Despite the rhetoric from Roxanne Quimby and other park supporters about jobs, when you look at the facts, a national park is a bad idea for Maine, it is certainly no gift.
As good stewards of the forest, our loggers have looked at Quimby’s plan and can read between the lines. This agenda is about federal control. When taking this position our loggers do not have to rely on “what if” or “what may be” or even Ms. Quimby’s stated intent with regard to a national park. They look at history, that’s right history, the facts of what has happened out West and in Ohio.
In states where national parks are present, like Washington and Oregon, the forests are more susceptible to catastrophic forest fires. Studies show that the health of the forests has actually gotten worse.
If we take a look at the record of forest management by the federal government in the Northwest, we get a preview of federal forest management in Maine. Take for instance the Northwest Forest Plan, adopted in 1994, which dramatically changed the management on 24 million acres of federal forests in northern California, Oregon and Washington and reduced the historic timber sale program by 80 percent. In real numbers the timber sale program went from 5 billion board feet per year to 1.1 billion board feet per year. Those types of declines would be catastrophic to Maine’s forest products industry and that’s not something our members are interested in.
Maine’s large swaths of forest lands, praised for their beauty, are the product of an active and vibrant logging and forest products industry. According to the Maine Department of Conservation, the percentage of forested land in Maine remains at 90 percent. Private landowners have ensured that land has not only remained forested but healthy.
Maine’s traditional use of land in the forest products industry has long proved successful in ensuring a healthy forest, with public access. History shows there is not a need for a national park to ensure access to Maine’s woods for all of us to hike, ski, hunt and snowmobile. Conversely, in areas where the federal government has been placed in charge of forest lands, the forests and the forest products industry suffers, regardless of which party controls the White House.
This is the real story of the impact of federally managed lands. In many Maine towns, our forest products industry is vital for direct and indirect employment. We can little afford to replace 80 percent of good paying, full time, private sector jobs in manufacturing, logging, equipment sales and service with part-time federal park jobs.
Neither can we afford to let Maine’s forests go the way of the forests of the American West with threats from both fire and disease. Not to mention, it is another federal tax burden for all Americans.
I am proud to stand with our Professional Logging Contractors of Maine members as we support our industry, our state and our loggers. Since 1995 PLC of Maine has been standing strong for loggers. We continue this effort today, representing loggers that harvest 75 percent of the actively harvested land in Maine.
Our members are dedicated to maintaining a safe work environment, a healthy forest and industry, as well as being efficient and profitable. Always have been, always will be. That is why we cannot support this proposal and we say, it is a bad idea and certainly no gift.
Michael Beardsley is executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine based in New Gloucester.