All of us should be celebrating Maine Forest Products Week, Oct. 20-26. Maine’s forest products industry has a long and successful history in our state. From our earliest days, Maine’s vast timberlands have been an important asset, sought after first for masts for the king’s navy, and today for lumber and paper. The future will include any number of forest products from composites to bio tech to uses that have not even been imagined yet.
Mainers must thank the forest landowners whose stewardship over the last 250 or so years brings us to where we are today, with millions of undeveloped acres of land, much of it open to recreation and managed for future forest growth. This is a remarkable accomplishment on its own, not to mention how important the forest products industry is to our economy, providing good jobs in every corner of our state.
An easily forgotten byproduct of the forest products industry are the boundless recreational opportunities available to Maine residents and visitors alike. Family and corporate landowners have provided generous recreational access to millions of acres throughout our state in the organized and unorganized territories. This open-door policy has made the outdoor recreation industry we have today possible, from fishing and hunting in remote regions to 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails, 6,500 miles of ATV trails and endless opportunities for hiking, camping and paddling.
All play an important role in our economy and the culture of our state. A recent study values outdoor recreation at $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and $548 million in state and local tax revenues per year. This significant piece of the Maine economy is a result of generous access policies and good forest stewardship.
Fortunately for all of us, a good part of Maine’s forestland has been conserved for future generations through the sale of easements that limit development and promote sustainable forestry. The efforts of many independent groups and government conservation efforts through programs such as Land for Maine’s Future have helped achieve this result. This could not have been accomplished without the willing support of private landowners.
No matter what your pleasure is, from canoe trips on remote rivers to snowmobiling from town to town to hiking or birdwatching, it is impossible to overstate the critical role that forest landowners and our forest products industry play in your activity.
Maine Forest Products Week is a wonderful opportunity to visit the woods and enjoy our great outdoors. The successful stewardship of forest landowners goes a long way in providing the quality of life that both residents and visitors have come to expect in Maine.
Don Kleiner of Union is executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association. Bob Meyers of Bath is the executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association.