Recent Maine Referendum on Logging Practices Topic of Yale Forest Forum Panel Discussion

A fierce, decades-long battle for control of Maine’s forest management culminated Nov. 4 when voters by a narrow margin defeated a referendum that would have placed unprecedented restrictions on the state’s logging practices. The referendum, a topic of heated public debate in recent months, won a place on the ballot this year by defeating an even more restrictive referendum last year that would have banned clear-cutting entirely.

The evolution of this historic debate and the likely impact of the referendum’s defeat will be the topic of a panel discussion titled “The Compact for Maine’s Forests: A Case Study in Politics and Policymaking in Forest Management” at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17. The event, sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – F&ES – and the Yale Forest Forum, will be held in Bowers Hall in Sage Hall, 205 Prospect St.

“The potential effects of this decision in Maine are enormous,” said John Gordon, F&ES dean. “This referendum presents one of the best case studies illustrating how legislative prescriptions regulating complex forestry issues are being debated in the political arena and decided by the average citizen.”

Modern-day clear-cutting – removal of all trees in a forest section – became “the norm” in Maine in the 1970s and 1980s to stop a major spruce bud worm infestation. In recent years, many environmental groups and citizens have questioned the need for clear-cutting and expressed concern about its aesthetic impact. They spearheaded “The Citizens’ Initiative to Promote Forest Rehabilitation and Eliminate Clear-cutting,” a proposal to completely ban clear-cutting.

As the debate grew more acrimonious, Governor Angus King initiated a collaborative effort to moderate a solution. The collaborators included a coalition of large landholders, a number of mainstream environmental groups and the Maine Forest Service. What they developed was a set of new restrictions on forest practices called “The Compact for Maine’s Forests,” which defeated the citizens’ initiative banning clear-cutting in last year’s run-off.

“Forests cover more than 87 percent of Maine’s total land area, and 96 percent of commercial timberland is owned by private landowners,” Professor Gordon said. “The compact, if it had passed, would have significantly changed how forests are managed within the state. It also would have changed the future of the state’s forest industries, which represent 11 percent – or $4.5 billion – of Maine’s economic output. Other states in the Northeast, and across the country, have been watching the Maine debate very closely because it could change how forest policy is made.”

Panelists represent some of the organizations in Maine that were instrumental in developing the compact. They are:

* William Glidden, deputy director, Maine Natural Resources Council.

* Chuck Hewett, chief operating officer, Office of the Governor.

* Roger Milliken, president, Baskahegan Land Co.

* Joel Swanton, senior management forester, Champion International.

* Kent Wommack, executive director, Maine Nature Conservancy.

The panel will be moderated by Dan Esty, associate professor and director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. Professor Esty will open the panel with a general discussion on public involvement in policymaking. A general discussion and questions from the audience will follow brief presentations by the panelists.

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