Where Are We Headed?
An Analysis of Forest Statistics for Maine, 2001

By Mitch Lansky

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Executive summary

This document is based on statistics from the following Maine Forest Service documents: 2001 Silvicultural Activities including Annual Report on Clearcutting, 2001 Wood Processor Report Including Import and Export Information, The 2001 Biennial Report on the State of the Forest and Progress Report on Forest Sustainability Standards, and Third Annual Inventory Report on Maine’s Forests. In this document I ask the following questions:

  • Who owns Maine woods?
  • How has landownership changed?
  • Who does the cutting?
  • What kind of cutting is being done, by whom?
  • How heavy is the cutting?
  • How much is considered regeneration cutting?
  • How much is cut per acre per year on average
  • Who is doing intensive management (early stand management)?
  • How much is being cut?
  • How is the wood being used?
  • How much is being exported unprocessed?
  • How has stand type changed?
  • How has stocking changed?
  • How has stand size changed?
  • Is cut less than net growth?
  • How has volume changed?
  • In answering these questions, I use data from these reports to make graphs, so that the user of this report can see what the numbers mean. I conclude with a discussion of the policy tools that the state is using to improve forestry practices. I suggest that the state use these tools to promote not just improved forestry (emphasizing improvements in partial cuts), but also reduced wood product consumption, and increased forest reserves.

    Some noteworthy trends graphed in this document include:

  • Industrial share of Maine timberlands has declined from 7.3 million acres to 5.7 million acres between 1995 and 2001, a loss of 1.6 million acres.
  • Industrial owners are responsible for 28% of the acres cut in 2001 but did 82% of clearcuts, 82% of pre-commercial thinning, 83% of the plantations, and 91% of herbicide release.
  • While clearcuts have declined greatly over the last decade (making up less than 3% of all cuts in 2001), cutting is still heavy, so that the acreage of regeneration cuts (clearcuts plus overstory removals) has not declined at all since 1994 (around 93 thousand acres in 1994 and around 94 thousand acres in 2001), and the average cut per acre per year has declined very little (from 12 cords per acre in 1996 to 11 cords per acre in 2001).
  • Although the volume cut per year might go up or down from one year to the next, the long-term trend is towards increasing volume removals. From 3.5 million cords in 1960 to 4.8 million cords in 1980 to 6.3 million cords in 2001.
  • Most of the wood being cut (around 50%) is being used for pulp. Only around 43%, down from 51% in 1999, is being used for lumber. Nearly 7% of the wood is going for biomass.
  • Certain species of sawlogs are being exported unmilled at a very high rate. The biggest examples are 61% of spruce-fir, 53% of yellow birch, and 52% of hard maple. Most of the exports are to Quebec sawmills.
  • The spruce-fir stand type has continued its decline, from 7.8 million acres in 1982, to 5.2 million acres in 2001. The northern hardwood and intolerant hardwood types have increased over the same period.
  • From 1995 to 2001, the percentage of forest in fully-stocked stands declined (as it did from 1982 to 1995). The trend of an increasing percentage of the forest in acres with low basal area also continued.
  • The forest continued its trend of increased acreage in seedlings and saplings. The spruce-fir type continued its trend of reduced acreage in sawtimber and especially poletimber.
  • Between 1995 and 2001 the MFS noted a continued trend of cut being greater than net growth (as measured in basal area, rather than volume). This led to a trend of a 1.3% decline per year in basal area for all species with around a 2.4% a year decline for spruce-fir and intolerant hardwood types.
  • The MFS measured more volume per acre (16 cords) in 2001 than had been measured by the US Forest Service in 1995 (15 cords), but these findings contradict the other findings (of lowered percentage of fully stocked stands, increased acreage in seedlings and saplings, and declines in basal area) noted above. This brings into question the reliability of comparisons of the 1999-2001 figures to other inventory years. As in other inventories, the methodology has changed, making comparisons difficult.
  • I conclude that these trends are not sustainable. If Maine is to grow more volume of high value wood, then heavy cutting and diameter-limit cutting, leading to increased acreage in small diameter trees, decline in stocking quality, and shift to shorter-lived species, need to be addressed with each of the state's forest policy tools such as research, data collection, demonstration, education, regulations, tax incentives, easements, and certification. To promote a forest with increased growth and value, enhanced biodiversity values, and improved recreation and aesthetic opportunities, the state should be promoting increased use of low-impact forestry, decreased consumption of forest products (through reduced waste and increased efficiency), and more forest reserves.

    Click here to read/downlowd the entire report in pdf format.