By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
A coalition led by the Kennebec Land Trust has organized a conference Friday focused on sustainable forestry and its role in Maine’s local economies.
The land trust said the conference at the Augusta Civic Center will discuss the economic value of locally made wood products and the regional dynamics of New England’s forestland and forest products economy.
Theresa Kerchner, executive director of the Kennebec Land Trust, said in a statement that the event aims to tap into a growing consumer awareness and preference for products made locally.
“As in the local food movement, consumers are interested in regionally produced wood products that provide income for forestland owners and local jobs for foresters, loggers and wood processors,” Kerchner said.
The event will include talks by six panels of experts focused on sustaining Maine’s forest product industry, policymaking that would help support a local economy for wood products and integrating new research into the practices for small and large woodlot owners.
For the decade from 2002 to 2012, forestry and wood product manufacturing made up about 1.5 percent of the state’s real gross domestic product. Paper manufacturing made up another 1.6 percent in 2012, a decline from the about 3 percent of the state’s output it represented in 2002.
The conference, also led by the Maine Forest Service, GrowSmart Maine, Coastal Enterprises Inc., the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Kennebec Woodland Partnership, will include an expo for companies and nonprofits with a connection to the Maine woods.
A series of open houses on Saturday will allow tours of sawmills, wood product businesses and private woodlots.
The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The open house events run Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.