Maine Congress members call for halting proposed rule impacting forest economy

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Maine’s congressional delegation has written a letter to federal regulators asking for a reconsideration of a proposed rule to lower the size limit of nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) to 45,000 acres. This might affect conservation efforts and decreasing federal funding to land managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

The AMC owns and manages 75,000 acres of NIPF in Piscataquis County, and supports jobs across industries.

“We were very pleased that they did send the letter,” Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine told The Center Square. “This was quite an arbitrary change that was being made. The funding has been available to landowners regardless of size for decades.”

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding goes toward maintaining the forest for optimal economic and recreational use, and for every dollar invested, more is put in by the private sector, Doran said.

The $523,000 granted to the AMC by the NRCS was matched with private funding for $870,000 according to the letter sent earlier this month to Kevin Norton, acting chief of the NRCS.

“We believe that this guidance could inadvertently hinder important forest conservation efforts in the state and adversely impact the logging, forest products, and outdoor recreation industries that sustain Maine’s economy and rural communities,” the letter states.

“It needs protection for various reasons,” Doran said. “We want our forest to be managed to an exemplary level. In order to access the timber, you have to have a road system to do it. The north Maine woods are also a recreation area for hiking, camping and fishing. We want to protect the resource for all,” Doran said.

It’s hoped the delegation’s letter is taken into consideration and ensures money is available to landowners regardless of size going forward, Doran said.

“At the end of the day, this is about sustainability of the rural Maine economy,” Doran said.

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