Good afternoon Senator Vitelli, Representative Dill, and members of the Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am a resident of Alna. I am testifying today on behalf of NRCM’s 16,000 members and supporters in support of both LD 1823 and LD 1847.
Last fall we learned, to our total surprise, that the Maine Forest Service had approved two outcome based forestry projects approximately 18 months earlier. No notice of these projects was provided to the public. One of these projects exempted over a million acres from the Forest Practices Act.
We initially supported the Outcome–based Forestry experiment over a decade ago in a effort to determine if there were, indeed, alternatives to the Forest Practices Act that provided as good or better environmental protection. The original intent was that the program would be experimental, limited in scope to no more than 200,000 acres total on no more than six parcels, and limited in time (by the use of a sunset) in order to ensure that an analysis of the effects of the experiment occurred.
Over the years, one by one, changes were made to the law which ultimately resulted in a project covering well over 1 million acres with no clear method of evaluation of the outcomes of the experiment.
Both of the bills before you would require notice to the Legislature and the public, and opportunities for public comments on proposed, ongoing and completed OBF experiments. These provisions fill a crucial need for public information about contracts that will exempt landowners from the Forest Practices Act.
Both bills also clarify the role of the independent panel in assessing the experiments and ensure that the panel does not simply delegate this analysis to other entities. Both bills also ensure that a member of the public is appointed to the panel.
In addition, LD 1823 ensures that a meaningful assessment of the success of the Outcome-based Forestry experiment takes place. The sunset provision in Sec. 1 ensures that by 2021 an analysis of whether the experiment should be continued, changed, or ended takes place. LD 1823 also puts in place some parameters for that analysis to ensure that both the local and landscape scale environmental impacts are evaluated, and that the habitat type, size and structure are considered as part of the evaluation.
We believe that these changes to the Outcome-based Forestry experiment are important steps towards ensuring that this is an experiment that not only provides landowners with an exemption from the Forest Practices Act but also ensures that the Legislature and the public has an opportunity to evaluate whether the OBF experiments are, indeed, providing the “equivalent forest and environmental protection” required by the law.
We urge you to vote Ought To Pass on LD 1823 or on an amended version of LD 1847 that also includes those provisions of LD 1823 that are currently not in LD 1847.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.