Sustainable forestry is profitable: Maine has 7.5 million acres certified

By Ramona du Houx

August 27th, 2010 

In June, 2010, loggers from across the Northeast were recognized at the Blaine House, the residence for the standing governor, for their outstanding business and sustainable harvesting practices.

“The Northeast Master Loggers Certification Board certified eleven new Master Logger companies,” said Beth Postlewaite, executive director of the Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands (TCNF), as she gave out the awards. “Of the eleven companies certified, six were from Maine. This is a model for the nation.”

Civilizations throughout time relied on forestry to supply wood for ships, the creation of cities, and homesteads. Lumberyards became economic centers of activity; cities like Bangor grew up around their forest industry. The majority of homes in Maine are wooden. Maine’s shipbuilding industry was and is world renowned. Maine remains the most heavily forested state in the nation.

But since the birth of our nation, over half of America’s forests are gone. Clearcutting cut dramatically into our forest resources across the country. Maine came to realize this destructive trend, and sustainable forestry practices were promoted under the Baldacci administration.

The push for sustainable forestry certification brought the paper industry, loggers, and conversationalists together to preserve Maine’s forest resources for the future.

“Our future and our children’s futures are tied to this resource. The better we take care of our forests and sustain them for the long term, the longer our children will have this resource for traditional uses, as well as to recreate in,” said Governor John Baldacci. “Maine’s forests need to be here for generations to come.”

Maine’s overall landmass amounts to 20 million acres, of which 17 million acres are forest.

Under Governor John Baldacci’s wood certification program 7.5 million acres have been certified.

“The first week I was in office I remember sitting in a middle of a discussion with Time Magazine and Verso Paper. Time was saying to Verso, ‘we need to have the paper in our advertisements come from businesses that practice sustainable forestry. Our customers demand it.’ There was a national effort by advertising companies across the board to have the paper they use harvested with sustainable practices. There is an ever-increasing demand,” said the governor.

“At that time, we embarked upon a program to bring the industries together, asking what we could do mutually. Certification has become increasingly important in the global marketplace. It gives people who want to stay in forestry a viable future, because the resources will always be there with sustainable forestry practices.”
The Northeast Master Logger Certification Program is a result of a collaboration of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and TCNF, and is the first international third-party certification of harvesting practices.

The content of the master logger program is based on a common vision for rural communities and forest resources of the Northeast. Nine goals guide Master Loggers in their work. They take into account water and soil protection, while sustaining the forest ecosystems. On the business side, the companies must excel in workplace safety, continued improvement and innovation, and business viability.

Interviewers and field verifiers visit the businesses and harvest sites to determine whether candidates for Northeast Master Logger Certification are meeting the standards that are required for certification.

The goal of the program is to improve the health of working forests through accountability.

Ken Reed of Logland encouraged other loggers, “It’s the best way we can make sure what we have today will be there tomorrow. There is help with the training and other skills anyone needs,” he said.

L.R. Hamilton Land Services Inc. from Washington County was recognized for the “pride and professionalism they take in their business and for including workers in their decisions,” said Postlewaite.

“I was upset seeing all the trees cut down at the rate they were,” said Lyle Hamilton, who has owned his company for 14 years. He started with three employees and now has thirty. “I hope other loggers will start using sustainable practices; it’s a profitable way to log. It’s crazy to cut down future profits and cut off the future of your business.”

Tide Mill Enterprises were honored for their quality and stream and wetland protection policies. “We have seventeen members of our family from nine generations making our home there. A tradition for Tide Mill has always been to leave the environment better than when we found it. Sustainable logging and organic farming fits right into that,” said Jane Bell.

The program has grown with the help of a $100,000 grant from Verso Paper Corporation.

“The grant provided resources to expand the program throughout the seven states currently covered, with a goal of 100,000 additional acres certified,” said Postlewaite. The other states participating are Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Vermont.

In today’s marketplace, consumers want the assurance that they are not contributing to deforestation. Lands End, L.L.Bean., Time Inc., Fortune Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret demand 100 percent certified paper product.

“Certified fiber is extremely important to Verso. Our customers expect us to continue to grow in this direction,” said Dave Grizwald of Verso.

A $15,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Maine Forest Service enabled the Trust to advance Governor Baldacci’s certification initiative by increasing the acreage of private forest land certified to national standards and increasing the number of Maine loggers certified to NEMLC standards.

The Maine Forest Service reports that 42 percent of Maine’s productive timberland is in a third-party certification program and that 55 percent of Maine’s annual harvest comes from certified sources.

Having the reputation as the Pine Tree State is intrinsic to Maine’s character.

“Having our forests here makes Maine — Maine. We want to keep our forests as forests. One way to ensure this is to have more foresters use certified logging practices. These companies honored today have gone out of their way to excel in sustainable forestry practices, looking out for the environment on multiple levels, as well as the safety of their employees,” said Elisa Townsend, commissioner of the Department of Conservation. “And it’s been worth it for them. Their businesses are more profitable and their products are more valuable.”

Under the Baldacci administration the amount of land in conservation tripled from six percent of the state to eighteen percent.