FORT KENT, Maine — Irving Woodlands LLC has pledged $1 million to the University of Maine at Fort Kent to enhance the school’s forestry research and education programs. The gift is the largest in the school’s history, according to a prepared statement from the company that was released on Thursday.
“It builds upon the applied forest management program,” said UMFK president Wilson Hess, referring to an associate degree program in which students concentrate on forest firefighting or forest management. “The collaboration will not only support applied forest management, but related forestry and business management and geospatial engineering offerings.”
The gift from Irving Woodland LLC is part of a fundraising campaign at the university that has raised more than $5.7 million for scholarships, alternative energy capital projects and academic stewardship, the statement said.
“We understand the role our forests play as a vital economic engine and also a living laboratory for research and innovation of new technologies and best practices,” Hess said in the statement. “We believe this gift is a harbinger of an ongoing collaboration with Irving Woodlands LLC which will firmly establish northern Maine as a nexus of world-class models of efficiency and effectiveness in sustainable forestry operations.”
UMFK has been tasked this year with cutting $1.8 million, or about 12.4 percent, from its fiscal year 2015 budget. The cuts are part of a $36 million budget shortfall across the University of Maine System’s seven campuses.
Hess said that that outside grants and donations, including this one, will help the university close that gap without laying off any faculty or staff.
The donation from Irving Woodlands LLC is the lead gift to the La Cloche de Fer campaign, a fundraising initiative that began in 2012 with the goal of raising $3 million. The university has now exceeded that goal by $2.7 million.
“As a company that has proudly worked in Aroostook County for almost 70 years, we are pleased to grow our relationship with the university with this research center of excellence focused on sustainable, outcome-based forestry,” said Jim Irving, co-chief executive officer of J.D. Irving Ltd., the parent company of Irving Woodlands LLC.