The Bangor Daily News
Wednesday, April 8, 1998

King signs forest clear-cutting bill

By Glenn Adams, The Associated Press -- AUGUSTA - Gov. Angus King signed a forest management bill Tuesday that brings to a close - at least temporarily - a contentious debate over clear-cutting in the state's 17 million acres of woodlands.


King defended the new law as a serious means to establish a sound policy to protect the forests for the long term. It "puts money where our collective mouth is" by adding personnel to fully enforce good forest practices, he said.


With members of the Legislature's Forestry Committee behind him, King praised lawmakers who labored over the measure that will require minimum buffer zones around clear-cuts and management plans for clear-cuts greater than 35 acres. The plans must state the purpose of the clear-cuts.


The law also provides for forest inventories to determine timber supplies, and annual reports summarizing clear-cutting activities.


The bill creates "a well-thought-out, well-defined process for establishing public policy on the forests," said the governor.


King signed the bill five months after Maine voters rejected a timber industry-backed plan for managing the forests. The proposal had been advanced as an alternative to a citizen-initiated proposal to ban clear-cutting outright, which had failed passage the previous year.


"One of the great problems that we've had in the debate in the last two or three years is that it's been principally based upon emotion and anecdote," King said Tuesday.


King said he hoped environmental activists who have hinted they might push for a new anti-clear-cutting referendum will hold off and see if the law he had just signed works. The law has the backing of industry and many small woodlot owners.


Pat Lamarche, a Forest Ecology Network member who helped in the campaign against the forest compact because she said it didn't go far enough, said King's action was "extremely disappointing."


But she said no decision had been made on whether a new clear-cutting referendum would be sought. Current law limits clear-cuts to 250 acres.


The Forest Ecology Network says more than 2 million acres of Maine forests have been clear-cut in the last 20 years and that the companies that own more than 10 million acres of the woods do not manage them responsibly.


King acknowledged there have been abuses with forest clear-cutting in the past but said significant improvements have been made within the past decade.


Around 1990, he said, about 150,000 acres a year were being clear-cut, but last year the number had dropped to about 35,000 acres.


"That doesn't mean that the issue of the long-term sustainability of our forests is completed or over," said King.


"It is critically important that we get a handle on this issue so that the forests we turn over to succeeding generations are as vigorous and as productive and open to as many different uses as they are today," said King.

Copyright © 1998, Bangor Daily News Inc.