Eric Kingsley | FRA Northeast Region Coordinator

Eric Kingsley | FRA Northeast Region Coordinator

Last week’s FRA Forest Forum, a monthly dinner held near Bangor, Maine, brought speakers on mapping and drones, and we learned how these technologies can help with the in-woods operation. There were three great presentations, but that’s not what I found most interesting.
A groundhog somewhere in Pennsylvania saw its shadow, so apparently, the entire country is about to be treated to six more weeks of winter. You’re in luck - for years, the Forest Resources Association has shared information on the technical and safety aspects of working in cold conditions.
Many employers in the forest industry are looking for workers who can show up on time, follow procedures, and pass a drug screening test. At FRA’s Fall Board Meeting we heard from two speakers who made a case for finding these employees by seeking out veterans of the United States military.
In 1883, Frank and Otis Robbins opened a mill on Maine’s St. George River. More than 130 years later, the Robbins family still operates a sawmill near that site. The white pine mill, which saws 29 MMBF, employs 110 people in a rural area of coastal Maine.
For a mill, some of the most important relationships are with the people that supply wood to the facility. As more than one mill has proven, it is very hard to run when you don’t have raw materials to operate. For suppliers, mills are the customer.
In 1999, New England and New York had 17 operating pulp and paper mills. Today, there are six. Much has been written about the loss of these markets and why they disappeared. That is not today’s discussion.
Forest industries – over time – develop unique and inter-related “ecosystems”, where a range of markets support a complex and ever-evolving supply chain.
In the winter and spring of 2016, wood markets in the Adirondack Region of New York were robust. This part of Upstate New York has two pulp and paper mills and numerous hardwood sawmills that have long anchored the region’s markets.
Since 2014, Maine has lost about 4 million tons of markets for pulpwood and biomass. Six paper mills have closed, and another has cut its wood consumption dramatically. With this rapid and dramatic market loss, landowners and loggers in New England are seeking new markets for their wood.
We all know that forests and forest industries are important to rural economies, but how important? One way to measure economic impact is to drive through any forest industry town and observe the activity...
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