Maine Delegation Presses USDA to Protect Rural Forest Economy, Change New Guidance on Nonindustrial Forests
WASHINGTON — Maine’s congressional delegation wrote to the United States Department of Agriculture this week to express their concerns with the agency’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) guidance for nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF). In December 2020, the agency proposed a threshold for acreage at which a landowner qualifies as NIPF in NRCS programs, which the lawmakers note could hold back conservation efforts in the state and hurt logging, forest products, and outdoor recreation industries critical to local economies in rural Maine.
“Given the importance of Maine’s outdoor recreation and logging industries to our state’s economy and the role NRCS plays in sustaining our forests, it is troubling that your agency has chosen to pursue a threshold of 45,000 acres when determining what qualifies as NIPF,” wrote Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02). “We remain concerned that entities that have previously used NRCS funds could become ineligible to participate in NRCS programs… The loss of these [NRCS] funds would be a severe blow to Maine’s economy that is already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The proposed guidance sets criteria for the identification of NIPF landowners, including an upper threshold for receiving NRCS funding of 45,000 acres. The threshold could exclude organizations who perform substantial conservation work — such as the Appalachian Mountain Club — from receiving NRCS funds. On top of the impact to Maine-based conservation efforts and adverse impacts to the recreation economy in the state, the loss of the funding would hurt the local loggers and logging companies who perform the maintenance and conservation work facilitated with NRCS funds.
Read a copy of the letter here.