The Forest Society of Maine’s President/CEO Karin R. Tilberg wrote an op-ed for the Portland Press Herald discussing the importance of conservation in Maine’s forests to climate resilience. Here is what she had to say.
Our thoughts are with the millions of people suffering from the force and fury of recent hurricanes, especially those who have lost loved ones. Because the intensity of the storms is determined largely by the temperature of the ocean waters, a warmer climate causes the storms to be stronger and to travel farther north, in our case along the Atlantic coast. Actions we take in Maine can contribute in a small way to limiting the rate of global warming and the resulting intensity of storms including hurricanes. How is this so, and can we do more?
Maine’s North Woods, extending for nearly 12 million acres, are the largest intact forests east of the Mississippi River. Maine’s forests cover more than 90% of the state, and they take in a massive amount of carbon – a process known as sequestration. Scientists at the University of Maine estimate that Maine’s forests sequester nearly 70% of the carbon dioxide emitted in Maine every year.
In its 2022 report, the Maine Climate Council listed the many efforts underway to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. If emissions are reduced sufficiently, Maine’s forests could sequester the equivalent of all the greenhouse-gas emissions generated in Maine. This is true only if we ensure that the forests in our state remain intact, healthy and productive. For this reason, the Climate Council endorsed a goal of conserving 30% of Maine lands by 2030 in its Maine Won’t Wait climate plan.
In fact, the plan earned the 2022 Resilience and Sustainability Award from the American Planning Association as the premier state climate plan in the country. The council’s report points to forest conservation easements as one of the most effective tools to reach this goal. The easements are important to our state, because a large proportion of them maintain the land as working forest, with the specific goal of sustaining our long-standing forest-based and recreational industries and jobs.
In the last few months, several significant forest conservation achievements have been celebrated: Nearly 30,000 acres were conserved through the efforts of the Forest Society of Maine and partner organizations, and 27,000 acres were acquired by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Numerous other projects across the state have added acreage to this year’s tally. This pace of about 60,000 acres per year of conservation, while stunning, must grow in the next eight years to reach the goal of 30% of Maine in conservation by 2030. This is achievable, and conservation efforts in Maine can help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The link between forest conservation and forest productivity here in Maine with the intensity of storms and hurricanes in places like the Gulf Coast may be indirect and appear small on a global scale. Nevertheless, this is yet another case in which Maine’s motto, “Dirigo,” symbolizes our leadership. We are connected across the globe by what we do by deed and by example here in Maine. Forest landowners, the state, and conservation partners who welcome and pursue conservation easements can help to make a difference.