AUGUSTA – A measure from Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco, to establish the Maine Forest Advisory Board earned final approval from the Legislature in the early hours of Friday morning.
“It’s our job to make Maine government accessible to Mainers. That’s what this bill does,” said Rep. Maggie O’Neil, D-Saco. “It creates a transparent public process for important conversations about forest policy. It brings all perspectives – workers, small- and medium-sized landowners, experts and others – into the process of making decisions around our forests, the same way we do with, for example, our wildlife resources and our marine resources.”
LD 1549 would create the Forest Advisory Board. The measure directs the board to advise state regulators on forestry issues, help shape a federally required state forest action plan and ensure stakeholders and members of the public have a say in state-level forest policy. The membership of the board would include forest and wildlife experts, representatives of labor groups, landowners and other stakeholders.
“The creation of the Maine Forest Advisory Board is about making sure the hardworking people in the logging industry have a voice in state-level forestry decisions that impact their lives. As a state, Maine faces complex problems in our forests, including climate change, drought, fire, insects, and wildlife and habitat management,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “The way we solve complicated problems in Aroostook County is by getting everyone around the same table working together to come up with commonsense solutions, or at the very least, the best path forward. The same commonsense approach should work statewide as we work to protect and preserve jobs, recreational opportunities and natural resources in the Maine woods. I’m incredibly grateful to Rep. Maggie O’Neil for bringing this bill forward and look forward to it becoming law.”
As of 2017, an estimated 17.6 million acres of Maine land was forested, nearly 90% of the state’s total land area. The forest products industry contributes an estimated $8.5 billion and more than 30,000 jobs to Maine’s economy. Maine forests further contribute to the state’s economy and character by offering recreational and tourism opportunities and by providing habitat for Maine’s native plant and animal species. Forests also act as an important carbon sink, a fact that is increasingly relevant as policymakers seek to combat climate change.
The bill now heads to the governor, who can sign, veto or allow the bill to go into law without her signature.