A Brief Folk History of Responsible Forestry in Maine

in memory of JK Lyford, Inc.

A long time ago, my grandfather and great-grandfather cut wood with two-man saws and stacked it onto sleds hauled by horses. From there they went to a river, where they marked their logs and sent them downstream.

You could have multiplied their efforts by a million or ten million and still never have clear-cut a forest in the State of Maine. My great-grandfather was among the first people to own a truck and use it to haul wood in the state. He invested in other new equipment, like chainsaws.

Back then, you either owned or leased the lot you worked. Today many loggers just work for some larger outfit that owns the land they work.

In my grandfather’s case, he owned many of them, then sold them as house lots after getting his fill of pine, birch, and other hardwoods. It didn’t make sense to cut every single tree on the land, or to flatten it out and burn what remained. Re-planting trees wasn’t a horrible idea, and to my knowledge he never opposed it.

However, he didn’t need to do that because, as I said, he never cut every single thing on the lot. If you leave the lot alone for 10 years, you have a whole new harvest. In the words of his daughter, who managed the business for a long time, “He understood that Maine regenerates herself.”

Additionally, limbs and branches left around the lots helped ensure that new seed made it into ground – which was essentially tilled by the large-scale equipment and heavy seasonal rains.

Large outfits like Canadian Irving Oil would prefer that every lot they sell become a shopping mall or other development. This is evident by their history of acquisition and sales.

In 1989, before the bitter winds of the North American Free Trade Agreement began to touch the industry and mills started closing, the State of Maine passed the Forest Practices Act, a law intended to limit clear-cutting among other things. At the time, the state was still more than 90% forest. Today, after more than two centuries of continuous logging, Maine remains about 90% forested.

Sensible people like my grandfather are to thank for the fresh air we breathe, the roads we drive, and the impressive education system.

Major corporations like Irving Oil, a Canadian outfit, never liked regulations that fell in line with responsible forestry. No one had to tell my grandfather why it was important to replant trees; trees were his gold.

Yet Irving Oil earned an exception under disgraced anti-labor governor Paul LePage, the Trump-like idiot directly responsible for the communist now occupying the governor’s mansion.

By and large, Mainers still bear one of the heaviest tax burdens in the United States, despite the government getting over 30% of its revenues out of federal coffers. In many parts of the state, a citizen can’t even count on modern internet speeds.

The solution to clear-cutting and irresponsible forestry, such as we see in the Amazon, is property ownership and decentralization.

Also, stop letting the government own everything, too – when an asshole gets into power, that’s a central point of failure: it only takes one decision to have the whole thing burning (like in Brazil.)

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