Property Rights Foundation of America®

A-4 Northern Forest Lands Council

(Latest update 2001)

54 Portsmouth Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 224-6603

(Address discontinued. For information, contact one of individuals below, one of the members of the board of directors, or see sources of additional information at end of this section.)

Key Personnel

Concord Staff:

Charles A. Levesque, Executive Director

Esther L. Cowles, Resource Specialist

Mary Beth Hybsch, Administrative Assistant

Northern Forest State Coordinators

Maine:

Donald Mansius, Department of Conservation,
Sate House Station 22, Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-4906

New Hampshire:

Susan Francher, Division of Forests and Lands
P. O. Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302

New York:

Karyn Richards, Dept. of Environmental Conservation
50 Wolf Road, Room 404, Albany, NY 12233-4252
(518) 457-7431

Vermont:

Michael Fraysier and Charles Johnson, Agency of Natural Resources
103 S. Main St., Waterbury, VT 05676
(802) 241-3682 (Michael; (802) 241-3652 (Charles)

Jim Horton, Agency of Natural Resources
184 Portland Street, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819
(802) 748-8787

Finances

Total Northern Forest Lands Council Congressional Funding:

1991.$1,075,000
1992.1,234,000
1993.1,165,000
1994.1,020,000

Total $4,494,000

Organizational Description and Goals

The creation of the Northern Forest lands Council followed the completion of the Northern Forest Lands Study in May 1990, the same time that the Twenty-first Century Commission on the Adirondacks was released. According to the Northern Forest Lands Council, the study, undertaken by the USDA Forest Service, had its charge in the words of an October 1988 letter from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman to the Chief of the Forest Service:

"The current land ownership and management patterns have served the people and forests of the region well. We are seeking reinforcement rather than replacement of the patterns of ownership and use that have characterized these lands for decades."

(Finding Common Ground, the draft recommendations of the Northern Forest Lands Council for public policy changes affecting the 26 million acre Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, Northern Forest Lands Council, March, 1994, p. 11)

The Northern Forest Lands Council and the related Forest Legacy land acquisition program were created under the appropriation for the U.S. Forest service under the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act in 1990. The Northern Forest Lands Council was comprised of four governor-
appointees from each of four states, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine; and one U.S. Department of Agriculture appointee. It was directed to continue the work begun by the Governors' Task Force, another study group, and the Northern Forest Lands Study for another four years. After its final recommendations 1994, it was disbanded.

"Since it was created in 1990, the Northern Forest lands Council has been seeking ways for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York to maintain the 'traditional patterns of land ownership and use' of the Northern Forests."

(Finding Common Ground, Draft, March 1994, p. 11)

However, the Northern Forest Lands program was seen as a program to transfer land from the private sector to government ownership and to create an interstate land-use control agency. The material for the program was to be located in the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, where the Forest Service legislation creating the powerful interstate zoning agency, the Columbia River Gorge Commission, was located. The agency operates similarly to the APA, but its interstate scope and federal auspices makes it even more impregnable. A pre-bill draft providing for what could be interstate land use control protections came from the offices of the Vermont Senators. Opposition was aroused. The four-year program of study proceeded amid controversy.

Accompanying Forest Legacy land acquisition provisions in the Agricultural appropriation each year began in 1991 when the Northern Forest Lands Council was funded. (Both the Northern Forest lands Council and the Forest Legacy programs were funded without accompanying legislation.) After Carol LaGrasse told him about the program, Representative Gerald B. Solomon, the New York Congressman, who was the Ranking Minority Member on the Rules Committee, had a local clause added that no Forest Legacy funds could be expanded in New York State without the formal approval of the local town or village where the land is located. He continued adding this clause when he became the Chairman of the Rules Committee. Thus, because of local opposition and leadership of Jerry Solomon, the Forest Legacy funds never made any impact toward further elimination of private property in the Adirondacks.

Board of Directors (Affiliations per the NFLC's official 1994 publication)
Northern Forest Lands Council Members

From Maine:
Jerry A. Bley, Creative Conservation, RFD 1, Box 716, Readfield, ME, 04335.
Bley is Principal of Creative Conservation, a natural resource consulting firm; he is a former land use policy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Edward "Ted" I. Johnston, Maine Forest Products Council, 146 State Street, Augusta, ME 04330.
Johnston is President of the Maine Forest Products Council, and a former staff member for Senator William S. Cohen of Maine; he was a member of the Governors' Task Force on Northern Forest Lands.
Janice A. McAllister, RR 2, Box 141, Abbot, ME. 04406.
McAllister is a Selectwoman from Abbot, Maine, and a small forest owner.
C. Edwin Meadows, Department of Conservation, State House Station 22, Augusta, ME 04333.
Meadows, formerly with the Seven Islands Land Company, is Commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation; he was a member of the Governors' Task Force.

From New Hampshire:
Paul O. Bofinger, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, 54 Portsmouth Street, Concord, NH 03301. Bofinger is President/Forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and was a member of the Governors' Task Force on Northern Forest Lands.
John D. Harrigan, P.O. Box 28, Lancaster, NH 03584.
Harrigan, a Northern Forest landowner, is also the Publisher and Editor of the Coos County Democrat and longtime resident of the north country.
Beaton Marsh, 42 Bridge Street, Colebrook, NH 03576.
Marsh. now retired, was a State Legislator for eight years; he was former Director of Lumber Management for Ethan Allen, where he was employed for 28 years.
John E. Sargent, Division of Forests and Lands, Department of Resources and Economic Development, P.O. Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302.
Sargent, New Hampshire State Forester, is Director of the Division of Forests and Lands; he is a former north country resident.

From New York:
Robert L. Bendick, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 50 Wolf Road, Room 604, Albany, NY, 12233-1012.
Bendick is Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources for the Department of Environmental Conservation, and formerly Director of Rhode Island's Environmental Management.
Robert Stegemann, International Paper, 120 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY, 12210-2203.
Stegemann is Regional Manager for Public Affairs at International Paper, and former Executive Vice President of the Empire State Forest Products Association.
Barbara Sweet, Town of Newcomb, Box 405, Newcomb, NY 12852.
Sweet is a Councilwoman from Newcomb, NY, and a local business woman.
Neil Woodworth, Conservation Director/Corporate Counsel, Adirondack Mountain Club, 30 Louise Street, Delmar, NY, 12054.
Woodworth is Director of Government Relations with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and a practicing attorney in the Albany area.

From Vermont:
Richard G. Carbonetti, Round Top Woodlot Management Co., P.O. Box 294, Albany, VT, 05820.
Carbonetti, owner of Round Top Woodlot Management Co., is a professional forester who works with private forest landowners in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and surrounding states.
Peter Meyer, E.B. Hyde Corporation, Towne Hill Road, Montpelier, VT, 05602.
Meyer is Vice President of E.B. Hyde Corporation, an owner of family forest land in northern Vermont; he was a member of the Governors' Task Force on Northern Forest Lands.
Conrad Motyka, Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Agency of Natural Resources, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT, 05676.
Motyka, Vermont Stare Forester, is Commissioner of Vermont's Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; he is also a forest landowner and maple syrup producer.
Brendan J. Whittaker, RR 1, Box 555, Guildhall, VT, 05905.
Whittaker is a Forester and former Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; he is also an Episcopal minister and Northern Forest Project Coordinator for the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

From the USDA Forest Service:
Michael T. Rains, State and Private Forestry. USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 96090, Washington, DC 20090-6090
Rains is the Acting Deputy Chief for Stare and Private Forestry in the Forest Service. He was previously State and Private Area Director for the northeastern area of the country.

Comments

The mantra driving the establishment of the Northern Forest lands Council was stopping "land conversion." It was widely claimed that land use across the 26 million "Northern Forest," a region defined by environmentalists spurred on by funding by the Pew Charitable Trust, that land was being sold to developers on a large scale. However, in 1994 the final report of the Northern Forest lands Council, "Common Ground," disproved the stated concern. Buried in its appendices, the report stated that the Council's Sewall Study had showed that during the past decade "92 % of the acreage sold (5.5 million acres) remained in timber management; 5% [344,147 acres] changed to public ownership and use (this includes 151,297 acres under conservation easement; 2% went to speculation for development; and the remaining 1% went to a combination of other commercial, and unspecified private use."

(Finding Common Ground, Draft, p. A-17)

The report also concluded in the appendix that "Impacts of land conversion on timber availability across the region were not found to be significant." ("Finding Common Ground," Draft, p. A-17, referencing both the Sewall Study and the Irland Study)

The Sewall report, which is unavailable, clearly evaluated the implications of these findings, namely that the bulk of the "land conversion" was to government and non-profit organizations for preservation purposes.

But, during the study period, in its main press releases and executive summaries, the Northern Forest Lands Council downplayed the most important finding and continued repeating the concerns that had driven the report in the first place. In addition, the constant stream of studies, meetings, and the like, with accompanying misleading press releases, served to publicize the non-existent problem of "land conversion."

However, in the final report draft, Finding Common Ground, after starting out with guiding concepts that recognized the long-standing fears of the residents that they will lose their way of life, the Northern Forest Lands Council issued a medley of recommendations in three categories ranging from (1) those to strengthen the forest-based economy, to (2) fostering long-term stewardship of private land, to (3) allowing for public acquisition of land with exceptional public values, where those values are threatened now or in the future, and enhancing management of public land. Thus, while putting in great detail excellent recommendations for improved federal and state land and income tax policy, fostering the recreation-based economy in private land, reviewing government regulation for ways it could be improved to less impede forest-based business, and many other well-considered recommendations, the Council fell into the trap of recommending more land acquisition. Whether for "ecological reserves," with the excellent caveats and assessment procedures that the Council recommended, or for acquisition of land to conserve exceptional values, even though the recommendation for acquisition and funding follow the recommendation for improved management of government-owned land, the trap is set. The recommendations are there to be used, and caveats misleadingly omitted. Actually, perhaps because something from all of the parties who had to find common ground had to be considered, some of the caveats under land acquisition are nearly as bad as government land acquisition, such as "recognizes that zoning is not an appropriate substitute for such purchase." (p. 34)

The report Finding Common Ground stopped short of setting acreages for acquisition, but included enough fodder for government land acquisition to make it still useful for quoting in future Congressional battles and the like. This is a shame, because the report contains such excellent recommendations related to the forest economy, whether for regulatory reform, workman's compensation, market incentives, or the all-important area of income and property tax reform.

Property Taxes

The Northern Forest Lands Council's first recommendation concerned property taxes, and it is a pity that this recommendation has made no impact in New York's Adirondacks.

"The Council commissioned a study of the situation, entitled Property Taxes and the Economics of Timberland Management in the Northern Forest Region, by forest economist Dr. Hugh Canham. The Council learned the stark reality of growing trees long-term: on the average in the Northern Forest and even on the best growing sites, it is extremely difficult to make a profit if property taxes exceed $2.00 per acre per year. Ad valorem-based property taxes significantly exceed this threshold in many areas of the Northern Forest, and the study concludes that current use programs are essential for profitable long-term forestry, except where appraised values are at or near use values." (Finding Common Ground, Draft, p. 28)

The Council's bold-face finding was:

"Given the present economics of owning and managing timberlands in much of the region, the Council has found that current use valuation is essential if property taxes are not to force landowners to sell or convert forest lands to non-forest uses." (p. 28)

For the complete report on property taxes commissioned by the NFL Council, see Property Taxes and the Economics of Timberland Management in the Northern Forest Region (1992), by Prof. Hugh O. Canham, Ph.D., Department of Forestry Economics, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse.

For Additional Information:

1. PRFA Web site on Northern Forest Lands: (link)

2. Also, see Northern Forest Alliance, this directory.

3. Local libraries were said to become repositories of copies of all reports commissioned by the Northern Forest Land Council. See Appendix of Finding Common Ground for the complete roster of reports commissioned by the NFL Council.

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