Maine: Budget cuts to state data gathering unites loggers & enviros

Whoever decides how a forest is managed, or not managed, has much to
do with who has the most information. Both loggers and enviros need
site-specific details about the land in order to bolster their
arguments. And when a government agency proposes eliminating the
funding that helps subsidize the info gathering process, enviros and
loggers can agree to work work together to protect their mutually
needed subsidy. –Editor, Forest Policy Research

The Natural Resources Council of Maine and Plum Creek Timber Co.,
which have fought in recent years over proposed development in the
North Woods, stood united Wednesday against proposals in Gov. John
Baldacci’s supplemental budget. In particular, they opposed cuts to
the Forest Inventory Program, which strives to ensure Maine forests
are managed in a sustainable way. “We can’t stand a long, drawn-out
wait for information,” said Mark Doty, of Plum Creek. The final group
of public hearings on Baldacci’s proposal to close a $140 million
revenue shortfall in the current state budget took place Wednesday.
Next week, work sessions will begin. The goal is to have the full
Legislature vote on a package by Feb. 1. Members of the public came to
the Statehouse this week to oppose cuts to the Department of Health
and Human Services, Department of Education and on Wednesday, the
Department of Conservation. Several groups, including the Maine Forest
Products Council, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and
the Maine Pellet Fuels Association spoke in opposition to some of the
cuts in the conservation budget. Patrick Strauch, executive director
of the forest products council, said it will work with the state to
find other ways to save money. “We suggest looking upstream for higher
administrative positions,” he said. “Front-line workers are critically
important.” Baldacci proposed cutting 17 positions from the department
and eliminating the Forest Inventory Program. Conservation
Commissioner Patrick McGowan said if the proposal is adopted, the
inventory duties would be assumed by the federal government. But many
who spoke said the federal government hasn’t historically done a good
job providing the state with timely information. Cathy Johnson of the
Natural Resources Council said there have been additional demands
placed on Maine’s forests because of demand for pellet fuel and
biomass. She said the state — and industries who rely on good
information — cannot wait 10 or more years for updated inventories.

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