Managed timber harvest on state lands helps loggers & the environment

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 20th, 2011 

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A Maine ranger measures wood harvested

Maine’s Department of Conservation (DOC) reports a near-record timber harvest on public reserved lands of 70,600 cords for the past winter season. The harvest, which was above that of recent years, is valued at approximately $2.23 million. These funds support maintenance, operations and public access on state lands.

The harvest involved hiring local logging contractors in 29 locations, harvesting timber across the state, and supporting more than 200 private-sector jobs. Logs were delivered to more than 40 Maine mills for value-added processing. Maine’s increased timber certification for sustainable forestry helped the harvest.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this year’s timber harvest so far and proud that this harvest not only supports our Maine public reserved lands, but also is an economic benefit to our forest-products industry and our state,” said Tom Morrison of the DOC.

Maine has close to 600,000 acres of public reserved lands under the management of the Maine DOC’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. Public reserved lands differ from other state-owned lands, such as state parks and historic sites, in that they are managed for multiple uses, including special protection for unique natural and historic areas, recreation, wildlife habitat and timber harvesting.

There are 30 “units” of public reserved lands around the state, ranging in size from 500 to more than 43,000 acres and many other smaller scattered lots. In general, the public is not charged fees for their recreational use; rather, the funds from timber harvests are used to support the land management. Harvest operations in softwood stands also are designed to increase white tailed deer and snowshoe hare habitat, to benefit populations.

Maine’s forest-products industry overall has a $10 billion annual impact on the state’s economy and creates 20,000 jobs, according to state figures.

“This year, we had a very successful harvest season,” said Morrison, who is a licensed professional forester as well as director of operations for the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL). “We had no particularly difficult weather to deal with; the mills were taking wood, and the prices were stable this year.”

The BPL winter harvest has proved to be a boon to local contractors around the state. Dean Young, of Dean Young Forestry in Franklin, had a crew of eight handle what he called “a sizeable job” in the Donnell Pond Public Reserved Land Unit under a contract held by Sappi Fine Paper. Young, whose company works primarily with private landowners, said the biggest advantage to him for working the BPL harvest was “job security.”

“We love to have the work, and we like to employ people and keep them working and work with the local economy,” said Young. “There’s lots of positive with it.”

Young said timber certification “most definitely” was a benefit, helping the reputation of both the state as a wood supplier and of paper producers.

On the other side of the state, Nicols Brothers Logging Inc. of Rumford completed the third winter of a multi-winter job on a 3,500-acre public reserved land site in Andover West Surplus Township. Owner Jim Nicols has been in business for 31 years, doing mostly industrial work. His logging business also has Master Logger Certification.

Nicols, who employed a crew of 12 to 15, said he expected to complete the timber harvest next winter, calling the BPL contract “win-win” for his business. The logging company bid directly for the state contract, he said.

“For us, in getting a contract like this, it allowed us to expand and grow our company,” said Nicols adding that the contract created both jobs and opportunities. “We had a specific volume of wood we could count on. It allowed us to know it is there.”

Nicols praised the fact that timber of the state lands is managed for a sustainable harvest, commenting that “it helps all companies across the State of Maine.” In addition, he said the fact that the timber is dual certified was “a real benefit” and allowed his company to negotiate contracts with buyers.

Nicols said that working with BPL was “a smooth process for us.” While recognizing that it was labor-intensive for BPL, he said he and his crew appreciated the tree marking done for the harvest. He also said he found the state foresters “very responsive to our needs. “They were there when we needed them,” he said.

Morrison said this season’s winter harvest lasted from late November until March of this year. The harvest produced approximately 11,000 cords more than last year’s harvest.

“The timber was cut for a variety of production uses, ranging from biomass, pulp, saw and veneer logs,” Morrison noted. He said that 51 percent was used for pulp wood; 37 percent for saw logs; and 12 percent for biomass.

The 29 harvesting contracts were based on the sale of stumpage, Morrison said, and the various operations covered 500- to 2,000-acre harvest areas. Some of the larger-scale harvests took place at Osborn, Eagle Lake, Andover West Surplus Township, and at Indian Pond near Chamberlain Lake, he said.

The BPL is required by statute to manage public reserved lands, in terms of timber harvesting, to produce a sustainable yield. An “annual allowable cut” has been established at 115,000 cords for the 400,000 acres of operable timberland on these lands. Because BPL manages the public reserved lands for multiple uses, the bureau’s foresters develop prescriptions for exactly what can be cut, the director said.

The majority of harvesting takes place during the winter months because the ground is suitable for the work and there is no significant conflict with other public reserved land activities, such as recreation. Where possible, harvests are extended to non-winter months which spread out the work during the year for the contractors and their employees.

All the public reserved land timber harvest operations are dual certified for sustainable management practices by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forest Initiative, two international certifying organizations. The dual certification allows the contractors to sell the timber harvested as “green certified” to the purchasing mills, who in turn can guarantee certification to their customers, such as major paper-makers and material building supply chains.

The money from the public reserved lands harvest is dedicated to management expenses and is being used to pay for forest management operations and recreational facilities development. The bureau is responsible for 326 campsites, 150 miles of hiking trails; 35 boat launch areas; and 131 miles of public access road on these lands. The harvest funds support such projects as grading, culvert installation and signage on roads; mapping and brochure publication; seeding and soil conservation activities; invasive species control; wildlife inventory and survey work; wildlife habitat and deeryard management.

Some timber also was retained this year to supply Camden Hills State Park as stock for picnic tables, outhouses and sign boards.

The public lands director said the state harvest would continue in coming months up to the 115,000-cord AAC. The harvest may exceed that amount because more tree tops and limbs – not material counted in the ACC – is being harvested for biomass purposes.