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

Reports from ACF tour and Climate Change Council

As with most issues involving forestry matters it’s always instructive to move the discussion to the woods. That’s what we did when we invited the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) Committee to tour forestlands where aerial applications of herbicides have been used as a silvicultural tool in the forests for more than 30 years.

During the legislative session Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook introduced LD 1691 An Act To Ban Use of Aerial Herbicide Spraying for the Purpose of Deforestation. With all the news about glyphosate, aka Roundup, it is to be expected that questions about its use in Maine would arise, and the image of aerial applications can be concerning. The ACF Committee and landowners wanted to provide context with a field visit.

Then the bill was turned into a resolve and the committee requested that the Bureau of Pesticides Control conduct a third party audit of the aerial application program this year and requested a tour of field operations.  The audit was conducted by the BPC earlier in August and results of the study will be reported to the ACF Committee next session.

The tour was organized by the Council and Irving Woodlands, Weyerhaeuser and Seven Islands Land Co., among others.

ACF Tour participants, left to right, Ron Lemin, Nutrien Solutions; Patrick Strauch, MFPC; Zach Lowry and Dan LaMontagne, Seven Islands; Rep. William Pluecker; Anthony Hourihan, Irving; Sen. Jim Dill; Jason Desjardin, Seven Islands; Rep. Craig Hickman; Matt Stedman, Irving; Sen. Russell Black; Ked Coffin, Irving; Rep. David McCrae; Chris Fife and Ben Dow, Weyerhaeuser; Brian Roth, CFRU, University of Maine, and Alex Ingraham, Seven Islands. Photo by Michele MacLean

Sen. James Dill, D-Penobscot, helped define the types of treatment sites that would help describe the technique and affects through time, and both Irving and Seven Islands found the sites and developed the itinerary. 

After an evening reception at the Northern Maine Brewing Co., including the presence of Sen. Jackson, we started our tour the next morning with Senators Dill and Russell Black, R-Franklin, and Representatives Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, William Pluecker, I-Warren, and David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield. 

Foresters Matt Stedman and Ked Coffin hosted the start of the tour on Irving lands, and on Seven Islands ownership, we were guided by Zach Lowry, Dan LaMontagne, Jason Desjardin and Alex Ingraham.

I know the legislators appreciated the discussions and I think we reached a common understanding of the importance of this tool and the care used in making forest prescriptions that are guided by environmental and animal (including human) protection.

We’ll regroup with the ACF Committee when the Legislature returns next January and continue our conversation. We appreciated the effort of the legislators to get out into the forest. 

Logging and trucking capacity

The good news is that markets in many areas of Maine have rebounded with more demand in sight for pulpwood and logs.  The challenge is we’ve moved from the fear of losing too many jobs to an immediate shortage of trucking and logging capacity.

Mills, landowners and contractors are all scrambling to respond and the interest in this topic was emphasized at the MFPC annual meeting. Dr. Ryan Wallace, Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at USM, set the stage with a review of industry workforce challenges and various perspectives were shared by a very knowledgeable panel, including Randy Chicoine, ND Paper; Jim Contino, Verso; Justin Merrill, Merrill Logging, and Jason Brochu, Pleasant River Lumber.

This is a discussion that needs both short- and long-term solutions, which will be examined in the meeting of the FOR/Maine Workforce Development Committee. Representatives of all the sectors will gather along with government and University of Maine officials to focus on actions required.

We have built considerable momentum in the resurgence of our industry in a relatively short period of time, but all these efforts could be stalled if logging capacity is not addressed.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate in this effort.

Climate Change Council

I have the fortune and challenge to have been named to the Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Climate Council as the forest industry representative. This is a signature issue for the Mills administration and I’m honored to be selected, but it’s clear that many eyes are on the ability of Maine’s forests to solve a big part of our CO2 emissions challenges.

I’m also participating on the Climate Council’s Natural and Working Lands Work Group, which will meet Nov. 1, from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 101 of the Deering Building, 90 Blossom Lane in Augusta.  I’ll report regularly on the issues discussed at each session and seek your input as we navigate these issues. The MFPC Executive Committee is working on a white paper that tries to encapsulate a collective position of the council and we’ll share this for input by the members.

Some of the initial talking points we’ve discussed include:

  • Carbon in the form of trees and soil is the property of private landowners;
  • Landowners have the right to decide if they will participate in carbon offset programs; and,
  • Ensuring markets for wood is critical in maintaining forests and their carbon sequestration capability.

It’s clear our millennials are concerned about this issue, and it’s our opportunity to demonstrate how green our industry is, and how we have opportunities for meaningful and productive careers.

Please take a look at the Stora Enso video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUElPYaxgqs) that I recently saw at the University of Maine forestry symposium Oct. 23, and you will begin to see how we will position our own communications about the state’s future forest economy. 

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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