September 30, 1998.
By Orna Izakson
Of the NEWS Staff
AUGUSTA - Environmental activist Jonathan Carter on Tuesday declared "war" against the paper companies in Maine, which he says are terrorizing the state's vast tracts of forest land. Carter's war is likely to include proposed legislation and a new forestry referendum on the 2000 ballot, he said, and also could include nonviolent civil disobedience.
In a press conference, Carter issued "a call for armed resistance" to stop the paper companies from converting forests to tree farms through the use of controversial techniques including clear-cutting and herbicide spraying.
"A call to arms is not a call for violence, in spite of the violence these companies are carrying out against the forest," Carter said. "It is a statement of unequivocal resistance. If the paper corporations continue down this path they had better be prepared for an expensive, protracted war."
A report issued last week by the Maine Forest Ser-vice documented that the state's forest products industry now cuts trees faster than they grow. The solution the report offered was to grow wood faster by increasing the use of clear-cutting, tree planta-tions, thinning and herbicide spraying. The report recommended doubling the amount of land on which those practices are used from 4 percent of the state's 17 million acres of working forest to 9 percent.
Paper companies have known for years that the expensive practices are a way to boost growth rates. Champion International, for instance, has said for more than a year that it plans to use intensive tech-niques to manage about 40 percent of its 1 million acres of forest, which feed its Bucksport paper mill and two stud mills.
Joel Swanton, the company's senior management forester, said the techniques are expensive and con-troversial, but can triple or quadruple the production from a given tract of land. That's important, he said, because the demand for wood products is increasing while the land on which to produce those trees is decreasing because of development and because of conservation.
Carter charged that paper companies and the Maine Forest Service believe "that they can clear-cut, convert and herbicide their way out of years of overcutting.
"This is like depleting one's bank account for years, seeing the interest decline, and then believing that with drawn-down capital it will be pos-sible to maintain income," he said. "It just doesn't work! The only way to recover the lost capital is to spend less and build up equity."
Every company in the state is looking at its future differently, said Dan Corcoran, manager of forest policy for Bowater-Great Northern Paper Co., which has paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket.
Corcoran's company has about 1 percent of its land in intensive management, and expects to reduce its use of clear-cutting and herbicides in the coming years in favor of thinning the forests at various stages.
"The future is going to be a mix of different types [of management] just as it is today," Corcoran said Tuesday. "I don't see us ever going to plantation management in a major way in this state. It will always be a minor component of our overall management program."
Gov. Angus King said Tuesday there was "no reason for the shrillness" of Carter's reaction to the Maine Forest Service report. "This is a long-term, slow-motion issue," King said of the continuing gap between tree growth and harvest. "This is not a crisis."
Vowing to lead the charge for legislative restrictions if the gap becomes a crisis, King said the responsible way to proceed is to try to grow wood faster first. If that fails, he said, there will still be time to try to restore the amount of wood in the forests through reduced cutting.
"What our friends this morning were talking about going to war over is a 5 percent increase in the amount of land dedicated to intensive forestry practices, King said.
Environmentalists should be happy if industry can find a way to grow more wood on the same acre, he said. Their displeasure at the news, he said, shows their not-quite-hidden agenda of returning Maine's North Woods to a pre-Columbian state by way of a national park. People can hike, ski and snowmobile in an industrial forest, he said, "and people in Maine have been doing that for 200 years."
Jeff Toorish, executive director of the Maine Pulp and Paper Asso-ciation, defended the controversial practices of clear-cutting and herbicide spraying, adding that the threat implied by Carter's rhetoric appeared to be primarily political.
"I would hope we would not see ecoterrorism in Maine," Toorish said. "I don't think the people of Maine would stand for it."
Carter said the real ecoterrorists are the paper companies, and downplayed the violence implied by his "call to arms." The activist said he had no intention of getting involved with tree spiking - the controversial practice of driving nails into trees to break saw blades when the trunks are cut or milled.
But he did say that Maine activists were prepared to invoke their constitutional right to direct action - a term that usually involves protesters getting arrested for violating a law or opposing a practice they believe to be unjust - in order to protect Maine's forests.
While Carter's group, the Forest Ecology Network, stood alone Tuesday in its call to arms, the group was not alone in opposing recommendations of the Maine Forest Service report.
"The suggestion that the solution to this self-created timber shortfall is more clear-cutting an greater user of herbicides ridiculous," said Joan Saxe, chairwoman of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club. "It is, of course, the heavy hand of industrial forestry that has created the
crisis in the first place. We need look elsewhere for its solution."
Carter said he and his supporters will have a difficult time fighting the industry with its arsenal of money, lobbyists and political influence. But, he said, "we have the support of the people and secret weapon they don't have -- scientifically based truth."