Mitch Lanksy Outlines Problems in 1995 USFS Inventory of the Maine Woods

1. Red spruce decline. Red spruce is the most important species for both lumber and pulpwood. The cut of red spruces was three times the volume of growth. Red spruce declined by 28% in volume between 1982 and 1995. It will take a long time to recover because of a decline in trees in smaller diameter classes.

2. Decline in spruce-fir forest type. The spruce-fir type declined by more than 1.5 million acres between 1982 and 1995, but the northern hardwood and birch-aspen types increased in acreage. This has long-term implications in timber supply and more immediate implications for local timberlands taxation. Mixedwood and hardwood timberlands have lower assessed values under the tree-growth tax. Timber-type shifts lead to tax shifts.

3. Increase in red maple and beech -- low value species. Hardwood, pulpwood and biomass give poor returns to landowners and loggers.

4. A decline in hardwood quality. Since 1959 there has been a steady decline in the percent of hardwood sawlogs suitable for grade 1 sawlogs and veneer. This indicates highgrading, and means the resource is dominated by low value wood.

5. Increase in acreage of seedlings and saplings. In 1995 there were 1.2 million more acres of seedlings and saplings than in 1982, bringing the total up to 4.2 million acres -- 25% of all timberlands. This is evidence of a lot of clearcutting. Seedlings and saplings do not produce merchantable sawlogs for many decades.

6. Domination of small saplings by shorter-lived, lower-valued, and more vulnerable species. The top three species in trees 1-3 inches in diameter were fir, red maple, and non-commercial hardwoods. White birch, red spruce, aspen, and beech followed. Of these, only red spruce is a longer-lived more valuable species.

7. Domination of the spruce-fir saplings by balsam fir. Even-aged fir-dominated thickets create stands highly susceptible to the spruce budworm.

8. Major regional declines and low volumes per acre. Four counties, Piscataquis, Somerset, Franklin, and Aroostook had major volume declines resulting in low volumes per acre -- less than 14 cords. In contrast, National Forests averaged over 32 cords to the acre. Except for Aroostook, the declines were in both softwoods and hardwoods. Past cutting levels cannot be sustained. Lowering cut, to allow volume recovery, is necessary, but will have economic consequences. These four counties contain half of the state's timberlands.


9. Overcutting, clearcutting, low volumes, and low growth on forest-industry timberlands. Forest-industry lands had a cut to growth ratio of 2 to 1, the highest of any other identified landowner type. Industry timberlands averaged only 13.4 cords to the acre with only 0.18 cords per acre per year in growth, less than the 0.24 cords to the acre per year defining commercial "timberlands." Twenty nine percent of forest-industry timberlands were in seedlings and saplings.


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