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Conservation groups oppose development changes proposed for Maine woods

Conservation groups oppose development changes proposed for Maine woods | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Conservation groups in Maine on Wednesday urged state officials not to expand the distance limit that determines where subdivisions and commercial projects can be built in the state’s Unorganized Territory.

 

The Land Use Planning Commission is considering a change in policy that would allow zoning changes to occur in unorganized areas of the state within at least 10 linear miles of the boundary of a designated “retail hub” community — an area that encompasses 1.8 million mostly undeveloped acres, not including land protected from development by conservation restrictions.

 

Under the commission’s current policy, any new subdivision or commercial development in unorganized townships has to be within one road mile of existing similar development.

 

The commission has said that the so-called one-mile rule is overly blunt and can result in a “leapfrogging” effect in which each development can serve as a springboard for another development a mile or less down the road, without concern to how close it may be to any of more than 40 retail hubs identified by the commission. And it doesn’t differentiate between types of commercial development, or whether some types of commercial development may be suitable in the area where they are proposed.
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“We believe the [proposed] rule changes threaten the scenic beauty” of the Unorganized Territory, Claire Polfus of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy told the commission Wednesday during a meeting in Bangor. “This type of development could cause habitat fragmentation and public safety concerns.”
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Under the proposed policy, any land less than two miles from a public road and less than 10 aerial miles from a retail hub — or in such a hub — would be considered “primary” locations for subdivision or commercial development. Land that is less than five miles away from a public road and which abuts a retail hub community would be considered “secondary” locations for potential development.
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Some opponents at the meeting said the proposed changes could affect scenic byways, allowing development along forested stretches of public roads where it currently is not allowed.
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Some at Wednesday’s meeting voiced support for the proposed changes. John Kelly of land management firm Prentiss & Carlisle called the current one-mile rule “arbitrary and a bit inflexible.”
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The commission expects to schedule more public hearings on the proposed changes before possibly taking a final vote sometime this fall.

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Cross-laminated timber producer to build plant in Maine, create 100 jobs

Cross-laminated timber producer to build plant in Maine, create 100 jobs | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Charlotte, North Carolina-based LignaTerra Global will build a $30 million, 300,000-square-foot cross-laminated timber (CLT) production plant in Maine. Over 100 jobs will be created.

The plant will generate 10 million board feet of the timber the first year, 2019, and 50 million feet by the fifth, if production goes as projected, says the company. By the time the mill is ready, LignaTerra expects the market will have moved more toward CLT, and the company will be prepared.

The 100 jobs will come gradually over the next five years, says the company. Machine and forklift operators, engineers, and salespeople will be sought.

Production of the plant will breathe new life into a region once known to be world-class in papermaking, but devastated by the 2008 recession. The plant will be built on a 35-acre portion of a former papermaking site. Production will begin in 12 months.

The factory will use low-grade softwoods - largely spruce - to make the composite. Spruce is a good fit for Maine, as many of the state’s defunct paper mills used those trees for pulp, said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

Advocates of CLT say it can be used to construct buildings of equal strength and fire-resistance as those made of steel and concrete. It has also fueled the passions of architects and environmentalists, who believe it to be a much greener method for housing the world's growing population.

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Quebec’s Solifor acquires Maine forest for $36 million

Quebec’s Solifor acquires Maine forest for $36 million | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

To further secure the supply of quality fibre for Québec sawmills and processors, Solifor is continuing its expansion outside Quebec with the acquisition of Ste-Aurelie Timberlands, a 24,910-hectare forest property in Maine. The $36-million deal is Solifor’s second outside Quebec, bringing its out-of-province investments to $65 million.

 

Located at the border of Maine and Québec, this property, subject to forest management, is characterized by a mixed forest cover (coniferous and hardwood) and is in full development. The territory’s main customers and users are Québec companies, including Maibec and Groupe Lebel. With transportation being an important cost for Québec sawmills, this transaction will contribute to a better bottom line, according to a Solifor statement. 

 

An initiative of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Solifor has invested $200 million to date to acquire 153,000 hectares of forest land in Québec, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, Lotbinière, Charlevoix, Saguenay, Portneuf, Mauricie and Abitibi regions, as well as Maine.

“Solifor is planning other acquisitions to further secure the fibre supply for Québec companies, making it a partner of choice for the Québec forestry industry,” says Raynald Arial, president, Solifor.

Sam Radcliffe's insight:

Note the $36 million is Canadian dollars.

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Interior Secretary Wants 'Active Timber Management' in National Monument

Interior Secretary Wants 'Active Timber Management' in National Monument | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

"There's still a lot of questions I think that it brings to the forefront."

That's the reaction from many folks in the Katahdin Region after a leaked memo brought to light some of the changes Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will recommend for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the more than 87,000 acres for the monument, says the recommendations did not come as a surprise.

"When I did have conversations with the Secretary, it was three weeks ago and it was about essentially this, but he didn't outline specifically how the wording of the recommendation is. The White House has to decide how it's going to respond and then the Park Service has to decide how to implement. You know there's a long way to go."

Zinke says the executive order creating Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument "should be amended, through the use of appropriate authority, including lawful exercise of the President's discretion...to promote a healthy forest through active timber management."

"Active timber management" typically refers to the cutting of trees for commercial use. Something that many loggers in the area are hopeful for.

"If we have a small family based logging operation that employs seven individuals, those seven individuals support seven families and the economic impact of that logging company and those seven families is about a million dollars to the local economy every single year," says Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.

Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in a press release that "without more details, we cannot yet judge whether these recommendations are acceptable or consistent with the overwhelming view of the Maine people."

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Maine company seeks to produce innovative wood-fiber insulating boards

Maine company seeks to produce innovative wood-fiber insulating boards | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Maine’s glut of softwood fiber created by closed paper mills makes the state an ideal location for a factory that can produce insulation board from wood, a Belfast architectural and construction firm says, and it’s trying to find a European manufacturer that shares that vision.

GO Logic, which specializes in energy-efficient buildings, says it’s negotiating with undisclosed companies that make wood-based insulation board in Europe, where the product already is in commercial use. The goal is to have a plant operating here within two years.

Two of GO Logic’s executives also attended an affordable housing conference Aug. 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. One of them, GO Logic co-founder Matt O’Malia, was an invited speaker and discussed the company’s efforts. They also planned to line up commitments from a retailer in the New York City area to carry the product, as well as some contractors and a prefab builder. That’s crucial to attracting financing.

GO Logic also has been in discussions with a Maine lumber company that could be a source of sawmill waste, as well as a family-owned lumber yard with nine stores in Maine’s midcoast.

Taken together, these actions are another example of how businesses are looking at Maine’s abandoned paper mill sites and surplus capacity in wood harvesting to create new opportunities. Other efforts involve biofuels, agriculture and electricity generation.
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OPINION: A Katahdin national park, courtesy of the Trump administration?

OPINION: A Katahdin national park, courtesy of the Trump administration? | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

New England could finally get its second national park, courtesy of support from the unlikeliest source — the Trump administration.

Give credit where it’s due: Trump’s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, said during a recent visit to Maine that he could support turning a beautiful new national monument in northern Maine, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, into a full-fledged national park.

 

The statement was all the more surprising because it came amid talk that the Trump administration may shut or scale back other national monuments created by President Barack Obama, including the new Bear Ears National Monument in Utah, which Zinke has recommended shrinking.

 

At least in the case of Katahdin, though, Zinke seems to have no desire to retreat. He acknowledged during his Maine visit that the land was in federal hands to stay, and said that if the state’s congressional delegation supported turning it into a national park, he could back the idea.

 

Obama designated the area a national monument last year, after years of bickering over the land’s future. Once owned by timber companies, the rugged, 87,000-acre parcel abuts Baxter State Park, home of the iconic Mount Katahdin. It was purchased by a philanthropist, Roxanne Quimby, who donated the land to the federal government. The transfer rankled some Maine residents, though, who feared it would cut off access for snowmobilers and foreclose the possibility of a timber revival.

 

 

Although creating the monument was a great first step, a real national park has long been the dream of Quimby and her supporters — a vision that seems to be winning more support from skeptical Mainers. Creating the park would open up new recreational opportunities, spur tourism in a depressed region, and help even out the regional inequity in a parks system dominated by Western landmarks. The formal difference between a monument and a park is minimal, but visits often rise when monuments are converted into parks.

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Maine’s Forest Industry on Brink of Accessing Lucrative European Wood Chip Market

Maine’s Forest Industry on Brink of Accessing Lucrative European Wood Chip Market | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Maine still has lots and lots of trees, but the decline of the paper industry has devastated rural communities that depend on forest products.

Wood chips, which are burned for fuel in biomass energy plants, are in strong demand in Europe, and have the potential to rejuvenate the forest products sector in Maine. The only problem is that they can’t be exported, because of all the pests and pathogens that could be spread to other countries.

Now one Maine company has a solution to that problem.

“This is a large capacity item here, we’ve kind of had to shuffle things around in the shop in order to make room,” says David Cook, the senior project manager at the Fastco Corporation in Lincoln.

It’s Cook’s job is to keep his metal fabricators on schedule to build the two heater-drying systems that are scheduled to be trucked to Eastport for testing in the next few weeks.
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Fastco President Allen Smith says if the tests are successful, the heater units will be placed aboard cargo vessels and used to decontaminate low-grade wood chips for shipment to Europe.
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The unit spends several hours heating up the chips in an airtight hold until the humidity level reaches 100 percent and the temperature peaks at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Thirty minutes later, when the phytosanitation process is over, the chips are bug free and ready for sale to markets in Europe.

University of Maine professor of forest operations, bioproducts and bioenergy Doug Gardner says that means that the state of Maine could finally exploit a competitive advantage.

“In the southern U.S., they’re shipping a lot of biomass material to Europe right now,” he says. “Maine is closer to Europe and provides a shorter shipping distance.”

And demand is strong. Countries in the EU have signed on to a mandate requiring that they must obtain 20 percent of their energy supply from renewable power sources by 2020. Those clean power goals have the potential to revitalize Maine’s forest products industry by providing revenue for landowners and paychecks for woodsmen, truckers and stevedores.

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Conservation groups team up to buy forestland in Piscataquis County

Conservation groups team up to buy forestland in Piscataquis County | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

The Forest Society of Maine has teamed up with the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Open Space Institute to acquire and conserve 4,358 acres of forestland surrounding Silver Lake and 12 miles of the West Branch of the Pleasant River in Piscataquis County.
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The acquired lands are visited each year by thousands of people from Maine and afar for fishing, hiking, camping, paddling, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities, according to a joint statement from the conservation groups. The groups noted that the property's campsites and access to the river and lake are amenities important to the region's recreational and tourism economies."Public recreational access is now guaranteed forever," the groups stated.

 

The project safeguards vital river habitat for Eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon spawning, and habitat for American black duck, Canada lynx, Northern long-eared bat, wood turtle, bald eagle and many other species of state and national significance. The project also protects a 400-acre mature silver maple floodplain forest — one of the largest and best examples in Maine. The newly conserved lands are adjacent to the historic Katahdin Iron Works and help to buffer this state-owned site. "The remarkable mix of ecological and recreational values found here made this a high priority project for us, especially as it is fills a key gap in the network of two million acres of already conserved lands in this region of Maine's North Woods," said Alan Hutchinson, executive director of the Forest Society of Maine.

 

With the acquisition complete, the Appalachian Mountain Club now owns these lands and the Forest Society of Maine holds a conservation easement on the property. The Silver Lake – Pleasant River lands are adjacent to AMC's 70,000 acres of other conservation holdings in the area, which provide the focus for its Maine Woods Initiative, an innovative approach to conservation that combines outdoor recreation, resource protection, sustainable forestry, and community partnerships. The Forest Society of Maine worked with Conservation Forestry — a New Hampshire-based timber investment firm and the owner of these lands since 2009 — to develop a conservation future for the property, recognizing the special ecological and recreational values found there.

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The Finite Carbon-Lyme Grand Lake Stream Improved Forest Management Project

The Finite Carbon-Lyme Grand Lake Stream Improved Forest Management Project | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Grand Lake Stream, Maine – Named after the stream that flows through the town, the Grand Lake Stream community in eastern Maine greatly values its natural resources. With a population of 109, the small community is world-renowned for its excellent fishing, hunting, recreation and relaxation activities. The community’s natural resources-based economy provides livelihoods for local craftsmen, guides, sporting ventures, and forest industry workers. And with the recent implementation of the Finite Carbon – Lyme Grand Lake Stream Improved Forest Management Project, the community’s newest venture at the crossroads of the environment and economy lies in carbon offset development.

 

To protect their community’s forests and waters, improve fish and wildlife habitats, and support the natural resources-dependent economy of the community, the local residents founded the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) in 2001. In 2012, DLLT raised funds enabling the Lyme Timber Company, a private timberland investment management organization, to grant a conservation easement to the state of Maine on 22,000 acres of forestland. The easement permanently protects the property from development and ensures sustainable timber management.

 

In addition, by improving management practices to increase carbon stocking levels, the forest earned carbon offset credits for use in the California cap-and-trade program. From September 2013 to September 2015, the Lyme Grand Lake Stream Forest removed and sequestered an additional 599,217 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions through its improved forest management practices, which were made in accordance with guidelines specified in the California Compliance Offset Protocol for U.S. Forest Offset Projects.
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The sale of carbon offsets helped the Downeast Lakes Land Trust purchase the 22,000-acre property from Lyme Timber in July 2016. The acquisition was completed as part of an eight-year, $19.4 million campaign and helps fulfill a broader community-led effort to conserve 370,000 acres in the Downeast Lakes region.

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Softwood Pulpwood Demand Declines in the Northeast

Softwood Pulpwood Demand Declines in the Northeast | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

When the Madison Paper mill in Maine closed this month, it marked the loss of the last major softwood pulpwood market in New England. Since early 2014, mill closures in Bucksport and East Millinocket, a capacity reduction at the mill in Jay, and the recent Madison closure have cut roughly 2.1 million tons of softwood pulpwood demand in the state. The closures have also have left loggers and landowners struggling to move softwood pulpwood to other regional mills that use some volume of softwood as part of their species mix.

 

To put this volume in perspective, 2.1 million tons equates to 192 truckloads of wood running 365 days per year—and that only represents the volume lost in the softwood markets. Maine has also lost a hardwood pulp mill in Old Town, two biomass electricity plants, as well as biomass markets at a number of the closed pulp mills.

 

While New England has vast forests of northern hardwoods, the region also has a significant softwood inventory as well. Spruce-fir, hemlock and white pine stands cover much of the territory, and these species face a challenging future as the regional markets for low-grade wood become increasingly limited. In 2014, the last year for which complete data exists, Maine timberlands produced 2.7 million tons of softwood pulpwood. This volume of wood simply couldn’t find a home on today’s market.
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Due to the decrease in demand, this price reduction we’re witnessing in the market is hitting landowners in the form of lower stumpage prices, or the prices they are paid for the harvested trees on their land. Some landowners—particularly those in Maine’s Penobscot River Valley, where so many markets have closed—have seen dramatic decreases in softwood stumpage prices. And that’s if they can find a market at all.

 

While the loss of softwood markets has affected the entire regional supply chain, it has also created opportunities for new market entrants. A number of existing paper mills are experimenting to see if they can increase their use of (now abundant) softwood while maintaining yield and quality. Entrepreneurs and developers are also looking at this resource for use in wood pellet and biofuels manufacturing, chip exports and a number of other wood raw materials markets as they are seeking to find new economic uses for low-grade softwood.

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Legislators approve $13.4 million bailout of Maine biomass industry

Legislators approve $13.4 million bailout of Maine biomass industry | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The Legislature voted Friday to back a $13.4 million taxpayer bailout of at least two of the state’s six ailing biomass energy plants that support hundreds of logging jobs.

The 25-9 vote in the Senate and the 104-40 vote in the House followed lengthy debate and closed-door negotiations. Legislative leaders sought to balance the goal of saving the jobs of loggers with the less attractive job of finding public money to prop up ailing power generators owned by multinational private-equity firms.

At the end of the private talks, lawmakers agreed to avoid tapping the state’s rainy day fund for the bailout by diverting the money before it gets into the fund.

The amended proposal generated lengthy debate. Opponents argued that the bill contained no guarantees that it would save the remaining biomass energy plants and will likely only benefit three of them. Supporters countered that lawmakers had no choice but to try to save a group of workers who stand alongside fishermen and lobstermen as cogs in the state’s blue-collar economy and its cultural identity.
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Maine Foresters Prepare for Spruce Budworm Infestation

Maine Foresters Prepare for Spruce Budworm Infestation | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Forty years ago, Maine’s forests were devastated by a cyclical spruce budworm infestation that destroyed 25 million cords of white spruce and balsam fir trees. Forestry experts say another infestation is only a couple of years away, and while Maine is better prepared to respond, the economic impact would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

Maine State Entomologist Dave Struble says, given its proximity to Maine, the spruce budworm infestation has technically already begun. “If you’re talking about an upwelling of population,” Struble said. “It’s already here. On the New Brunswick border they’re beginning to get defoliation over into the shoulder of the panhandle over around Campbellton – I mean that’s 40 or 50 miles from, let’s say, Van Buren and Madawaska – it’s not that far.” Speaking at a press event from the governor’s cabinet room, Struble and other members of the Maine Spruce Budworm Task Force said the state’s forestry industry has had plenty of time to prepare for the arrival of budworm moths, possibly within the next two years.

 

Gov. Paul LePage says that because of the task force’s prep,aration efforts, the industry will not experience the financial losses that were seen in the 1970s and 80s. “It was devastating,” LePage said. “At the time I was in the industry. Millions of cords of wood were ruined and hundreds of millions of dollars were lost by the defoliation that the spruce budworm caused in our forests.”
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“Some of the key recommendations for forest managers in the report addressing the issue across the northern half of the state include regularly communicating with government agencies and landowners to understand how the infestation is moving across the forest landscape, mapping the location, condition and concentration of high-risk forest stands, seeking and encouraging markets for low value trees,” says Wagner.

 

Unfortunately, the infusion of millions of cords of white spruce and balsam fir into the market couldn’t come at a worse time for the landowners trying to sell off the timber. Canadian sawmills and wood products industries will also be dealing with a glut of tinder derived from similar budworm diversion harvests. In fact, says Doug Denico of the Maine Forest Service, the last budworm outbreak collapsed parts of the forest products industry in Canada– leaving Maine harvesters with fewer options.

 

“There is hardly any demand compared to what it was for spruce and fir when compared to 10 years ago,” Denico said. “So they have all this wood that’s being defoliated and dying and they don’t know what to do with that. So the only chance we have of selling spruce and fir will be to our border mills the traditional mills that we’ve sold spruce and fir to. But other than that, they’ve got plenty of dying fir, north of the St. Lawrence and in parts of New Brunswick.”

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Citing ‘takeover’ threat, LePage orders access to Quimby land

Citing ‘takeover’ threat, LePage orders access to Quimby land | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
AUGUSTA, Maine — Citing concern of a “federal takeover,” Gov. Paul LePage announced Friday that Maine will establish access to state property surrounded by North Woods land that entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby wants to become a national park.

The provocative move puts the Republican governor in the middle of the contentious debate around the 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park near Millinocket.

A spokesman for the Quimby family’s nonprofit said while it has “no problem” with the state establishing access, it’s more about LePage “using the power of the government to stop something that the governor doesn’t like.”

In a Friday news release, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands said it started to re-establish access to 2,500 public acres surrounded by Quimby’s property. John Bott, a spokesman for the bureau, said crews were plowing and repairing access roads there on Friday.

The move comes a day after members of Maine’s congressional delegation criticized the federal government for a letter that was noncommittal on whether President Barack Obama would make the property a national monument.
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Maine lawmakers could offer tax credits for logging businesses

Maine lawmakers could offer tax credits for logging businesses | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Maine lawmakers may offer tax credits for logging and trucking businesses that hire U.S. residents.

The concept bill is sponsored by Democratic Senate Leader Troy Jackson, a fifth-generation logger whose family works in Maine's forest. It is set to be voted on Tuesday, February 20.

Trade group Professional Logging Contractors of Maine says it won't take a position on the bill until it sees details. But it says Maine has seen the closure of five pulp and paper mills over the past four years. They also say that Maine has lost 50 percent of its softwood pulp market - with over 5,000 jobs being lost from 2014 to 2016.

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LePage tells lawmakers he will oppose borrowing aimed at helping biomass industry

LePage tells lawmakers he will oppose borrowing aimed at helping biomass industry | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Gov. Paul LePage told lawmakers he opposes a pair of bills that would have taxpayers fund a $45 million subsidy to help Maine’s foundering biomass industry.

 

In a rare appearance before the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, LePage said the Legislature should focus instead on ways of creating industries that bring greater value from the state’s more than 18 million acres of forest lands.

The bills to support investments and a low-interest revolving loan fund come less than two years after the Legislature passed a $13.4 million taxpayer-funded bailout of the industry that LePage reluctantly supported at the time.

 

“They took the state subsidy for two years and now at the end of two years if you don’t give them a subsidy they are going to close,” LePage said of the previous bailout that largely went to help one company and the loggers who supplied it. “I call that corporate welfare at the worst, it can’t get any worse than that because they are coming in and they are telling you up front the only way they can survive is by you giving them a subsidy.”

 

LePage urged lawmakers to instead consider a bonding proposal he has offered in the past that would pump $50 million toward developing new products from Maine’s forests. He gave the example of a hardwood plywood mill that could then manufacture rifle and pistol stocks for gun makers who currently import their plywood from Russia.

 

The governor said that during his private career helping to save struggling businesses, he was twice involved with biomass projects. “Let’s not keep going back doing the same thing we done and know we are going to lose money,” he said.

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UMaine gets $455K for 'mass timber' commercialization center

UMaine gets $455K for 'mass timber' commercialization center | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The University of Maine System has landed a $454,532 federal grant to create a center to accelerate the use of Maine-sourced timber and engineered wood composites in place of steel and concrete for larger construction projects.

In a joint statement announcing the grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, said the funding would be used to create the Maine Mass Timber Commercialization Center as a resource for forest industry partners, trade organizations, construction firms, architects and other key stakeholders to revitalize and diversify Maine's forest-based economy.

Its chief focus would be to advance new forest products technologies and bring innovative mass timber manufacturing to Maine.
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Canadian mining company eyes property near national monument

Canadian mining company eyes property near national monument | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Wolfden Resources Corp., a mineral exploration company based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, plans to buy and mine property in northern Penobscot County that's near Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The company announced in a Sept. 7 news release that is has entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement "with an arm's length third party to acquire a 100% interest in property located in Pickett Mountain, Penobscot County, northern Maine" for a cash price of $8.5 million.

Located just off Route 11 north of Patten and along the border of Penobscot and Aroostook counties, the Pickett Mountain property was marketed by LandVest as an "exceptional investment opportunity located in the heart of Maine's north woods" with a "well-stocked and diverse timber resource, more than 12 miles of nearly undeveloped lake and river frontage, and prospective sub-surface mineral rights."

The acquisition involves 6,871 acres of timberland and is subject to a 45-day due diligence review by the company prior to closing, Wolfden stated.

In its news release, Wolfden stated that the property is considered "to be one of the highest-grade undeveloped volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits in North America," which was discovered by Getty Mines Ltd. in 1979 and had not been explored since 1989. It explicitly cites LD 820, "An Act To Protect Maine's Clean Water and Taxpayers from Mining Pollution," approved by lawmakers in June and slated to go into effect on Nov. 1, as a factor in its interest, stating that the law permits "mining of metallic minerals in Maine in certain prescribed situations."
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LePage takes aim at alleged abuse of woodland tax breaks

LePage takes aim at alleged abuse of woodland tax breaks | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
Gov. Paul LePage has ordered the Maine Forest Service to work with municipal officials to review properties enrolled in the state’s tree growth tax program to root out potential abuses.

The program offers landowners property tax breaks when they promise to actively manage their woodlands with regular harvesting activities. The law was originally created to help keep timber flowing to the state’s wood products industries including lumber and paper mills but LePage and others have said they believe the program is being misused or even abused by some woodland owners.

“… the failure of some woodland owners to follow their forest management plan under the Tree Growth Tax Law Program jeopardizes the credibility of the program and creates perennial uncertainty about the program’s stability among the large percentage of woodland owners who are fulfilling their responsibilities under their forest management plans;” the governor’s executive order reads in part.

Under the order, forest service foresters will help municipalities review the properties benefiting from the program in order to help identify landowners who may not be following adequate management plans.

There are about 11 million acres of land in the program statewide, according to LePage’s order.
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Maine Forest Industry Positioning Itself for the Future

Maine Forest Industry Positioning Itself for the Future | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Sometimes you need to step back, take a breath and evaluate things objectively. With a string of pulp mill closures, the Northeastern US forest products industry has lost markets for about 4 million tons of pulpwood and biomass since 2014. In a state with a total timber harvest of about 14 million tons, that’s a big deal. The entire supply chain—landowners, loggers, truckers and mill facilities—has felt the impact of these losses, and it hasn’t felt good.


As the situation continues to impact the supply chain, the forest industry in the Northeast is moving beyond talking about what has been lost and is now looking ahead to new opportunities. Just a few short years ago, firms looking to develop new projects in Maine faced stiff competition for almost every tree species and grade. Today, there’s lots of biomass and low-grade softwood available, and that means opportunities for new and expanding wood-consuming industries to establish themselves.

With demand prospects on the horizon, the new challenge will be in determining what opportunities are best for Maine, what existing and emerging products best fit the resources and infrastructure, and how to capture these market opportunities. The University of Maine and the state’s forest industry trade associations, which represent Maine’s diverse supply chain and manufacturing sectors, are now collaborating on a project called the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative to chart a path forward. With the support of over $1 million in federal funds—due in large part to the state’s Congressional delegation—as well as some state funding, the group is tasked with answering a number of questions, including:

  • What do the future forest resources of Maine (and its neighbors) look like? What are the species and grades available from the forest, and how will this change in coming years?
  • Who currently uses this wood, and what wood is underutilized by species, grade or geography?
  • What existing or emerging markets can utilize Maine wood in order to manufacture products the market demands?
  • How can Maine position itself to attract companies that want to invest in the forest sector?

 

Of course, the market doesn’t always wait for studies. Right now, multiple firms are looking at opportunities in Maine for siting bio-refining and biofuels facilities, and most of these firms are also looking to repurpose closed pulp mills and put idled assets to work. At least two firms have announced plans to export wood chips overseas. Other groups are evaluating wood pellet mills and engineered wood manufacturing operations.

It’s not just emerging industries that are drawn to Maine’s opportunities; investment at existing Maine forest industry facilities is strong as well. For example, one pulp mill recently commissioned two new tissue machines, and another mill has committed to nearly $200 million in investments to its wood-handling system and the rebuilding of a paper machine. A new biomass combined heat and power system is now operational at a Maine pellet mill, and another is being built at a local sawmill. 

Instead of focusing on what once was, Maine is now positioning itself to move forward by identifying and seizing on new opportunities. The state still has a robust and diverse forest, which is almost entirely under private ownership, and most timberland is managed under one of the leading recognized certification programs. The state also has an existing and efficient supply infrastructure, as well as communities that welcome forest manufacturing.

Maine has all of the pieces in place for participants in the forest products industry to flourish. As the state looks towards the future, the challenge will be finding those producers that are the best fit for Maine and its resources, and then attracting the private capital to help the state’s industry succeed well into the 21st century.

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Residues Becoming a Problem for Northeastern Mills

Residues Becoming a Problem for Northeastern Mills | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Every mill is unique, but a decent rule of thumb is for every thousand board feet of lumber produced, two tons of residues are produced—one ton of clean chips, and another ton of bark and sawdust. Precise statistics are hard to come by, but New England sawmills produce somewhere on the high side of 1.3 billion board feet of lumber annually. Region-wide, about two-thirds of the production is softwood—spruce, fir, white pine and hemlock. Maine is responsible for the lion’s share of this production, but New Hampshire and Vermont check in with respectable production, and all states in the region have sawmills.

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Since the beginning of 2014, Maine has lost over 4 million tons of low grade market—most of which were pulps mills (which use mill chips), with some biomass market loss as well. While pulp mills in the state still use somewhere around 7 million tons of wood annually (pulpwood and mill chips), softwood has taken a huge hit. Over 1.5 million tons of softwood market have vanished in the past few years. Shuttered pulp and paper mills in Bucksport, East Millinocket, Lincoln, and Madison were all softwood consumers, and are now gone. Other pulp mills have cut back production levels.

 

Forest2Market benchmark data confirms this trend. As evidenced in the two charts below, product categories that make up the residuals market have all decreased in price since Q12015 despite a few temporary spikes along the way. Hardwood total fiber has dropped 13 percent, softwood total fiber is down 10 percent and fuelwood has been hit the hardest with a 23 decrease in price.

 

In addition to pulp mill markets lost, many of the remaining markets aren’t exactly on firm footing. Biomass power plants in the region are struggling with (relatively) low wholesale electricity prices, as well as renewable energy certificate (REC) prices that have lost half their value since 2015. Two biomass plants reopened and two more were given a lifeline with $13 million in funding from Maine, but that provides only a temporary reprieve. The region’s pellet mills—which in this region sell to homeowners and businesses for heating—are competing against lower heating oil prices and still recovering from a very warm winter last year and sluggish sales this winter. 
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Sawmills are critical to the success of the entire forest products industry in the Northeast (and every other region as well). In Maine, which has long been thought of as a “pulpwood state,” the most recent figures from the state’s Forest Service suggest that sawlogs represent about a quarter of the volume harvested, but two-thirds of the stumpage paid to landowners.

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Today, sawmills (and the entire forest products industry) in the Northeast need to pay careful attention to moving residues as efficiently as possible in order to assure their continued operations and profitability.

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The major North Woods land buy has ties to Subway’s founder

The major North Woods land buy has ties to Subway’s founder | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The trust that bought 300,000 acres of Maine’s North Woods has ties to a nonprofit started by the family of Subway co-founder Peter Buck, a longtime philanthropist and South Portland native.

Tall Timber bought two major blocks of forestland from Canopy Timberlands LLC, in a deal that closed Sept. 30, forestry consultant Gary Bahlkow confirmed. Bahlkow said the land would continue to operate as a working forest and characterized the sale as a “routine timberland investment transaction.”

The deal gives the trust, which already owns hundreds of thousands of acres in the region, ownership of roughly 18 percent of Maine’s 3.5 million-acre North Woods, based on property records and an archive of land sales maintained by the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Bahlkow declined to share more information on Tall Timber Trust’s ownership or the extent of its land holdings in Maine, but research into property and corporate records reveal ties to the Subway co-founder and his family foundation.
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Maine land from Burt's Bees founder is new national monument

Maine land from Burt's Bees founder is new national monument | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

President Barack Obama on Wednesday created a new national monument in Maine on 87,000 acres donated by the founder of Burt's Bees, fulfilling conservationist Roxanne Quimby's goal of gifting the land during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The Katahdin Woods and Waters monument includes the East Branch of the Penobscot River and stunning views of Maine's tallest mountain, Katahdin. The land is cherished by Native Americans, and its history includes visits by naturalist Henry David Thoreau and President Theodore Roosevelt.

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Supporters say the move will create hundreds of jobs in a region hurt by the closing of paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket. But critics fear that it will hinder efforts to rebuild a forest-based economy in Maine's North Woods.

 

This spring, Maine's legislature passed a symbolic bill saying it didn't consent to federal ownership of the land. Republican Gov. Paul LePage also opposed the ownership, calling it an "ego play."

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Quimby began buying the timberland in the 1990s with earnings from the Burt's Bees line of natural care products. She initially aimed for a national park designation, but that would have required an act of Congress. The national monument designation required only executive action by the president. Many national parks like Maine's Acadia National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park started with monument status.

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How a Maine paper mill learned to love not making paper

How a Maine paper mill learned to love not making paper | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Sappi Paper’s mill in Westbrook has remained standing in the 21st century by learning to let go. The mill staked its future on paper with the key of not sticking to things, allowing paper-backed patterns to be pressed into synthetic materials, laminate flooring, leather and other products.

 

The mill has shed thousands of jobs since hitting peak employment levels in the 1950s but carved a path to profitability through a spate of tough times and recent closures in the industry.
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During the early 2000s, the Westbrook mill completed a long shift away from publishing markets, converting lower efficiency, turn-of-the-century paper machines to what’s called release paper, research that began when the mill was still in the hands of S.D. Warren Co. That paper, coated with various textures, can be used to create a range of products, including patterned car interiors, flooring, shoes and soccer balls.
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Mike Standel, the mill’s managing director, said the company’s market research focuses now on forecasting quickly changing fashion trends. Those quick changes, he said, give it an advantage in competing with other methods for pressing textures into a material, such as using stainless steel belts or plates. “It’s always important to be first, and we can provide something unique that can let our customers have exclusivity or be first to market,” Standel said.

 

The Westbrook mill produces about 40 percent of the global market for release paper, according to Standel, who said Europe and China are key markets in the business for which about 92 percent of its product is exported.

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Overhaul of Maine tree growth tax credit chopped down by committee

Overhaul of Maine tree growth tax credit chopped down by committee | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it

Legislation designed to dramatically overhaul Maine's tree growth property tax credit program fell largely on deaf ears Monday as lawmakers on the Legislature's Taxation Committee unanimously rejected the proposal offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

 

Among other provisions in the bill, LD 1632, is one that would have excluded from the program, which was designed to encourage timber harvest, any property that sits within 10 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. In all, about 3.8 million acres of forest are in the program.

 

Those speaking against the measure said it was largely meant as a provocative conversation starter for a tax credit program that some say is being abused by landowners who benefit from a large tax break but never actually harvest any timber.

 

Under the bill, new landowners who wanted to enter into the program would have to hold at least 25 acres of forest land. The current minimum is 10 acres.

 

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Under the tree growth program, a landowner agrees to a specific 10-year forest management plan in return for deep discounts on their property tax. The amount of the discount can vary depending on the current market value of timber and other factors.

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Landowner files lawsuit against state to stop timber harvest

Landowner files lawsuit against state to stop timber harvest | Timberland Investment | Scoop.it
The state's plan to harvest timber on a parcel of land it owns in the Katahdin Region now faces a hurdle.  A private landowner who shares ownership of that parcel with the state has now filed a lawsuit to divide up the land and protect a portion of it from logging.  Charlie Fitzgerald has a mission to keep parts of Maine's woods and waters unspoiled so he filed  a petition to partition the land in Penobscot County Superior Court.

"The state has indicated an intent to do some harvesting on that property and his goal is protect particularly the most environmentally sensitive portion of that tract," explained Berney Kubetz, Fitzgerald's attorney in this case.

The land in dispute is a 25-hundred acre parcel that is bordered by Baxter State Park to its west and south and Elliotsville Plantation's proposed national park lands to it's east and north.    The state has already started making plans to harvest timber on the land but  this lawsuit could slow that process down. 
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