November 27, 2013

J.D. Irving gets exemption on Maine clear-cutting rules

The deal with the state exempts Maine’s largest landowner’s 1.25 million acres of forest land from some regulations.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

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According to the Maine Forest Service, the biomass from harvested wood in Maine increased from nearly 485 thousand dry tons in 1995 to nearly 1.2 million dry tons in 2011. In 1995 the sawtimber harvest was 1.3 billion board feet and decreased to 718 million board feet.

Didisheim, with the Natural Resources Council, said Irving stands to benefit financially from the program, which was designed to operate on a much smaller scale. He said that there is little accountability and that the program’s advisory panel is stacked with members of the forest products industry. At least four of the current members have, or have had, involvement with the forest products trade group.

“There’s no accountability for their decision making like there is for state employees to uphold the laws of the state,” Didisheim said. “You’re pushing off into this murky area of a voluntary program and volunteers performing what should be a role of the Maine Forest Service.”

Members of the advisory panel tried to ease concerns when they addressed lawmakers Friday. Many said that landowners still must adhere to provisions of the Forest Practices Act.

Nonetheless, a former member of the panel has expressed concerns.

Bill Patterson, a member of the Nature Conservancy, resigned from the advisory panel in August, writing that the agreement with J.D. Irving and loosened participation requirements were a “significant change in state policy” that warranted public review.

This story has been changed to reflect more accurate timber harvest data.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@pressherald.comTwitter: @stevemistler
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