Published: Oct 6, 2008
Author(s): Rob Lilieholm
For centuries, Maine’s vast forestlands have served as an economic and cultural mainstay for the region. Over time, the people and landscapes have changed, but the forests’ central role has endured (Irland 1999). Today, Maine’s woodlands are experiencing change on a scale and pace rarely before seen. From massive land sales up north, to rising development pressures in the south and along the coast, the future of Maine’s forests as a working landscape open to recreationists and yielding a host of environmental services is increasingly uncertain. Maine’s North Woods represent the largest undeveloped forest block remaining in the eastern United States. And while these forests will likely endure, growing uncertainty over changing ownership and development has fueled a lively debate over whether current land use policies and trends are sufficient to sustain the forests and communities of the region. In this paper I describe the challenges and opportunities facing northern Maine, and offer some insights—as a recent resident of the state—on possible ways forward. My intent is not to offer an “answer,” for no single solution exists. Instead, I seek to take stock of where we are and where we seem to be headed, and describe how a broader, regional vision for the North Woods might better serve the long-term interests of the region’s forests and communities.