The State of Forests in Maine 2004

Jessica L. Beetz


Forestry: The Issue In Context



Forests and forestry practices are a global issue. Forests cover about 30 percent of the world's total land area 1. Both people and animals need forests, and they have been an integral part of our lives since the beginning of written history. Humans benefit from forests in a number of ways; they provide people with the economic means to survive by harvesting forest and timber products, and they are also part of many peoples’ history, culture and religious beliefs. Locally it is easy to see that forests provide people with jobs in the timber products industry, fuel and shelter, in the form of wood, food like fruit, nuts and berries, and opportunities for recreation. The large-scale impacts of forests are not as easy to recognize.


Historical Context

Although 30 percent of the global land surface is still forested, more than half the original forest area has been lost. Forests continue to be lost at roughly 0.2 percent per year 2. The transformation began in 1500 when Europeans first began to seek riches and resources abroad.  After the Napoleonic Wars the trade networks began to develop substantially and with them came widespread deforestation. Deforestation was also taking place before 1900 in other non-European colonized parts of the world, and since 1900 the forests of the world have only come under more pressure as a natural resource 3.

The global economy that emerged in the nineteenth century has continued to spread through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, now becoming the phenomena coined “globalization”. With this increased trade and transfer, among other driving factors, global deforestation has accelerated. What has developed is an imbalance of power between industrialized and developing nations, in which there are clear differences in the treatment of forest resources.


Recent Issues

Forests in economically developing countries, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America are disappearing at unprecedented rates. It is estimated that 60 million highly forest-dependent people live in the rainforests of Latin America, South-east Asia and Africa. An additional 350 million people are directly dependent on forest resources for subsistence or income, and 1.2 billion people in developing countries use trees on farms to generate food and cash. Loss of forest resources is believed directly to affect 90% of the 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty 2. The ability of the world’s forests to regrow has not been able to keep up with the extraction of wood and other products 3. The loss of global forests affects the animals and people that inhabit the forests. People who may not even realize their connections to the forest, and the benefits they receive could feel the irreversible damages that deforestation can cause.  Deforestation is therefore a threat to much more than trees, because a forest must be looked at as a vital organ of the earth, and is thus directly linked to a number of critical services, both for humans and the environment. Some of the services forests provide include: ground water recharge, watershed protection, absorption of carbon dioxide, biodiversity, habitat protection, and economic opportunity.


Human and Environmental Services

The effect of forests on ground water is important both to humans and the environment. Forests increase the ground water recharge rate and play a critical role in watersheds. Forested catchments, like forests that surround lakes, act as natural filters and help maintain water quality so that areas downstream can use the water for industrial, domestic or agricultural needs. The watershed for a river may be thousands of miles upstream but an interruption of the forest in a watershed lead to soil erosion, which in turn can clog rivers with sediments, interrupting the natural ecosystem and even destroying the fish and other species that downstream communities depend 4.

            Oxygen is crucial to human life. Plants produce oxygen, and as part of the same photosynthetic process, plants also take in carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide levels have increased greatly over the past century, due to the industrialization of much of the world. With more and more cars and factories and higher levels of consumption, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is growing steadily5. This increase in carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is linked directly to global warming and global climate change. Forests absorb carbon dioxide while they grow, and forest biomass and accumulated soil organic matter contain 20 percent of the earth's stored carbon 6. When trees are cut and burned the stored carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. Deforestation in the 1980s may have accounted for a quarter of all human-induced carbon emissions, the second greatest emitter after fossil fuels 1.

Another global benefit of forests is that they provide habitat for many of the earth’s plants and animals. The rainforest in particular is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. There are as many kinds of plants and animals in the small country of Panama as are found in the entire continent of Europe7. Many of these species have not even been identified yet, and these unknown species may provide answers to long unanswered questions about evolution, or they may be key members of the food chain, or they may even provide us with key medical advances in the future. Currently approximately 45 percent of medical prescriptions written in the US contain at least one product of natural origin 7. So with all the unknown plant species in the world it is easy to imagine that there could be one that contains a chemical that could vaccinate against HIV, or cure cancer. A century ago the lowland tropical forest covered an area twice the size of Europe, and it has now been reduced by more than half. Every week the remaining lowland tropical forest is reduced by an area the size of Delaware 7. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the principal causes of loss of biodiversity. Without the habitat of the forest to sustain these plants we could lose them forever. 8,9.


Drivers of Deforestation

The forest products sector has a substantial economic impact contributing 1 percent of world gross domestic product and accounting for 3 percent of international merchandise trade. According to United Nations report, Trade and Sustainable Forest Management - Impacts and Interactions, the annual turnover of roundwood, sawnwood, panels, pulp and paper exceeds US 200 billion dollars, and that is only taking into account the wood products that forests can produce for the global market. The report also indicates that the value of non-wood forest products and the environmental services of forests are difficult to estimate in economic terms, but they are critical to the livelihoods of an estimated 600 million people in the developing world alone 2. The pace and scale of deforestation is increasing especially rapidly in developing nations pushed by a number of drivers, including rising population pressure, difficulties with valuation and the free rider problem, a growing global market for forest products linked directly to increased consumption by developed world, and the need for third world nations to gain capital to develop.

            There are often new and urgent population growth issues in developing countries, leading to the conversion of forests to farmland or fuelwood, and poor forest management 1. The ranchers and farmers in the developing world, just like people in the US who harvest the forests, do so because it allows them to recognize the most economic benefit from the land.  When one family harvests their woodlot and sells the timber, they receive immediate economic compensation for the product they have provided to the market. Whereas if the family leaves the woodlot uncut, so that people can benefit from it recreationally, or through the environmental services it provides may not see any direct monetary compensation. They may be protecting the watershed, and many more people benefit from their choice, but the family will not have any direct economic benefits from their decision. Therefore it is the family that owns the land that has to suffer the costs of leaving that forest standing while everyone is able to enjoy the benefits. This problem is often referred to as the free-rider problem, and in areas where there are fewer options for employment, it is more common for people to decide to harvest their natural resources, because they lack other options 10.

Another factor strongly influencing deforestation here in Maine and abroad is the growing global market for forest products. The developed world, especially Europe and the United States, contributes to the exploitation of these forests while actually increasing the area of their own forested land3. The book World Deforestation in the Twentieth Century states that, “The forests in the United States have steadily increased in extent and density for the past half-century. In large measure this fortunate circumstance results from the commanding ability of the American economy to import much of its specialized wood product needs at a favorable price”3.

The increase in US forest lands is the product of several factors including the efficiency and long-term investment policies of some companies in the American forest products industry, and the large scale abandonment of farmland in the twentieth century America, and that has been a byproduct of the mechanization and intensification of agriculture. We are now able to use less land area for agriculture while losing no overall production. Some of the increase in forested land is also from the conservation and preservation efforts that have taken place in the US. This includes our national and state park systems, state and federal forest lands, as well as conservation lands set aside by NGO’s and individuals. Even in Canada, Australia and other parts of the developed world, what forest depletion does occur is a direct result of intensifying demand upon wood for pulp, plywood, construction wood, and a host of other uses 3.

Trade in forest products, and the critical environmental services of forests are vital for economic growth as well as for safeguarding sustainable livelihoods in rural areas throughout the developing world 2. The general trend in the international arena is to increase trade, and the debate is over whether or not trade is good for consumers, forest product producers, the people who rely on forests, and the services that forests provide environmentally. Some argue that trade based on unsustainable practices in forest operations has been seen as a major factor contributing to deforestation and forest degradation, particularly in developing countries 11. Data from the UN supports this claim, showing that in a number of tropical countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Guyana Shield, production for export has accounted for a "significant share” of forest loss and degradation 2. But maybe not all trade is bad for forests. The market that drives initiatives like carbon trading programs is actually creating room for the marketing of environmental services like some of those that forests supply. Agreements like the Kyoto Protocol have the potential to exercise significant market force on trade in forest products and on forest management. These environmental service provisions could make managed forestry a much more profitable and economically viable land-use option 2. This would also address issues of land use valuation by making forested land more valuable perhaps than unsustainable cropland and other alternatives.



The harvesting of timber can be done in environmentally sustainable ways, but often these are more costly and more time consuming in the short term. Environmentally sound forest harvesting and transport operations are essential components of sustainable forestry. This ensures that the natural productivity of the forests and the benefits obtainable from them are maintained. The key to sustainable forest harvesting lies in applying the best knowledge available to critical components of the harvesting operation: harvest planning, construction and maintenance of forest roads, felling and extraction, and post-harvest assessments 12.

Today most countries are involved in international initiatives related to sustainable forest management 1. In 2000 already about 150 countries were engaged in 9 international initiatives to develop and implement criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. The areas under management plans are therefore also increasing. Formal, internationally approved forest management plan cover at least 6 percent of the total forest area in developing countries, and 89 percent of the forests in industrialized countries are managed according to formal or informal management plans1.

Forest management certification programs operate in a similar way but they also promote a product labeling, and have an important role in accommodating environmental and social concerns in forestry. Forest certification involves an accredited auditor who assesses whether the management practices of a landowner are in accordance with specific standards of sustainable forestry. Depending on the system chosen, either the land, the product itself or the land manager may be certified. There is an increasing demand for certified forest products and the emerging markets are supporting the  development of more international certification schemes and national initiatives. They are also becoming more common in policy and policy making13. Forest products certification is very much market reliant because the programs and certifications are costly to obtain and without a market incentive they would not be possible. This is one way in which the individual can have an impact on sustainable forestry.

People need to exercise their right to choose products that are ecologically more sensitive. If more people buy and demand these products then more of them will be produced. Recycled paper products are an example of an easily available alternative. Also selecting products that are certified such as clearcut-free and eco-labeled lumber sends a clear message to companies that there is a market for these products, and encourages them to be environmentally responsible. Timber and paper products come from sustainable renewable resource, but the only way to insure that companies are harvesting sustainably is to hold them responsible14.


Forestry: The Issue in Maine


The state of Maine covers 19.7 million acres and of that 17.8 million or 90% is forest area 15. According to the US Forest Service 17 million acres or 97% of the forested land is timberland, “land that is fertile and accessible enough to produce wood as a crop, and is not withdrawn from timber harvesting by statute or regulation”15,16. Maine’s northern forested area is a part of a larger region often referred to as the “Northern Forestland” (see figure 1). Forests are tremendously important to Maine’s economy, and provide opportunities for recreation and tourism. Forests also provide habitats and rich in biodiversity and help to protector fresh water resources16.


Historical Context

Ever since the Northern Forestland was settled, cycles of exploitation have come and gone with waves of demand, innovations in harvesting and manufacturing, and forest growth”18. These cycles began soon after Europeans first arrived and continued for centuries. Huge white pines, Pinus strobus, were       

cut to furnish ships with masts as early as the 1500’s. Explorers like Captain George Weymouth were awed by the awesome stands of timber along the Maine coast and immediately recognized the potential the Maine forest as a vast natural resource 19. Later in the 1600’s many frontier people cut trees to build log homes and to heat them through harsh Maine winters. In 1635 the first commercial sawmill opened in Maine, and in some New England homes at the time wealth was actually measured in clapboards and barrel staves. From the 1820’s through the Civil War, the Northern Forest produced more timber than any other place in the world18.

With the huge consumption of wood for fuel, and the large demand for wool, which caused land to be cleared for sheep pasture, southern and central New England were 80% deforested by 1840. The deforestation caused serious erosion from 1830-1850, and the sheep pastures could not be sustained because of overgrazing.  This caused a massive migration of farmers around 1840 to the Ohio Valley and west 20. Logging railroads and portable steam powered sawmills made it possible to move farther from the rivers which had previously been necessary for milling and transport of timber. This opened up what remained of the uncut timber in the mountainous northern parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. As the big trees in the remaining virgin areas were felled, the timber market boom also collapsed, and logging companies began to move south and west. With the large pines and spruces gone, along with many of the farmers, the pastures were able to return to forestland. In a short period secondary growth appeared and with it came new processes to develop and manufacture the growth into products18. 

In the 1860’s paper mills moved into Maine and the state quickly became a leading producer of pulp and paper. The industry grew in leaps and bounds with the price of wood pulp quadrupling in value between 1890 to 1900 while the manufacturing costs fell by over a third 19 By 1910 paper companies owned enormous areas of the northern forestland and papermaking quickly became the region’s most important forest industry. The paper industry was not the only group becoming interested in the northern forest at the turn of the century. The environmental damage, including forest fires and erosion, that had taken place as a result of the massive harvesting efforts directly contributed to the rise of the conservation movement. Groups began to lobby at the state and federal level for public forest reserves, scientific forestry, tree planting, and fire control as early as 1880. These groups had some small victories including preserving three million acres of land and introducing some landowners to sustainable management methods. From the 1930’s –1960’s forestry remained the primary industry in the northern forestland but the introduction of forest management and lower investment mills allowed the forests to regrow18,19.

In the 1960’s and 70’s the growing demand for paper caused many timber and paper companies to step up production. New technologies and a surge of new investors helped to streamline production and increase efficiency, which allowed for a higher volume of harvest and even more manufacturing plants were built to create products. The new investment was brought on not only by increasing demand for forest products, but also new access roads were built, new technologies appeared with the introduction of the modernized skidder and whole-tree harvester, and the value of mature forest increased. Logging continued to increase through the 80’s and strained to keep pace with new mill capabilities.


Recent Issues

Beginning in the 1980’s there was a strong market for second home development, especially in New York and New England, and subsequently several companies began to sell and advertise tracts of land for vacation homes. Many environmental groups and forestry-related organizations were deeply concerned by this new trend, which consequently spurred an influx of forestry regulations. Concern was especially prevalent following the “Diamond sale” of 1988.

Within six months of going up for sale the land holdings of the Diamond International Corporation, over 970,000 acres were sold to two real estate prospector who divided the land into parcels for hotels, campgrounds, private estates, and ski areas. Even more alarming was the fact that the land sold for twice the price of the wood growing on it 21. At the time of the Diamond sale, half of the northern forestland region was owned by companies with similar profiles to Diamond18. This greatly alarmed conservationists and they worked with government agencies to protect the land from development. As a result, over fifteen million dollars was spent by the government to buy land and to initiate conservation easements, which leave land in private hands but restrict development18.

It was not only environmentalists who reacted strongly to the new changes in forestland ownership that were taking place in the forestlands of the North East in the 1980’s. In 1990 the governors of the Northern Forestland (Figure 1) worked with the federal government and created a comprehensive program to study the Northern Forest, and propose protection, and preservation of the resource for future use. The group that was created was called the Northern Forest Lands Council (NFLC) and the study included “broad outreach to the public in the region, support of studies on the area's biological resources, conservation strategies, patterns of property taxation, and significance of forest-based and recreational economies”21. In 1994 the council released its final report Finding Common Ground: Conserving the Northern Forest. The report detailed 37 total recommendations for the Northern Forest. In 2000 Robert Malmsheimer and a group of researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY FSC) did an in-depth study and review of the progress that had been made since the release of the recommendations 22.

 When the NFLC set out their 37  recommendations (see Appendix 1)they were put in four general categories: Fostering stewardship of private lands, protecting exceptional resources, strengthening the economies of rural communities, and promoting more informed decisions. SUNY FSC’s  findings showed that the state of Maine has implemented more than 48 percent of the NFLC’s recommendations, which is one more than any other state. Vermont substantially implemented 45 percent of the NFLC recommendations, while New Hampshire and New York substantially implemented 41 percent of the recommendations. Malsheimer also pointed out that the states did a much better job of implementing, or partially implementing, the recommendations than the federal government, which

implemented, or partially implemented, less than half of the NFLC’s recommendations. Overall the SUNY FSC assessment saw that “considerable change has occurred in the Northern Forest since the NFLC’s recommendations”22. Some of the biggest successes were in green certification, easements and other non-fee ownership mechanisms. Many recommendations, however, have been only partially implemented or not implemented at all. This is especially true of recommendations directed toward Congress.

Maine has had success as a state in implementing a number of the recommendations, especially through state policy. Recommendation 2 for example, was to fund state easement programs. In Maine The Land for Maine’s Future Fund is the state’s primary mechanism for the funding of land conservation. In 1999 50 million dollars was approved for the financing of a land conservation program. In order to qualify for a conservation easement, the primary use of the land must be something other than timber harvesting.

Another recommendation that Maine has had partial success in implementing was Recommendation 5 (see appendix 1), to strengthen current use tax programs. New Hampshire is the leader in the area of tax use programs, but Maine is also implementing the recommendation by amending the Tree Growth Law in 1995, 1997, and 1999. The amendments were minor changes that did not implement any NFLC recommendations, but the law was actually already in force before the recommendations were published22. The Tree Growth Tax law states that its purpose is to “tax all forest lands according to their productivity and thereby to encourage their operation on a sustained yield basis”23. The hope is that the tax law will encourage wise management of forests by not taxing extensively when they are not in production.

“Best Management Practices” are another example of regulation on the forestry industry, and Maine has its own set of guidelines which were written to prevent erosion from logging practices and roads from clogging waterways. They set out a number of practices, which in the unorganized townships of Maine, are in fact law and enforced by the Land Use Regulation Commission. There are specific guidelines for woods roads, skid trails, landings and erosion control practices. The state also tries to encourage the use of licensed foresters who create management plans for smaller woodlot owners and may manage lands for those who own large amounts of timberland.

One of the most recent concerns over forestry in Maine is over the changes in timberland ownership. Consern is over not only the real estate market boom that swept the North East after the Diamond Sale, but also over the ownership of timberland by private investors, not for real estate development but as an investment in the forestry industry. Since the 1995 assessment the non industrial private ownership class in Maine has increased 1.9 million acres, while the forest industry ownership class decreased 1.6 million acres 15. This follows a nationwide trend in the timber industry. The amount of timberland held by industry stayed stable or rose gradually in the years from 1952 to 1993, but has declined since then. In the nation as a whole, the industry’s share of timberland has dropped 13.2 percent, the lowest figure since 1962 24.

This ownership change may have implications for sustainable forestry. Many of the big companies were leaders in developing the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and had long-term strategic reasons for being involved in third party certification programs. New private owners are often described as financial owners and it is unknown as of yet whether they will be willing to wait out long investment cycles like the bigger companies, be willing to provide field expertise needed to provide scientific basis for sustainable forestry, and forego timber revenue to achieve conservation goals. What we do know is that they will be subject to the same public pressures as the larger industry owners, and hopefully will be equally responsive24.

Maine has implemented several schemes to get small property owners to become involved with sustainable management practices. The Maine WoodsWISE program is one program designed to help smaller Maine forest owners (between 10-1,000 acres) to make informed decisions based on forest stewardship and long-term sustainability. It is a basically a landowner education program, that offers incentives to help landowners get started managing their land, with the help of a licensed forester. They also offer financial incentives for forest management plans and projects to implement them25. Another similar incentive is the Forest Management Plan Tax Credit which gives a credit on state income tax of up to $200 towards the cost of a forest management plan prepared by a licensed forester.

The forest-based manufacturing industry is still going strong in Maine today, and remains of significant economic importance to the state. As of 2001 the forestry industry provided employment for 30,000 people, and generated wages and salaries totaling one billion dollars, the largest payroll in Maine’s manufacturing sector. Forest based recreation and tourism provided employment for over 7,000 people and generated payrolls of 51 million. In total forest based manufacturing add over 6.5 billion dollars directly to Maine’s economy annually16.

The forest products sector is a consistent provider of income and employment for thousands of rural residents and forest landowners. While forests clearly provide a key source of economic revenue, Maine’s forests are multi-use and must balance supporting a large forest products industry, the largest manufacturing industry in the state, with being a source of habitat, biodiversity, watershed protection, and providing scenic areas for recreation. The forests in Maine have made a huge comeback from their decline in the 1800’s, and Maine’s government and people have a strong commitment to making our forests a resource that will continue to last for generations. Currently there are several interesting initiatives and issues in Maine that relate to the health of our forests.

There is substantial work left at the federal and state level in order to make sure that our forest resources remain sustainable. Maine has worked hard to implement many of the recommendations and is continuing to develop programs and laws at a state level to combat these issues. Aside from the timberland owners, the government, public and conservation groups also play major roles in the forest industry in Maine. The Maine Forest Service is a branch of the Department of Conservation and they work with the national based United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service as well as with many conservation groups, private industries and landowners in the state to encourage forest land stewardship, and sustainable harvesting. They help to initiate regulations like the liquidation harvesting rule, and also develop incentives to help landowners harvest sustainably.

The public plays a role by voting in local and state elections and therefore deciding forest policy in the state. Many members of the public also are active in Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) that work in the state to promote forest health. Examples of these are The Nature Conservancy, The Manomet Maine Center for Conservation Sciences, and the New England Forestry Foundation. It is through these important actors that Maine will be able to make sure that its forestry industry continues to prosper for generations to come.


Indicators, Policy and Analysis



         Indicators make it possible to better understand the environmental health of our forests including their complex interactions in our ecosystems, and how they affect plant and animal life on the planet and on a local scale. The status of a forestry indicator may be able to provide an early warning about future environmental issues, like watershed quality, which could in turn effect drinking water. Forestry indicators can quantify the sustainability of harvesting and manufacturing of forest products, which can help us to raise awareness, inform policy decisions, and help with resource management. Forests are critical to the state and if we want to keep them healthy and productive it is important that we are able to assess the trends of this natural resource, its ecological condition, and its environmental importance.

          Maine is heavily reliant on our forestry sector to provide needed jobs and revenue, and the indicators in this study attempt to look at the future of forestry in Maine and the current status. The indicators that were chosen to give a representation of the state of forests in Maine focus primarily on the human interactions with the forests of Maine, especially in terms of commercial harvesting. Starting with some background information about the amount and stability of the forests in the state, the first indicator looks at land use, and land use changes over the last decade. Sustainability is also a large concern, both because it will insure that we are able to harvest and benefit financially from our forests in the future and because it will ensure ecological sustainability of the forest ecosystem in Maine. The second indicator examines land ownership and one type of program that promotes sustainable harvesting in the state. The forces behind timber harvesting are mainly the consumers of forest products and the third and fourth indicators explain the levels and impacts of consumption in the US and its effects on the forestry industry in Maine. In aggregate these indicators attempt to shed light on multiple aspects of forestry in Maine, and to highlight past and future needs and policy initiatives that could take place to better insure the ecological and economic viability of our forests for future generations.


Indicator 1: Land Use

            With 90 percent of the state covered in forestland, forest use and management issues are very important (see Figure 2).Timberland is the forestland in the state that is harvestable, and reserved land is not allocated for harvesting, and includes state and national parks for example.  The consistency of the amount of land in the state that is forested is an important marker of the importance of forested land to the state. The information represented in Figure 2 is also available for previous years and indicates collectively there has been little change in at least the past 10 years in forestland use in the state. In fact this trend of stability also applies to the whole of the Northern Forestland (Figure 1), which encompasses a band of boreal forest that stretches from northern New York, across northern New Hampshire and Vermont and then across most of Maine.

Timberland area (41.5 million acres) in the Northern Forest has remained relatively stable from 1970 to 2000, increasing by roughly 3 percent. The 3 percent gains from reverting farmland in the rural parts of most states are offset by losses to development in urbanizing regions. This trend is reflected in Maine’s forest area with an identical slight change in the distribution of forested land 16. Having a stable forestland area in Maine is good for the state because one of the biggest concerns for the forests in Maine is development that began in the 1980’s when large landowners in the Northern Forestland region sold large amounts of land to developers. As the population of Maine, and particularly southern Maine, continues to grow, the state has taken measures to prevent unsustainable forestry practices that can go hand in hand with development. One example of these practices is clear cutting which is a commonly known practice that eliminates all of the trees from a parcel of land. Clearcutting is known to have negative effects on people and wildlife dependant on the services that forests provide. The Maine Forestry Practices Act limits the amount and areas, in which clearcutting is allowed.

A lesser known but equally unsustainable harvesting method is liquidation harvesting. Liquidation harvesting is defined by the legislature as “the purchase of timberland followed by a harvest that removes most or all commercial value in standing timber, without regard for long-term forest management principles, and the subsequent sale or attempted resale of the harvested land within 5 years." The legislature sees liquidation harvesting as a serious threat and in fact it had been identified as such much earlier, in the 2001, Maine Forest Service Department of Conservation report entitled: 2001 Biennial Report on the State of the Forest and Progress Report on Forest Sustainability Standards. In that report it was estimated that liquidation harvesting occurred on between 16,000 and 64,000 acres of Maine forest each year.

Liquidation harvesting is connected to the real estate market, and therefore the growing population in the state because it is often a precursor to land sales and a symptom of cut and run business. A company may buy a parcel of timberland, liquidate the timber, and then quickly turn over the land for development. This is made possible by the combination of demand for timber and for land. If land was not in such high demand for development, an unforested parcel of land may be worth very little.

To combat this issue Maine has adopted a new rule which will take effect on January 2nd 2005. The new rule states that liquidation harvesting produces significant adverse economic and environmental effects and threatens the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the State, and is “incompatible with responsible forest stewardship and must be substantially eliminated” (12 MRSA, § 8866). The rule applies new standards for pieces of forestland that are sold or offered for sale within five years of the date of purchase of the parcel, also specifies circumstances which are exempt from these rules. The rule constitutes an amendment to the Forest Regeneration and Clearcutting Standards.  This is a positive step towards encouraging sustainable harvesting by making unsustainable practices illegal.



Indicator 2: Third Party Certification

             Though the new laws governing liquidation harvesting and the previous Forest Practices Act are enforceable at a government level, there are voluntary programs that also encourage sustainable harvesting. The third party certification of forestry practice sustainability, and forestry products is one of these methods. Third party certification means that an independent, accredited third party auditor assesses whether the management practices of a landowner are in accordance with specific standards of sustainable forestry. Depending on the system chosen, either the land, the product itself, or the land manager may be certified. Third Party certification a tangible step that harvesters and landowners can take towards sustainable forestry. Also over time, depending on whether more groups begin to participate, it may show that demand for certified forest products has increased, decreased, or remained the same. The success of forest certification lies in the hands of the consumer ultimately, and the hope is that some consumers would choose a forest product that has been certified and presumably labeled as such, over an uncertified alternative. Without transparency of certification standards, education of the public, and willingness to buy the long-term possibilities for forest certification will be extremely limited.

As of 2000 approximately, 42 percent of the state’s forest acres have been certified under a third partly certification for sustainable forest management. The figure also details the changes in land ownership that have taken place since 1957. The amount of land in Maine currently under third party certification is significant, and it is growing. Under one third party certification scheme alone FSC, approximately 5.6 million acres of forestland were certified in the U.S. with over 5.1 million acres 91 percent certified in the Northeast and Midwest as of February 1, 2000. Pennsylvania has the largest certified acreage in the region (2.3 million acres), followed by Maine (1.0 million acres), New York (717,000 acres), Minnesota (585,000 acres), Wisconsin (252,000 acres) and Michigan (155,000 acres). In March of 2003, the number of FSC certified acres had grown by half a million acres26.




Four programs that are commonly used in Maine are FSC, SFI, ISO, and Tree Farm. Each of these third party certification schemes require owners of forested land to pay for certification. With much of the productive forestland of Maine in private hands (Figure 3 and 4), it is hard to know if third party certification will be a feasible means insuring sustainable management. In Maine forest ownership may play a role in third party certification. Large landowners have embraced certification, while the high costs involved with certification are what has been preventing moderate and small landowners from participating. As of 2000 eighty percent of large landowners have secured SFI or FSC certification and six forest products companies have secured FSC “chain-of-custody” certification, which requires businesses to establish systems that create a paper trail demonstrating certified materials are kept separate from non-certified materials 29.

Not only is it unknown whether or not private owners can afford certification, but no one knows what the future will hold for third party certifications. Will markets sustain these new options? It is certain though that the trend is growing, and with major retailers like Home Depot stocking their shelves with certified timber products, consumers are being given options, and the success of third party certifications in Figure 3 shows that timber harvesters, land owners and mill operators are responding to the demand.



Indicator 3: Paper and Board Consumption and Production

This indicator turns the focus towards the drivers of timber harvest in the state of Maine. Production and consumption of paper and board products has dramatically increased in the US between 1965 and 1997. The rise in production has been mirrored by a slightly higher overall consumption which is a driver of the increase in production. 

The paper industry in Maine is a major consumer of timber, so the pressures of supply and demand from the market directly affect the economy and forests of our state. The upward trend is steady in consumption and production until 1996-97 when it levels off. The production and the production capacity of woodpulp actually reached its peak in the 1990’s and this was mirrored in paper and board production and consumption (Figure 5). According to some sources pulpwood production peaked in 1995 and then dropped by 12 percent over the next 7 years 31,32. In 2001, capacity utilization (a comparison of mill capacity and use) was approximately 86 percent for pulpwood, a level last experienced during the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, and previously experienced only during the recessions of the late 1950s and early 1960s and at the end of the Great Depression in 194032.

The cause of these declines is the result of several combined factors including an increase in the trade value of the US dollar between 1996-2001, which contributed to the decline in exports and increase in imports domestically of paper and paperboard products. The strength of the dollar also contributed to a recession in the overall manufacturing sector between 2000-2001 which slowed demand for paper and paperboard products, contributing to the drop in production and consumption that began after 199732. There has also been an increase in recycling and the use of recycled in paper and paperboard consumption since the 1980’s (Figure 6) which may also be a contributing factor to the decline in woodpulp production and capacity32.


Indicator 4: The Price of Hardwood Pulpwood

Indicator 3 and 4 are closely linked and attempt to look at the drivers of forestry in the state. In the last decade (1990-2000) prices have continued to increase in Maine for hardwood pulpwood. This is due to a number of factors including a tightening supply and demand market, and spruce-fir (which is actually a combination of two or more species, mostly red spruce and balsam fir) pulpwood stumpage price, which increased faster than hardwood after the early 1980’s in Maine partly as a result of the salvaging of dead trees from the spruce budworm outbreak that also caused a diminished supply of spruce-fir. Prices are correlated with harvesting pressure33.

As consumption and production of pulp and paper products rose in the US, so did the price that buyers were willing to pay for pulpwood. In the early 1960’s Maine’s hardwood pulpwood production was barely a third of softwood pulpwood production. Today hardwood pulpwood production exceeds softwood by 40 percent. Overall stumpage prices for hardwood pulpwood have seen a slow but steady increase since the 1960’s (Figure 7). In 1997 pulpwood accounted for 5.3 million cords of the estimated total timber cut of 14 million cords in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The price for hardwood pulpwood has also increased dramatically since 1965, and is certainly a driver of harvest in the state 33.

As demand rises, suppliers can make more profit, which creates an incentive to supply more and charge higher prices. This trend has sustained the hardwood pulpwood industry in Maine very well, but what about the sustainability of the hardwood forests? Increased production means more trees are being cut and without proper forest management if is possible to over harvest. It is often stated that the consumption of manufactured goods by the developed world is exorbitant and growing. The rising consumption of paper and board products definitely supports that theory but it is also important to understand the effects on these increases on the environment.  The New England Foresters Association model has projected that even if harvesting levels remained constant from 2001 on, in 50 years the hardwood supply in Maine would no longer support harvesting. We need to seek alternatives to hardwood paper, and also to ensure that what is being harvested now is sustainable.  This is where the recommendations of the NFLC, and the steps states have made towards them become very important.




The forest is not without threats, as projected in the North East Foresters Association model 34, and by many independent companies in the state, the future of the forestry industry here is unstable34. Even if we manage the resource now, if the volume of harvest continues to rise, our forestry practices could become unsustainable16. The drivers of this very slow increase in harvest volume we have seen in Maine are the consumers and as we saw in the indicators consumption continues to rise31. The lumber companies in the state feel a lot of pressure especially from the international market to remain competitive. Maine forest products are renown for quality, but the cost of labor in the state is not competitive with international markets35. Also our further environmental restrictions on timber harvest, though necessary for sustainability, may make it harder for the Maine forestry industry to compete in an increasingly globalized world. As the National Forest Lands Council suggested, there are ways that we can deal with this trend, including better flow of information. Consumers and producers alike need to be informed of technologies and ideas like third party certification in order for Maine’s sustainable practices to have a niche in the market16,35.

The government in the state is committed to making this important resource one that remains productive for future generations, and they are continuing to adopt policies to make that possible. The programs that are being initiated at a state level are progressive, but at a federal level the government has done little to protect our national forest resources. There have been many predictions for the direction of the forestry industry in the state. It is unlikely that the amount of forested land will change drastically in the next few decades. Though the trends in the market are uncertain if we continue to have the same level of harvesting of hardwoods we may begin to see a deficiency in 50 years. With uneven age growth structure our rising harvest of hardwoods will eventually prove to be unsustainable. Also Maine’s forestry industry has suffered from devastating invasive and diseases in the past, the Chestnut Blight almost wiping out the American Chestnut from Maine completely, the Dutch Elm Disease, the more recent Spruce Bud Worm, and not the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. All of these pests have been or are a significant threat to Maine’s timber stocks and we have no way to insure that there will not be more invasive species introduced in the future

No one can predict with certainty what will become of Maine’s forests but it is clear that we need good management, because the forests of Maine are an integral part of this state’s history, livelihood, and future. The forests provide us with incalculable benefits from watershed protection to manufacturing revenue, and sustainability is the key to making them continue to produce for generations to come.

Literature Cited



1.         UNFAO. Global Forest Resource Assessment. accessed 11/11/04 (2000).

2.         UNFAO Trade and Sustainable Forest Management - Impacts and Interactions. Impact Assessment of Forest Products Trade in the Promotion of Sustainable Forest Management. accessed 11/11/04 (2004).

3.         Richards, J. F. & Tucker, R. P. World Deforestation In The Twentieth Century (Duke University Press, Durham, 1988).

4.         Dudley, N., Jeanrenaud, J. P. & Sullivan, F. Bad Harvest? The Timber Trade and the Degradation of the World's Forests. (Earthscan Publications, London, 1995).

5.         McNulty, S. G. & Aber, J. D. US National Climate Change Assessment on Forest Ecosystems: An Introduction. Bioscience 51, p720, 3p (2001).

6.         Despland, E. & Yates, D. A Global Perspective On The Boreal Forest Ecosystem (2002).

7.         Raven, P. H. Tropical Rain Forests: A Global Responsibility. Natural History 90, 28-31 (1981).

8.         da Fonseca, G. A. B. et al. A Global Experiment Under Way. Science 295, p1835, 4/5p (2002).

9.         Nickel, W. & Sennhauser, E. Medicinal Plants: Local Heritage with Global Importance. accessed 10/11/04 (2004).

10.        Defries, R. S., Bounoua, L. & Collatz, G. J. Human modification of the landscape and surface climate in the next fifty years. Global Change Biology 8, 438, 21p (2002).

11.        UNFAO. Promoting Responsible Forest Harvesting Practices. accessed 11/17/04 (2004)12.           David Fan. Public Debates: Shaping Forestry's Future:An Analysis. 112 (InfoTrend, USDA, 1997).

13.        Stephen, H. Deforestation: Humankind and The Global Ecological Crisis. accessed 10/11/04 (1997).

14.        Laustsen, K. M., Griffith Douglass M & Steinman James R. Fourth Annual Inventory Report on Maine's Forests. accessed 11/11/04 (2003).

15.        Department of Conservation: Maine Forest Service Forest Policy and Management Division. 37 (Augusta, ME, 2001).

16.        The Northern Forest Center. The Northern Forest Center Official Website. accessed 11/11/04 (2004).

17.        Dobbs, D. & Ober, R. The Northern Forest (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, White River Junction, VT, 1995).

18.        Smith, D. C. Studies in the Land: The Northeast Corner (ed. Nadelhaft, J.) (Routledge, New York, 2002).

19.        Wessels, T. (ed. Beetz, J.) (Waterville, ME, 2004).

20.        Land, P. An Updated Guide to the Northern Forest: The Places, The Players, and The Progress. accessed 11/11/04 (2003).

21.        Malmsheimer R.W., Bentley W.R. & D.W., F. Conserving the Northern Forest- A report card on state and federal implimentation of recommendations of the Northern Forest Lands Council. Journal of Forestry 3, 34-39 (2002).

22.        Irland, L. Maine Forests: A Century of Change, 1900-2000 ... and elements of policy change for a new century. Maine Policy Review, 66-78 (2000).

23.        Sampson, N., DeCoster, L. & Remuzzi, J. (The Sampson Group, Inc., Alexandria VA, 2000).

24.        Maine Forest Service: Forest Policy Management Division. WoodsWise: Woods Wise Incentives to Stewardship Enhancement. accessed 10/21/04 (2004).

25.        Hansen, E. & Bratkovich, S. Forest Certification in the Northeast and Midwest. accessed 11/11/04 (2000).

26.        University of Maine. The State of the Maine Forest. accessed 11/18/04 (2004).

27.        Maine Forest Service: Maine Department of Conservation. Forest Certification in Maine. accessed 11/11/04 (2004).

28.        Malmsheimer R.W., Bentley W.R. & D.W., F. The Implementation of the Northern Forest Lands Council's Recommendations: An Analysis Six Years Later. accessed 11/7/04 (2000).

29.        Maine Office of Geographic Information Systems (MEGIS). MEOWN250. Assessed 11/11/04 (1993).

30.        Howard, J. L. U.S. Timber Production, Trade, Consumption, and Price Statistics 1965-1997. accessed 11/11/04 (1999).

31.        Smith, Brett R. Rice, Robert W. Ince & J., P. Pulp Capacity in the United States, 2000. accessed 11/11/04 (2003).

32.        Irland, L. C., Sendak Paul E & H, W. R. Hardwood Pulpwood Stumpage Price Trends in the Northeast. acessed 11/11/04 (2001).

33.        R.J. Turner Company & Company, L. E. C. A Forest Resource Model of The States of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. accessed 11/11/04 (2001).

34.        R.J. Turner Company & Company, L. E. C. A Forest Resource Model of The States of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. accessed 11/11/04 (2001).




The 37 recommendations of the Northern Forest Lands Council (1994) 29.


I. Fostering Stewardship of Private Land

1. Fund Forest Legacy

2. Fund state easement programs

3. Fund the Stewardship Incentive Program

4. Encourage green certification programs

5. Strengthen current use tax programs

6. Consider replacing the ad valorem taxation system

7. Change estate tax policies

8. Allow inflation adjustment on the original cost of timber

9. Eliminate the 100 hours per year rule

10. Educate forest users and the public about sound forest management

11. Assess forest practices and programs

12. Achieve principles of sustainability

II. Protecting Exceptional Resources

13. Fund public land management agencies

14. Institute a national excise tax on recreation equipment

15. Refine state land acquisition planning programs

16. Fund the Land and Water Conservation program

17. Fund state land acquisition programs

18. Employ a variety of conservation tools

19. Exclude from income tax a portion of the gain from conservation sales

20. Assess water quality trends

21. Conserve and enhance biodiversity

III. Strengthening Economies of Rural Communities

22. Increase funding for Rural Community Assistance programs

23. Encourage marketing cooperatives and networks

24. Direct assistance to natural resource-based businesses

25. Authorize and fund Community Development Financial Institutions or a similar program

26. Promote public policy to provide forest-based recreation

27. Improve workplace safety

28. Reform workers’ compensation insurance programs

29. Review the effectiveness of administrative rules

30. Simplify and stabilize the regulatory process

31. Review land use planning programs

32. Establish consistent truck-weight regulations

IV. Promoting More Informed Decisions

33. Support cooperative efforts among four state universities

34. Track and analyze land trends

35. Conduct and publish decennial surveys in a timely fashion

36. Use the Northern Forest Resource Inventory

37. Promote natural resource education for the public



Colby College  |  Colby Search  |  Colby Directory
Students of Environmental Studies 493
Environmental Studies Program,  Colby College
4848 Mayflower Hill,
Waterville, Maine 04901 USA
T: 207-859-4848   F: 207-872-3731   contact

Last Modified: 12/11/04 11:53:40 AM