In October nearly 100 foresters and forestry students from around the state met at the Maine chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) fall meeting to learn about and discuss topics related to forestry, interact with fellow foresters, and take part in tours and workshops.
The forest industry continues to play a big part in Maine’s economy, contributing $9.8 billion in 2014 and supporting nearly 39,000 jobs directly and through related employment. This year forest products are expected to contribute $8.5 billion to the state’s economy and more than 33,000 jobs, which is no small feat.
One update that was given at the meeting is that the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) is looking at industry and community needs throughout the state to see what assistance will provide the most benefit. Earlier this year an EDAT team from the Department of Commerce came to “evaluate new and existing economic strategies to address the state’s forest-based economic challenges.” They have since announced that they “will invest more than $4 million to help diversify and grow the Maine economy, which includes new funds designed to aid the forest sector” according to their press release in July.
As we look to the future there are exciting new technologies being used to create new products from wood right here in Maine. One of the tours SAF offered at this meeting was a look inside the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) at the University of Maine. Some of the new products on display were nanocellulose and cross-laminated timber (CLT). Nanocellulose has many practical applications and can be used in a variety of items like recyclable foam insulation board, artificial organs, and other high-performance products. CLT is strong and sturdy and according to UMaine’s Dr. Stephen Shaler, “CLT is sometimes called plywood on steroids.”
One of the foresters who toured the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the FBRI said that it was interesting to see the new developments in nanomaterials, and the processes being developed to convert wood to oil. He also enjoyed seeing the potential for cross-laminated timber (CLT) and learning about its structural properties.
As societal needs, the forest products industry, and the environment continue to change, the Forest Society of Maine believes Maine’s millions of acres of forests will only become more valuable for many different reasons. That’s why we’re working to conserve forestland so that it will be available to support jobs, recreation, and wildlife habitat. We’re glad to have so many foresters in this state who spend their livelihoods caring for and promoting this wonderful resource.