`IT'S a spiritual place. I can smell the mysteries of the
"I remember rafting down the Penobscot - gurgling near the
riverbanks - seeing osprey, moose, red squirrel."
"What we need to do: Buy massive amounts of land for
ecosystems. We need a national park, national forest. You can fly
over Maine and not leave a clear-cut in half an hour. The game is
over. The forest is mostly gone."
These are the picturesque but sometimes urgent words of Patty
Gamborini, Maggie Brazalius, and Charles Fitzgerald, respectively,
New England residents who voiced their views on the state of the
Northern Forest at a recent public hearing held in Boston. Eighteen
similar hearings have been held throughout the Northeast over the
past two months.
The forest encompasses 26 million acres of mostly private lands
(85 percent) from the Maine coast across northern New Hampshire,
Vermont, and New York almost to Lake Ontario. It is home to 1
million people and is one of the largest expanses of continuously
forested lands in the United States.
Some environmentalists say the forest is in danger from excess
development, overlogging, and other poor forest management
practices. As a result, its future is the subject of debate.
For the past four years, the Northern Forest Lands Council - a
Congress-appointed body comprised of a US Forest Service
representative and four governor appointees from the states
involved - has studied the forest.
The council recently published its findings in a report titled,
"Finding Common Ground," which outlines 33 recommended incentives
and regulations that encourage a balanced approach to managing the
forest and the economic, environmental, and recreational needs of
its inhabitants and visitors.
The recommendations call for action by Congress, state
legislators, governors, and other agencies on: property taxes,
public land management and acquisition, federal and state tax
policies, biological diversity, outdoor recreation on private and
public lands, and private forest land stewardship.
Also: forest practices, market development, rural development
through forestry, education and technical assistance, workers'
compensation insurance, government regulations, and land conversion
and forest status research.
The public comment period on the council's recommendations ended
Monday. After considering the input it has received, the council
will meet this summer to finalize a plan that will then be
submitted to Congress and governors of the four states having land
in the Northern Forest.
Loggers, mill workers, farmers, and businesspeople in the forest
region have, of course, a huge stake in the outcome of any
management plan designed for it. Several of these people attended
the Boston public hearing.
Many environmentally concerned citizens at the hearing commended
the council but said the report did not go far enough.
THE moderator received some boos when she interrupted speaker
Ted Reid to say that he had strayed from the subject when he asked
for protection along the Maine-New Brunswick border of the breeding
area of the eastern panther.
Linda McElroy, another speaker, stressed the dichotomy of the
forest issue. …