By Maura Adams and Leslie Karasin
Cappuccino, chaga tea and craft beer. Hotel development plans in the works and a new non-profit arts center. People of all ages sharing enthusiasm about their town, which lies on the shore of a sparkling lake. This isn’t Burlington – it’s Tupper Lake, New York, where entrepreneurship, pride, and vision abounds – qualities that many outside observers don’t understand exists in this community.
Tupper Lake’s history resembles that of many Northern Forest towns: from logging boomtown in the 1800s to prosperous wood products manufacturing hub, then gradual loss of industry later in the 20th century with no substantial economic replacement. Tupper is often perceived as struggling, and some of its demographic statistics reflect this.
By Maura Adams
Riding my bike along exposed rock ledges just outside a bustling downtown that’s gained a national reputation as a mountain biking destination, I found myself wondering: can we make this happen in the Northern Forest? The answer, I believe, is yes – but it’ll take time, money, and sustained momentum by organizations committed to mountain biking and community development.
I was in Bentonville, Arkansas, last week for Trail Labs, a workshop held by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) intended to teach attendees “what it takes to create a model trail community and return home with the knowledge and guidance for how to make it happen.” Several other New Englanders, including two of our MTB Collaborative partners, attended as well.
Trail Labs affirmed what we already suspected about mountain biking: evidence from around the country shows that it helps attract and retain young people in communities, brings significant economic benefits, and gets local people outside and active. We’re on the right track!
From January 2012 through the end of June 2018, the Northern Forest Center had provided incentives or other assistance to 163 wood pellet boiler projects, and we estimate that they’ve contributed a total of $3.5 million to the regional economy. Together the boiler owners have spent approximately $1.7 million on locally-made wood pellets and have cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 4,000 tons.
We calculate the impact of our wood heat program so we can explain the need for supportive public policies, continued funding for conversions from oil to sustainable wood pellet heat, and more. But what’s behind the numbers? It’s time to dust off your algebra skills and find out!
Estimates are necessarily based on assumptions and choices, and we’ve put a lot of thought into deciding how best to calculate the benefits of switching to wood pellet heat. We use a combination of pellet consumption data, fuel prices and a conservative economic multiplier to account for the increased amount of money circulating in the local economy rather than being sent outside the region to pay for fuel from elsewhere. We balance precision with practicability and believe our methodology produces a well-reasoned estimate of the impact that switching to wood pellets for heat has on the region’s economy and environment.
Center Vice President Joe Short co-authored a blog with Clifford Deaton of the Aspen Institute to showcase the many ways the Farm Bill is crucial to supporting rural communities, families and entrepreneurship.
You might be surprised at the breadth of the programs in the Farm Bill, and worried about whether critical programs will be adequately funded when the US House and Senate reconcile their differing versions of the bill. Read what they have to say.