AUGUSTA – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine held its 2016 Legislative Breakfast Feb. 23, as legislators joined logging contractors from around Maine at the Senator Inn to hear about the challenges facing the state’s logging industry.
More than 120 people including 50 legislators and 35 logging contractors attended, a new record for the annual event.
“I want to thank everyone wholeheartedly for coming this morning,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran, said. “We’re very excited to have so many of you who are supportive of the logging industry.”
PLC Member Contractors spoke to the assembled legislators about the history of the organization, the importance of professional logging, and the challenges facing the industry – particularly the recent loss of paper mills and biomass markets.
“This is an unprecedented time,” Brian Souers, President of the PLC said. “As I grew my business over the last several decades, we’ve had our ups and downs, but nothing like what’s going on today.”
Many other PLC Member Contractors including Andy Irish, Don Cole, Tom Cushman, and seven members of the Madden family representing seven businesses – Steve Madden, Tony Madden, Randy Madden, Derek Madden, Andrew Madden, Corey Madden and Fernald Madden – spoke about their businesses and the crisis facing Maine’s loggers and why it matters, citing the hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars the industry contributes to the state’s economy.
Most shared the personal stories of their businesses and families and employees, providing powerful testimony to legislators about why action to preserve the state’s biomass market and pulp and paper industry is critical.
The event also provided an opportunity to showcase the Northeast Master Logger Certification Program, the high standards PLC Members maintain in their work and forest stewardship, and the high level of involvement and support PLC Members demonstrate in their communities and in support of charitable causes including Log-A-Load for Maine Kids.
The goal of the Legislative Breakfast was to educate Maine lawmakers on the issues facing loggers and the importance of the industry to the state and the economy. The event this year comes in the midst of PLC efforts to secure legislative support for initiatives including:
- Exempting logging operations from paying sales tax on fuel used in commercial wood harvesting operations.
- Preserving the state biomass market through measures including legislation to provide 3-5 year contracts with the Maine Public Utilities Commission for biomass electricity providers in Maine that set prices per kilowatt hour at levels the industry can afford.
- Securing additional funding to support logger education programs in Maine. These efforts include advocating for use of public lands timber harvest revenue for equipment purchases for high school logger training programs and to provide additional support for the new community college Mechanized Logging Operations Training Program being launched this summer.
The Legislative Breakfast was followed later in the afternoon by a special presentation by the PLC and biomass industry representatives to the Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee and the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee as legislators began looking at ways to preserve Maine’s biomass markets in the face of cheap fossil fuels and expiring renewable energy credits agreements that have provided markets for Maine biomass electricity.