CARIBOU - The Northern Forest Products Industry Cluster, which represents manufacturers, logging companies, landowners, financial institutions, economic development, higher education officials and industry experts, has voted to write a letter in opposition of the proposed Katahdin Woods and Water National Park.
The cluster, meeting as a full group for the fourth time Wednesday June 4, took the action after a majority vote to draft an opposition letter. The draft will be distributed to cluster members for individual and/or company signatures.
The cluster was formed with the goals of increasing value added processing (current and potential), create jobs and grow the forest economy of Aroostook and Maine.
The group, organized by the Aroostook Partnership for Progress, met for the first time in January to discuss opportunities and challenges. The second meeting in February was to solidify the inputs, set up a timeline and to set and refine the priority focus areas. Meeting for the third time in April, cluster members moved closer to implementing an action plan by forming subcommittees to develop strategies in six areas: workforce development/education, transportation, energy, access to capital/insurance, state bureaucratic barriers and long-term economic plan for Maine.
At the latest meeting, the cluster also agreed to form a research and development subcommittee as this is an area that will be essential for adding new products and processes to the future of this sector.
"There are many indicators that show the global market for forest products overall is increasing but that market is also changing due to many factors - just as the pulp and paper industry has changed over the last 10 years, new uses and demands for wood fiber are emerging every day," said APP President Bob Dorsey. "In fact, we discussed at the last meeting how the demand for cardboard has increased dramatically with the advent of internet sales and learned that computer chips can now be manufactured from Nano cellulose fiber technology. Clearly, the R & D efforts at the University of Maine, collaboration between them and the forest sector, and the creation of new products and more streamlined processes will play a pivotal role in the future of forestry in Maine."
The cluster also heard an update on the potential spruce budworm problem from Maine Forest Service State Entomologist Dave Struble.
"The budworm situation is already severe north of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, and it is not long before it will be a problem in Maine," he said.
Struble said it is too soon to tell how severe the outbreak will be, but an analysis by the University of Maine looking at a moderate outbreak for budworms indicted a 22 percent reduction in harvest and a potential loss of 596 jobs in the forestry sector.
Unlike in the 1970s, Struble said targeted harvesting, not widespread aerial spraying, may be the best option for combating budworm.
More information on the budworm preparation and response plan is available at http://crsf.umaine.edu/files/2
The forest products industry represents more than 6,750 jobs in Aroostook County and is the major economic engine of the region.
"The Forest Products Cluster is an energetic and dedicated group and their effort was just featured in the June 1st edition of MaineBiz," commented Dorsey. "It is clear from state agencies and emails I get, that folks all over the State are following our efforts and are very supportive of the actions we are undertaking."
The next full cluster meeting will be in August, when a formal action plan to grow the forest economy will be presented.
Editor's note: Neither APP nor NMDC has taken a formal position on the proposed National Park.