Near-record timber sales on state lands generate $2.2M, 200 jobs

Posted April 20, 2011, at 6:45 p.m.
Last modified April 21, 2011, at 9:56 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Capitalizing on favorable weather and solid demand for wood, the Maine Department of Conservation harvested more than 70,000 cords from state-owned wood lots last winter, a near record that generated more than $2 million for the state.

The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands manages more than 600,000 acres within 30 “public reserved land” units scattered around the state. Revenue from timber harvesting on the parcels, in turn, is used to support recreational facilities, including boat launch ramps and campsites, as well as wildlife management and invasive species control.

Between November and March, private contractors working for the bureau harvested 70,600 cords on roughly 11,600 acres within the public reserved land system. The harvesting operations, which were overseen by state foresters, supported 200-plus private jobs and generated roughly $2.2 million for the state.

Tom Morrison, director of operations at the Bureau of Parks and Lands, said weather conditions allowed crews to work from late fall all the way through the winter. Additionally, mills were accepting a steady supply of wood and paying stable prices throughout the season.

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As a result, the department had one of the best harvesting seasons on record. Despite the strong winter harvest, however, the bureau plans to stay within the self-imposed limit of 115,000 cords per year, which is based on sustainable yield models, Morrison said.

“We will be working within the same allowable cut this year,” he said.

Independent foresters and forestry experts have often given the DOC high marks for the department’s long-term, sustainable management of the state’s public reserved lands.

A 2006 inventory conducted for the state estimated that the 400,000 acres of operable timberland within the public reserved lands contained more than 8.5 million cords of wood. The levels of wood on the public reserved lands was 30 percent higher than the average for timberland in the state, according to another study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As with other timber lots throughout the state, individual parcels are managed for different purposes.

Of the 2010-11 winter harvest, 51 percent went to the mills for pulp, 37 percent was converted into saw logs and 12 percent was converted to energy in biomass plants.

“Timber harvests on state lands are carried out by private contractors who sell to private mills,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement. “Our revenue goes toward managing our forests. This is about private jobs and public access to the woods for Maine people.”

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