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Maine Forest Service aims to produce America's best wood supply analysis - thanks to improved inventory and better models

Periodically since the early 1980s, the Maine Department of Conservation's Forestry Service has been a part of a comprehensive update of its forest inventory and a prospective look at the statewide wood supply analysis.

The problem was that when the report - which forecast wood supply 50 years into the future - was published it was already out-of-date, as harvesting and silviculture techniques had changed and the expectations of stakeholders had also been modified, impacting the future of the state's wood supply.

Fresh Approach

But with the next analysis - a draft report about which is expected in a year's time - the Maine Forest Service is taking a fresh approach - using new, more representative annualized inventory data gathered from sample sites throughout Maine, new growth and yield curves and forest models formulated using Woodstock forest modeling software.

"The major focus of this project is to see what we have for forest resources across the state and how it will change over time and to look ahead and see what concerns do we need to address," explains Ken Laustsen, a biometrician with the Maine Department of Conservation's Forest Service, who is heading up the analysis.

"The state-wide wood supply predictions will be used by industry, government agencies, conservation groups, non-industrial land owners, institutional investors and other stakeholders to ensure the long-term sustainable development of the forest resource in the state.

"Even though these groups might do their own wood supply analysis, they are still interested in 'the big picture' as well."

This is the first major analysis headed up by Mr. Laustsen who joined the Forest Service four-and-a-half years ago after 24 years as a forester in the private sector in Maine.

Having used Woodstock forest modeling software while working in the private industry, Mr. Laustsen wanted to apply the software to conduct the statewide wood supply analysis.

"Woodstock is robust and it allows modelers to build models to suit their needs. It also has a high degree of acceptance among different entities, both industrial and non-industrial and because it has an optimization function - I can quickly hone in on the best case scenario given a set of limitations, whereas with previous models, that was a long and labor intensive process," Mr. Laustsen explains.

Based on model outputs, Mr. Laustsen will produce a draft report that will be provided to stakeholders and other interested parties for their commentary and critique.

"I would hope for feedback from all the participants in the review reassuring me 'Are our assumptions correct? Are we reflecting current management techniques? Am I accounting for planting enough acres? Are we figuring in all the silviculture practices and harvesting techniques? What other concerns do we need to address?'" Mr. Laustsen says.

Based on that feedback, the model will be revised and a final, more respective wood supply analysis will be published.

Other states, particularly in the New England region, are carefully watching Maine's approach to wood supply analysis, with an eye to adopting a similar method of analysis.

"Maine is the most heavily forested state and with a major forest industry manufacturing component, it has traditionally been ahead of the curve in terms of what we are doing in forestry and conservation and I think that is true in this case as well," Mr. Laustsen says.


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