North Woods park idea specious
Letter to the Editor
As a professor emeritus of forestry economics and forest policy at the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University, I wish to comment on Jonathan Carter's “Community Compass” article of Aug. 22, entitled “Forest Future Park idea merits consideration”.
It is a biased viewpoint to lend support to his attempt to stop timber harvesting in the North Woods. His rationale for setting aside this entire “3.2 million acre Alaskan-size park and preserve” are not always explicitly stated and the implications of establishment are not fully presented.
The National Park Service was established by Congress in 1916, although many areas had been reserved for parks out of the public domain prior to that time. National Parks do not permit harvesting of timber and are created to preserve “scenery of supreme and distinctive quality or some natural feature so extraordinary or unique as to be of national interest and importance”. Although there are portions of northern Maine which fulfill some of these requirements for a National Park, such areas are already reserved from development. Whereas most of the National Parks have been set aside from the public domain, establishing them in Maine would require the taking of private land either by eminent domain proceedings or by purchase, both very costly acquisitions.
Carter's argument for bolstering the economy of Maine through establishment of a reserve of forest land is highly questionable. The replacement of a strong wood-based economy by a tourist economy, which, at best, would be for four months a year, is fallacious.
Changes in technology have reduced the work force in the wood industry today from that in 1960, but, in turn, productivity has increased and provided jobs that pay a higher wage in real dollars. To assume that tourism will increase from that of today, where people come to hunt, fish, camp, and canoe and raft on the state's rivers in a forest cover with little diversity is difficult to believe. Being walled-in by an even-aged forest is not aesthetically attractive.
As a reserved forest increases in age, it will become more stagnant, increase the danger of severe forest fires and become less effective inn the carbon dioxide to oxygen exchange process.
There is value in harvesting the forest to support diversity of flora and fauna and to maintain a vigorous forest of varying ages. Too much emphasis is focused on the negative aspects of clear-cutting, which if done properly as a silvicultural prescription is the best way to harvest the spruce–fir forests of northern Maine.
Although National Parks serve an excellent purpose, I do not believe northern Maine's forests fulfill the objectives for establishing National Parks, and that there are may additional reasons why such restricted use of the forest should not take place.
(This letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal is reprinted here with permission from the author.)