A Canadian conglomerate that owns everything from convenience
paper mills will become Maine's largest forest landowner.
J.D. Irving Ltd., a New Brunswick company with a record that
clear-cutting with strong environmental protection, is buying 1 million acres of
timberland and a sawmill in Aroostook County from Bowater Inc. for $220
Irving, which already owns 550,000 acres of forest in northern
Maine, said it
would continue to manage the land for timber. The logs would supply the
Pinkham sawmill in Ashland, as well as an existing Irving sawmill in Fort
Irving has also agreed to supply chips from the lands to Bowater's
paper mill in
East Millinocket. The company expects to close the deal by March.
The New Brunswick company has not sold land for development
Whether it would sell land to the state for conservation is unknown.
Gov. Angus King has spoken with an Irving official about acquiring
the public, but no commitments were made, Jill Filieo, a spokeswoman for
King, said Wednesday.
"This was a conversation, and nothing more," Filieo
said. "At some point, I'm
sure we'll have further discussion."
She said Irving told King it would protect jobs, practice sound
public access to the lands.
Bowater revealed its plans to sell the timberlands only three
days ago, in an
announcement that focused largely on the company's third quarter earnings and
other company activities. However, Irving had been looking at the lands since
last spring, as part of a prospective acquisition of all of Bowater's Great
Northern Paper division in Maine.
"We went down and had a look, and this is the deal we
struck," said Mary
Keith, a spokeswoman for Irving.
Bowater decided to keep the Great Northern paper mill in East
Another company mill in Millinocket is still for sale.
Most Mainers recognize Irving as the owner of a string of convenience
and a retailer of home heating oil. In New Brunswick, the company has many
business interests, including an oil refinery, trucking company and extensive
forests and mills.
Irving's forest products division includes 12 sawmills and
2.5 million acres of
timberland in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine. The company also has
licenses to harvest timber on another 2.4 million acres of government forest
In addition, it owns pulp, paper, corrugated board and tissue
mills in New
Brunswick and New York. Fifteen thousand jobs are supported by the
company's harvesting on government lands alone.
Irving said in a statement that the 100 people who work at
the Pinkham mill in
Ashland will keep their jobs, and that new jobs may be added "as company
Public access has traditionally been allowed on Irving's lands
and that practice will continue on the newly acquired Bowater lands, the
On its forests in northern New Brunswick, Irving recently received
environmental seal of approval from Scientific Certification Systems, a leading
independent organization that assesses the practices of major forest landowners.
Irving has also been working closely with The Nature Conservancy
ecologically sensitive areas within its ownership. Keith said recreation, wildlife
habitat protection and other non-timber uses come first on roughly 20 percent of
However, Irving also uses clear-cuts for nearly 60 percent
of its harvests,
according to Keith. That brings the company under fire from some
Jonathan Carter, spokesman for the Forest Ecology Network,
Irving would clear-cut extensively in Maine.
"Their whole strategy in New Brunswick is to clear-cut,
spray herbicides and
do tree plantations," he said.
Carter also called on Bowater to name the price for land it
still owns with high
value for recreation, including areas around Baxter State Park and the
headwaters of the Penobscot River.
"I would think if they made an overture to the state and
put a price on it, the
money could be found," he said.
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