
Annual Business Meeting – 8:30 a.m. ………………………………………………………………….…..…… $20.00
Lunch – 12:00 p.m.……………………………………………………………………………………………………. $25.00
Monday Evening – Reception, Silent Auction, Live Auction & Awards Banquet
5:00 pm — Social Hour/Auction
6:30 pm — Buffet Dinner………………………………………………………………………………………………$55.00
____“Award Winning” Sponsor $300.00
____“Golf Sponsorship” Sponsor $300.00
____“Lunch” Sponsor $300.00
____“Meeting” Sponsor $300.00
____“19th Hole BBQ” Sponsor $400.00
____“Breakfast” Sponsor $400.00
____“Speakers” Sponsor $500.00
____“Banquet Reception” Sponsor $500.00
____“Silent Auction Item” ______________________
____“Live Auction Item ________________________
International trade is a major component of Maine’s forest products industry. The Maine International Trade Center (MITC) estimates that Maine exported approximately $551 million worth of forest products in 2018 to countries like Canada, China, and Italy. This represents about 20 percent of Maine’s total exports. 2018 Trade Stats – MITC.
Top Exports of Forest Products: Wood pulp products topped the list at $199 million worth of exports, which were primarily sent to Canada, China and Italy. Articles of wood came second with $195 million worth of exports to Canada, the Dominican Republic, and China. Maine also exported $172 million worth of paper and paperboard products to Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Top trading partners:
- Canada is consistently Maine’s most important trade partner for forest products. In 2018, Maine exported $346 million worth of forest products to Canada, and $1.8 billion over the last five years.
- China: The trade tensions between the U.S. and China have negatively impacted Maine’s exports of forest products to China. From 2017 to 2018, Maine exports of wood pulp decreased by 20 percents and exports of wood articles dropped by 45 percent, this represents a decrease of approximately $28 million.
- South Korea: Exports of wood pulp products to South Korea increased by over $14 million from 2017 and 2018, this represents a 50-fold increase. As trade tensions with China continue, Maine’s forest products industry must continue to seek alternative foreign markets to replace Chinese demand; South Korea is a growing alternative market for Maine’s forest products.
Imports: Maine imports of forest products from Canada account for more than 90 percent of Maine’s total imports of forest products. In 2018, Maine imported $202 million worth of wood pulp products, $154 million worth of wood articles, and $106 million worth of paper and paperboard products from Canada.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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 email@example.com.
Information on LD 1691 An Act to Ban Use of Aerial Herbicide Spraying for the Purpose of Deforestation
|Effects on Wildlife, Aquatic, Terrestrial|
|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||
Students get hands-on tour of how engineering leads to wind turbines, composites, pulp and paper, and more
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.