Maine has had plenty of rain recently, but as of May 20, 664 acres already had burned across the state, more than in all of 2012, according to Chief Ranger Bill Hamilton of the Maine Forest Service. Fires caused by arson accounted for 38 percent of all the acres burned. Below is the number of fires and acres burned for the past decade. The spike in 2006 is due to an 860-acre fire Down East, according to Chief Hamilton.
By Executive Director Patrick Strauch
This week continued to be the typical roller coaster of legislative activity. After bills are completed in committee, then proceed to the House and Senate, but the timing of the floor debate depends on the whether the parties have caucused on the bill to attempt reaching a unified consensus or if the necessary votes are in position to ensure greater success. It is a time that drives me crazy, but our lobbyist Michele MacLean seems to thrive on the chaos of determining when a bill will reach the floor.
This week we went into triple sessions — morning, afternoon and night! — in order to deal with the backlog of work. The budget was center stage this week and it passed in the House and the Senate last night. The final votes, 102-43 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, were just over the two-thirds majority needed to make the budget effective by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. It remains to be seen if the governor will sign or veto the budget. He had 10 days (not including Sundays) to sign or veto it.
The Senate vote on the merger bill (LD 837) was reportedly linked to passage of the budget, so the merger was approved under the hammer (without debate) just before the budget bill was approved. The environmental community did not protest too loudly after the first House vote last week (93-49) convincingly demonstrated support of the merger.
LD 1103, the bonded labor bill, finally came up Wednesday night. This, of course, was an important issue to Sen. Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), and Democrats honored his desire to wield his might in pushing through a bill that is blatantly unconstitutional. However, I was impressed with the lone dissenting voice of Sen. John Cleveland (D-Androscoggin) who stood up and spoke against the measure.
“Cleveland did a fantastic job on the floor debating the bill,” Michele said. “He was very thoughtful in his approach. He clearly had spent an enormous amount of time researching this bill and the first version from the 124th Legislature. He opposed the bill because of its constitutional problems and felt compelled to speak about it on the floor.”
Cleveland’s commanding performance in chairing the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee has been equally impressive and I would encourage the membership to drop him a note and express thanks for his integrity and support. Sen. Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot) was also strong in his opposition to the bill, and Sen. Richard Woodbury (I-Cumberland) stayed out of the party politics and voted against the measure based on facts. Never the less, the bill was passed with an 18-17 vote. In the House, there was only a brief debate and the bill was approved 87-57. But we have ensured a veto-proof vote and will petition Gov. Le Page to veto this bill.
LD 1302, the mining bill was approved in the House, but defeated in the Senate (as reported in last week’s newsletter). There have been rumblings of a compromise position being developed by Sen. Tom Saviello (D-Franklin) and Sen. James Boyle (D-Cumberland). We will wait to see if this compromise surfaces, but I believe the vote should stand and we will deal with modifications during the rule-making phase of the mining discussion next year.
Legislative leaders have indicated it is their intention to meet the statutory adjournment deadline of Wednesday, June 19. So the end of the session is in sight (and we’ll provide a wrap-up of all the legislation that affects MFPC members), but we can’t leave the State House until the last legislator goes home!
ReEnergy Holdings, an MFPC member and the owner of four biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine, announced June 13 that it has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Standard, which verifies that its biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices. ReEnergy is the first company solely devoted to electricity production to be certified to the SFI Standard.
“I believe we can achieve a balance – a balance between preservation of natural treasures and improvement of the Maine business climate in a manner that allows the private sector to create jobs. ReEnergy exemplifies the qualities of a company that is working to achieve that balance of promoting land stewardship and forestry practices,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “ReEnergy’s commitment to best management practices and a true working forest model is commendable, and demonstrates how working together we can all protect Maine’s valuable resources. I believe that one of the best ways to protect our natural assets is to assure we always have a strong and sustainable economic interest in the health and vitality of farmlands, forests, and coastline.”
SFI, Inc. is an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving a sustainable forestry certification program that is internationally recognized and is the largest single forest standard in the world. The SFI Standard is based on principles and measures that promote sustainable forest management and consider all forest values. It includes unique fiber-sourcing requirements to promote responsible forest management on all forestlands in North America.
“We recognize the commitment and effort ReEnergy has made to procure fiber from responsible sources,” said Kathy Abusow, SFI president and CEO. “The SFI Standard promotes responsible forest management for all forest uses. Third-party certification to SFI Fiber Sourcing requirements promotes best management practices for water quality, logger training and prompt regeneration of the forest.”
ReEnergy earned the certification by meeting the fiber sourcing requirements of the SFI 2010-2014 Standard (Objectives 8-20). This includes an auditable procurement process to promote responsible forestry requiring that producers, among other things, support logger and forester training and encourage suppliers in North America to reforest harvested sites, protect threatened and endangered species, and strengthen best management practices to protect water quality.
“ReEnergy believes that sustainable, renewable energy production is essential to reducing the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels and is committed to creating renewable sources of electricity while respecting the environment,” said Larry Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of ReEnergy Holdings. “In securing SFI certification, ReEnergy has committed to broaden the practice of sustainable forestry with its suppliers and wood producers. Promoting sustainable forestry practices allows ReEnergy to meet the environmental and social needs of the present without compromising the needs and resources of future generations.”
To achieve the SFI Standard Principles, Objectives, Performance Measures and Indicators, ReEnergy developed and adopted programs to guide its wood fuel procurement activities. ReEnergy has committed to annually review the effectiveness of its SFI Policy, procedures, and systems and to continually improve its sustainable forestry program. This is an important element of the SFI program, as it fosters perpetual improvement and independent third-party audits to certify ongoing conformance.
ReEnergy’s policy is to locate its facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located. The company owns four biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine: ReEnergy Stratton (48 MW); ReEnergy Livermore Falls (39 MW); ReEnergy Fort Fairfield (37 MW) and ReEnergy Ashland (39 MW). These facilities create renewable, homegrown renewable energy for their local communities.
“It is truly exciting for these Maine biopower facilities to be recognized as first in the world to achieve such important certification,” said Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-Wilton), a forester and state Senator for the ReEnergy Stratton facility. “This reflects ReEnergy’s respect for the environment and its commitment to land stewardship and reforestation. I congratulate ReEnergy on this tremendous achievement.”
“ReEnergy is leading the industry in using sustainably harvested biomass. I commend the company for this significant advancement of clean energy.”
ReEnergy worked closely with the Maine Forest Products Council in seeking certification, and has become an active member of the Council’s SFI Implementation Committee. “As part of their commitment to SFI Certification, ReEnergy has committed to support the Maine SFI Implementation Committee, which is the coordinating entity for many of the education and outreach programs available for suppliers and landowners,” said Patrick Sirois, Director of the Maine Sustainable Forestry Initiative. “ReEnergy’s support and unique procurement network will provide yet another avenue to broaden the practices of sustainability, on the ground in Maine.”
How biomass-to-energy facilities work
When trees are harvested, the entire tree is not shipped to a sawmill or paper mill. Some parts of the tree, including branches and tops, are not suitable for the making of products. However, that residue is a valuable resource that — using state-of-the-art technology — can be converted to fuel to produce energy.
In biomass power plants, forest residues or other residue fuels are converted into steam that can be sold directly to nearby businesses, or is used to run a turbine to make electricity for use by industries and homes. Highly advanced combustion engineering and process controls minimize emissions from biomass fuel sources when compared with fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.
About ReEnergy Holdings LLC
ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings LLC, owns and operates facilities that use forest-derived woody biomass and other wood waste residues to produce homegrown, renewable energy. It also owns facilities that recycle construction and demolition debris. ReEnergy was formed in 2008 by affiliates of Riverstone Holdings LLC and a senior management/co-investor team comprised of experienced industry professionals. ReEnergy operates in six states, employs approximately 290 people – nearly 100 in Maine — and owns and/or operates nine energy production facilities with the combined capacity to generate 325 megawatts of renewable energy. To find out more, visit www.reenergyholdings.com.
After a week of serious lobbying by supporters and opponents, the Maine House approved the ACF merger bill, 93-49, Friday on first reading.
Executive Director Patrick Strauch called the last few days “a rollercoaster” for the “regular team,” including Tom Doak and Bill Williams of SWOAM, Jon Olson and Clark Granger of the Maine Farm Bureau, Bob Meyers of MSA, Kimberly Cook of the Wild Blueberry Commission and Michele MacLean, MFPC lobbyist. Members of the Natural Resources Network sent a letter to all legislators outlining why they support the merger.
“We’ve also had a significant amount of help from Tom Abello of the Nature Conservancy and Jeff Roman from Maine Coast Heritage Trust,” Strauch said.
The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week and Strauch urged MFPC members to contact their senators and urge them to support it.
“I think that’s really important, even though we had all three senators on the ACF Committee vote in favor of the bill,” Strauch said. “The Senate remains the last place where those opposed to it can work hard to turn around those legislators.”
The debate on LD 837 lasted 45 minutes, but about a third of that time was taken up by Rep. Peter Kent, (D-Woolwich), one of only two legislators to speak in opposition (along with Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport). Kent also was one of the two ACF Committee members (along with Rep. Brian Jones) who voted against the bill. Kent argued Friday that the merger was too heavily weighted in favor of agriculture and that conservation concerns and efforts would suffer. He repeatedly asked that someone tell him how the merger would benefit conservation.
“This proposed new department is focused on agriculture,” Kent said. “At its core it’s about farming and the Department of Conservation — boosting agricultural programs and shifting programs in the merged department away from stewardship and preservation toward economic development potential.”
Rep. Kent represented the position of NRCM and Audubon, which was that the Department of Conservation should only be about their definition of conservation. Kent never mentioned forestry. We were happy that other legislators talked about the importance of a combined focus on land uses for agriculture, conservation and forestry and emphasized how conservation is reflected in all farming and forestry activities. Several ACF Committee members spoke in favor, including Rep. James F. Dill (D-Old Town), Chair, Rep. Craig V. Hickman (D-Winthrop), Rep. William F. Noon (D-Sanford), Rep. Dean Cray (R-Palmyra), Rep. Donald G. Marean (R-Hollis), Rep. Russell J. Black (R-Wilton) and Rep. Jeffrey L. Timberlake (R-Turner).
“We had plenty of support and it was remarkable to see Rep. McCabe and Rep. Fredette stand up and speak in favor of a bold new approach going forward,” Strauch said
In other legislative action,
- At around 5:30 a.m., the Appropriations Committee reported it had reached unanimous agreement on the $6.3 billion biennial state budget. To close the budget gap, the committee approved a .5 percent increase to the sales tax for two years and a 1 percent increase to the meals and lodging tax for two years. Read news story.
- LD 1559, the omnibus energy bill, won both Senate and House (131-7) approval on their first votes. “IECG MPPA and many other groups participated in the process,” Strauch said. “Concepts include a reduction in rates, which is important to all ratepayers in Maine. We’ve asked the question: Can government get involved in establishing natural gas infrastructure? And agreed to do that in this energy bill.” Read news story.
- In an 18-17 vote, the Senate rejected LD 1302, a bill that would have a rewritten a mining bill passed last session, which is still in the rule-making process. The House has passed the bill 91-49 Wednesday. The Senate’s vote makes it unlikely to pass, though it faces further action in the House. “That was a good vote and involved a lot of hard work by Sen. Tom Saviello, (R-Franklin) and Sen. Troy Jackson, (D-Aroostook) to push off any changes until we see a complete set of rules, which will come at us next year,” Strauch said. “That’s the process that we all agreed to last session and it’s the right way to go forward instead of creating so much uncertainty. I think that’s a great outcome. There has been some discussion about a conference committee discussing whether the issues could be resolved. But we’re not sure if that’s the path that we’ll be taking.” Please let senators know you’re against this bill – especially Sen. Edward Youngblood, R- Penobscot, and Sen. David Dutremble, D-York, who supported the bill. It was a tight margin and we need to hold the second vote in the Senate. We were very pleased that Sen. Emily Cain, D-Penobscot, voted no on LD 1302. Read news story.
- LD 1259, Resolve, Regarding Legislative Review of Portions of Chapter 17: Rules Regarding Proof of Ownership and Recruitment by Employers Employing Foreign Laborers To Operate Logging Equipment, a Major Substantive Rule of the Department of Labor, got an 86-56 approval vote Thursday, but that wasn’t the two-thirds majority required for failed to get the two-thirds vote required for emergency action. “So I Imagine the emergency clause will be stripped out and they’ll try to put it through the house again,” Strauch said.
By Gerry Lavigne
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and Central Maine Power (CMP) are collaborating to establish wildlife-friendly seed mixtures along a portion of CMP 300+ mile electrical transmission line right-of-ways in southern and central parts of the state. That project is in full swing, as CMP’s contractors will be using SAM’s Wildlife mix to re-establish vegetation along several experimental plots.
We would also like to offer this new mix to anyone interested in testing it and reporting their results back to SAM. This experiment would be great for contractors and loggers who need to re-establish herbaceous vegetation on disturbed sites like log landings, along logging roads, or on any site where ground cover is needed to prevent erosion. Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts may be interested in using SAM’s Wildlife mix to establish long-term (five to seven years) fall and spring food plots for deer, turkeys, bear, and other wildlife.
White-tailed deer are attracted to sites which offer nutritious grasses and clovers in fields and along openings during late fall, when woods forage is beginning to wane. These foods are important for deer as they lay up fat prior to winter. In early spring, these same grasses and clovers are among the first to green up, and they attract deer in large numbers wherever available. Early green vegetation of this kind allows winter-weakened deer to begin weight recovery just when bucks begin antler growth, and when pregnant does need extra nutrition to produce healthy fawns.
The type of grasses and clovers that attract deer at these critical times of the year are called cool season perennials. This class of plant typically puts on lush leafy nutritious growth in the cooler months of spring. As the heat of summer comes on, they form their seed heads, and become less nutritious for deer. However, the onset of cool autumn days sparks a resurgence of leafy growth, as these plants prepare for winter dormancy. Many of these varieties remain nutritious and green right into late fall. Some remain available under a blanket of early snow.
Here in the Northeast, cool-season herbaceous grasses and clovers form the bulk of the hay and pasture plants grown for cattle, horses and sheep. For our wildlife seed mix, we selected varieties that tend to make good pasture growth, are winter-hardy for Maine, and as a group, are adaptable to a wide variety of site conditions and fertility. In doing so, SAM consulted with agronomists from two seed companies, as well as veteran seed distributors right here in Maine.
All of the varieties we selected are perennials. There are no annual grasses or clovers. Nor are there any of the brassicas, peas, oats or other short-lived plants commonly used in temporary food plots. Once established, SAM’s Wildlife Mix should persist for several years with little maintenance.
There are a lot of Conservation Mixes on the market that are used by contractors, loggers and others who need to quickly establish vegetative cover. Many of these contain annuals, and all contain too little clover (typically 3%) to be optimal for wildlife. In addition, the grasses may not have been selected for their palatability.
SAM’s Wildlife Mix is comprised of 85 percent grasses, including Kentaur Perennial Ryegrass (27 percent of seed content), Laura Meadow Fescue (16 percent), Persius Festuolium (16 percent), Niva Orchardgrass (15 percent), and Balin Kentucky Bluegrass (11 percent). The remaining seed content is Clyclone II Red Clover (10 percent), and Regal Graze Ladino (white) clover (5 percent). Both clovers are inoculated to improve nitrogen fixation. Though more expensive to formulate, the higher clover content of our mix will improve grass growth, and wildlife nutrition.
Because SAM’s Wildlife Mix contains similar-sized , generally small seed, a little seed goes a long way. Hence, recommended seeding rates are lower than for mixes with seeds ranging from peas to brassicas. The agronomists recommend broadcast seeding this mix anytime from spring to early September at a rate of 40 pounds per acre. Hence, a 50-pound bag should cover 1.2 acres. A 10-pound bag should seed 1/5 acre or about 8,000 sq.ft. Seeding rates are a bit less, if seed is drilled instead of broadcast. Germination will be better if a loose, fine seedbed is established, and if the seed is covered lightly or pressed into the soil. SAM’s Wildlife Mix can also be frost seeded at slightly higher rates.
We are offering SAM’s Wildlife Mix at prices which are considerably less than those for typical food plot blends. In addition, contractors will find that our mix is comparable in price to standard Conservation Mixes due to lower application rates.
SAM has purchased a substantial quantity of this proprietary seed mix from Kings Agriseed Inc., located in Pennsylvania. It is for sale at our cost for $120/ 50 lb. bag. We can also accommodate smaller orders at $25/ 10 pounds. We cannot ship these orders. All orders must be picked up at SAM Headquarters in Augusta. To order, contact Office Manager Becky Morrell at (207) 622-5503 during regular business hours, or online at www.sportsmansallianceofmaine.org.
Gerry Lavigne serves on SAM’s Board of Directorsand leads SAM’s Deer Management Network initiative.
By Patrick Strauch, Executive Director
Legislative approval of the merger of the ACF department still hangs in the balance. It should be coming up shortly and I would ask all of the members to weigh in on this issue and support the change. As I work with my colleagues in Agriculture we find ourselves working against misinformation provided by environmental organizations that fear the synergies that would be created by a stronger natural resource department. But as we state in our upcoming letter to legislators, all the needs of Maine citizens are honored in the cabinet of the commissioner’s office. Please reach out to your representatives and senators to let them know you are in support of the merger. We will also send out an alert when the issue hits the floor of the legislature.
This week we have sent out alerts on two bonded labor bills, LD 1259 and LD 1103. LD 1259 will run in the House first and we support the minority report, which says the original rules accurately reflect what the 125th Legislature approved. Whereas amendment approved by the majority of the Labor Committee modifies the rules so they are in conflict with the statute. LD 1103 is a recycled bill from the 124th legislature that sought to penalize landowners who had contractors working on their land who elected to hire legal bonded labor. The penalty is loss of tree growth status and penalties on the forestry excise tax. If you recall the 124 legislature, even Gov. Baldacci refuse to sign the bill. We will keep you posted as this bill hits first in the Senate.
We will piggy-back on the leadership provided by the Maine State Chamber on the challenge to workers compensation reform accomplished in the 125th legislature. Keep a watch for this call to action as well. (See below).
- At the end of last week and into the weekend, council lobbyist Michele MacLean monitored activities of the Energy and Utilities Committee with help from Bill Ferdinand at Eaton Peabody. The omnibus energy bill was worked on and approved by the majority of the committee. Of key importance to mills is the ability for the state to financially support building natural gas pipeline capacity to reduce supply restrictions.
- Also discussed on Saturday were the series of wind power bills that seeking policy changes in the current regulations. LD 385 was voted out to pass after negotiations by the council on Bicknell thrush issues with assistance from the MFPC Wildlife Committee. LD 616 seeks to define a process for removing areas from the expedited wind energy zone that represent the interests for MFPC landowners as well as the citizens of the region. Other bills on our watch list were voted ONTP.
- LD 1468, An Act to Establish the High Efficiency Biomass Pellet Boiler Rebate Program, has a divided vote, but the majority report will involve funds generated by BPL wood sales to be used to finance the rebate program exclusively for pellet boilers in the first two years, but all efficient boilers thereafter. This is one of those bills we have monitored but not taken a position on because it became market specific and favored one wood market over another.
- Maine Chamber says: Oppose majority report to LD 443: As amended, LD 443, An Act to Amend the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act of 1992 To Provide Benefits to Seriously Injured Workers, represents a significant rollback, not only of the reforms passed in 2012, but of the reforms of 1992 as well, the Maine State Chamber reports. “Short version – estimated cost impact on comp rates of as much as $60 million. You read that correctly, $60 million,” said Peter Gore, the chamber’s vice president for advocacy and government relations. Read the chamber handout.
For 33 years the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum has been preserving and building a collection of historical information, artifacts, heavy equipment, tools, and artwork pertaining to the logging industry in the Maine Woods. To our knowledge, and according to our visitors, we have the best such collection anywhere in the state. Our intention is to make it even better in the coming years. This Museum has the opportunity to create a legacy for future generations of which they can be quite proud.
We invite the membership of Maine Forest Products Council to consider assisting our organization to help keep the museum open. For 31 years the Rangeley Logging Museum was open only three hours on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August with volunteer help. In 2012 we received a one-time funding gift to keep the museum open five days a week, six hours a day, with a qualified docent. It was an experiment to gather data concerning all our goals for improved exposure and availability. The results were, in all respects, totally awesome. We have posted that data on our website and RLRLM is now making it a priority to repeat this as long as possible.
This spring we launched our “Open Door Campaign” toward realizing that goal. After completing a 1600-piece local mailing, we are now reaching out electronically to the Maine logging industry and our Internet friends to help meet our our goal of funding in order to keep our doors open and remain viable into the future.
We hope you will seriously consider helping RLRLM by first visiting our website where you will get an overview of what we are about…and then by clicking on the “Open Door Campaign” button where you will have the all information about how to make your valuable donation. Donations from the industry will be recognized on our website with active links to your website. Please contact us directly if your organization or company would consider being a sponsor for one of our many summer events. RLRLM is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Your contribution may be tax deductible.
We invite you to come visit our museum when we do open our doors as of June 19th. Our hours are Wednesday through Sunday 11-5, or by appointment. We look forward to seeing you in Rangeley this summer! Thank you in advance for your generous donation.
Please “like” us on Facebook and keep up with all that happens at the Museum throughout the year, enjoy photos, postings of current info about events, and news.
Carol Sullivan, RLRLM publicity director
‘Best we’ve felt in a long time,’ Commissioner Whitcomb says after latest ACF merger changes approved
The discussion of the ACF merger bill Thursday was quiet, short and mostly technical, but the vote to approve this version of LD 837 was another major step, said ACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb.
When asked after the work session if he was relieved, Whitcomb smiled. “Oh yes,” he said. “It’s the best we’ve felt in a long time.”
The ACF Committee voted to approve various changes in Parts B, C and D of LD 837, including shifting of positions in the department, thus avoiding a bill that would have added any new ones, and changes in names, such as replacing the word “bureau” with “division.”
Whitcomb also presented the committee with an organizational chart of the department (which preserves the four-bureau structure proposed by the Natural Resource Network) and a chart of the commissioner’s office.
All nine committee members present voted yes, but the two who had voted no consistently Rep. Peter Kent, D-Woolwich, and Rep. Brian Jones, D-Freedom, were absent from the room, as were two supporters, Sen. James Boyle, D-Cumberland, and Rep. Robert Saucier, D-Presque Isle.
Still, Whitcomb was cheered by the 11-2 majority the bill achieved in earlier votes. “We had a good vote the other day,” he said. “And we liked the look of that.”
It will take time to get all the changes incorporated into LD 837 and, since some are substantive, the committee will vote again. Then the bill will be considered by the House and Senate.
“I certainly expect it will come up within the next 10 days,” Whitcomb said. “It’s going to be debated. They’ve got hundreds of bills to debate so there’s a scheduling issue.”
With the merger details ironed out, Whitcomb said, the committee can go forward with the ACF budget, which was approved last week.
“My sense is the major decision was made just now and the (ACF) budget will chase that decision,” Whitcomb said Wednesday. “I’ve had no indication they want to tinker with the budget.”
After rejecting two earlier nominees this session, the ACF Committee confirmed two LUPC commissioners on Wednesday. Newcomer Everett Worcester of Piscataquis County was approved 8-3 and current LUPC chair Gwen Hilton of Somerset County won unanimous confirmation.
“And that’s the first time that’s happened, so congratulations!” said Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, told Hilton.
Worcester was not supported by Rep. Craig V. Hickman, D-Winthrop, Rep. Brian L. Jones, D-Freedom, and Rep. Robert J. Saucier, D-Presque Isle.
The issue of county commissioners also serving on LUPC played a larger part in the rejection of two earlier nominees for Somerset and Piscataquis. In March, the ACF Committee confirmed Aroostook County Commissioner Paul Underwood, 9-3, but rejected Somerset County Commissioner Lloyd Trafton, 9-3. Duane Lander, the first Piscataquis nominee, was voted down 7-6, after the Natural Resources Council of Maine questioned how he was chosen by Piscataquis County commissioners and also because “he has openly advocated abolishing LURC.”
“It looks to me like we’re basically loading up the LURC board with county commissioners, and that’s what I was afraid of,” Rep. Russell J. Black, R-Wilton, said in a March 27 story in the Bangor Daily News. “I want, and a lot of legislators want, a wide range of expertise. We’re getting away from individuals who have any expertise in land planning or zoning, which we really need on that board.”
Hilton, whose current LUPC term ends in July, also referred to the issue Wednesday when asked why she had not initially sought reappointment. In part, she said it was because she was “feeling a little burnt out,” after eight years, including serving as chair since 2010, and the challenging transition from LURC to LUPC. But another factor was she felt Somerset County commissioners had decided they “wanted one of their own” to fill the position.
“But since then the position became available and I thought about it some more and felt it was really important,” Hilton said. “So I decided to try to take on another term.
Hilton’s application lists years of planning experience, which was also stressed by two legislators who supported her nomination, Rep. Ann E. Dorney, D-Norridgewock, and Rep. Paul E. Gilbert, D-Jay.
But Worcester’s resume traced a different path. A Columbia Falls native, he has a PhD in educational administration from the University of Texas in Austin, but after he and his wife moved back to Maine in 1975, he has focused on selling and appraising real estate, and farming and marketing blueberries.
“I recognize my education and experience are a bit different than most who serve on this commission,” Worcester told the committee. “I do think however that I possess the knowledge skills and understanding to make a positive contribution to this commission.”
Rep. Jones asked Worcester to talk about how he filled the statutory requirements of a LUPC commissioner, including “expertise in commerce and industry, fisheries and wildlife, forestry or conservation issues in the jurisdiction.”
Worcester cited his real estate experience and said blueberry farming is “a pretty significant business.” He added that he’s also operated a store in Milo, a storage company, and been “in the apartment building business at one time and that was probably the worst thing I ever did, so I no longer do that.”
When Rep. Hickman questioned Worcester about the changes he envisions in LUPC territory in the coming years, Worcester responded with some thoughts about forestry.
“We’ve got a whole changing dynamic in the forestry industry . . . That’s becoming a very different kind of thing,” Worcester said. “So the forestry industry has gone mechanized and big time and it really needs professional oversight with people who know the business.”
Worcester also said he strongly supports LUPC’s community guided planning initiatives. “Involving the people in the planning and zoning makes a lot of sense,” he said. “Those of us who have lived in the unorganized territories a long time never had that sense that we had that ability. Now, I think, we’re hoping we do. “
Hilton also told the committee she is happy LUPC is “moving forward with community guided planning and prospective zoning. And I’m actually very excited about that. I think that’s a good thing and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.”
Sen. Roger L. Sherman, R-Aroostook, questioned Hilton about her “ views of private property and how it fits into this whole new LUPC as we’re moving forward?”
Hilton answered that “in my experience in working with committees, municipalities and even on LUPC as well, trying to find the balance between regulation and private property rights is one of the most difficult charges that we have . . . The one thing about the regional planning initiatives that we’re undertaking is that it allows for more public input and involvement in determining what that balance is and coming up with what is appropriate.”
Thanks to UPM’s global Plant-a-Tree initiative, eighth-grade students in Madison planted 500 trees along the Kennebec River at the Madison Boat landing on May 10. Several community partners came together for the event, including the Maine TREE Foundation, Kohl’s Department Stores and Plum Creek Timber Co.
“We are pleased to have this opportunity to work with the students, and the plantings we do today will enhance and protect the beauty of the shoreline along the Kennebec River for many years to come,” said Dan Mallet, UPM Madison manager of sustainability.
Sherry Huber, executive director of the Maine TREE Foundation, welcomed the students saying, “We are excited to be part of this celebration and thrilled that the students are here. The Maine TREE Foundation’s mission is to educate and advocate for the sustainable use of the forest and one of the ways we achieve this is through partnering with the forest community to sponsor school events such as this.”
Twenty five eighth grade science students, led by their teacher, Kathy Bertini, not only participated in the tree planting but walked to and from the riverfront site, a distance of more than two miles. The were led in the planting of 500 white pine trees by Mark Doty, community affairs manager from Plum Creek Timber Co.
“The students did a wonderful job,” Doty said. “It is rewarding to see the students learn and to leave their lasting legacy to the future.”
The UPM Plant-a-Tree initiative is being celebrated at sites in several countries including China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Uruguay and Russia. These events not only provide the opportunity to plant trees, but to educate school students and the communities about the importance of sustainable forestry, biodiversity, renewable resources, ecology and much more.