LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders will not join East Millinocket and Millinocket officials in opposition to the “Great Maine Forest Initiative.”
The Town Council during its meeting Monday opted not to act on a motion to support the Maine Woods Coalition’s opposition to the initiative.
As outlined by proponents, the initiative would create a public-private partnership that protects Maine’s natural resources while strengthening the forest products industry. Opponents of the initiative, including the coalition, claim it is a back-door attempt to create a national forest in Maine, which proponents have denied.
In a letter to statewide municipal officials, Anne Mitchell, the coalition’s chairwoman, says the initiative represents an attempt by “the government and their environmental allies [that] will restrict access and use of” many Maine forests presently used by the forest products industry.
Mitchell named the Sierra Club, National Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club and Maine Audubon Society as among the groups supporting the initiative.
A draft proposal of the initiative calls for a public-private partnership to seek federal funding to protect anywhere from 500,000 to 2 million acres of working forests in the largest unfragmented forest east of the Mississippi River.
The proposal calls for working with landowners to protect land largely through conservation easements. Some “special places,” such as old-growth forests or areas with particular value from a recreational or ecological standpoint, could be purchased from willing property owners with help from federal dollars.
State officials said the initiative would focus on certifying more timberland as being managed sustainably, with potential for a “Great Maine Forest” brand to grow into a significant selling point for Maine forest industry wood products. Other aspects of the initiative would focus on ways to lower energy costs or increase efficiency at mills and convert to locally grown “green” fuel sources.
Besides the organizations named above, the Maine Forest Products Council, Huber Resources, Prentiss & Carlisle, the Trust for Public Land, the Maine Tree Foundation, the Maine Quality of Place Council, Baskahegan Co., the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, and the Forest Society of Maine are among the organizations supporting the initiative.
The Maine Woods Coalition is a public interest group that promotes the current relationship between private landowners and the access allowed the public to their lands. It opposes the creation of a national park in northern Maine. The group seeks to ensure that decisions regarding the Maine woods come with aid from regional stakeholders, according to its website, mainewoodscoalition.org.