Bethel Community Forest Planning Committee Initial Meeting Whole Room webBethel, Maine is a recreation hub for western Maine. It’s home to Sunday River ski resort. The town holds the world record for building the largest snowoman and snowoman as part of winterfestivas. It is a destination wedding location.  A world-class gem and mineral museum is very close to opening its doors. Bethel has a lot going for it.

Yet, we’ve heard from Bethel residents that they are concerned about demographic trends that face many other Northern Forest communities – an aging population, fewer school-aged children, and lagging wages.

Bethel is working to build on its existing recreation economy. They want to make Bethel a quality place for people to live, and for tourists to visit. Mahoosuc Pathways and many other partners want to build extensive recreational trails that are primarily for the community and second, but also provide diverse activities for tourists, as part of a community revitalization effort.

This week, the town began publicly exploring the acquisition of forestland to create a Community Forest.  The proposed property is near the ski resort, and adjacent to important conserved lands.  It would provide important access to other town property and could be a place for more trails. A newly established Planning Committee held its first public planning meeting. Dozens of people packed into the Gem Theatre to learn more, ask questions, and contribute to making important initial decisions.

 A Boston Globe reporter wrote an article that gets many things wrong about modern wood heat. Our Vice President, Joe Short, responds on twitter.Joe Twitter

1. This article is full of statements that are simply not true. Hard to twitter-speak on such a complicated topic, but here goes (THREAD):
@davabel Burning trees for fuel may soon qualify for state subsidies via @BostonGlobe

2. Key context: incentives under consideration are thermal credits under MA Alternative Portfolio Standard; wood heat, not wood electric.

3. Distinction matters because critics quoted in the article cite studies on wood electric and imply the conclusions apply to wood thermal as well. Not true.

4. In fact, they ignore positive findings for wood thermal in the very same study on wood electric they use to inaccurately attack wood thermal. They didn’t mention that the cited @ManometCenter study says: “switch to biomass yields [GHG]benefits within 1st decade when oil-fired thermal is replaced.”

5. Similar misdirection regarding air quality, implying that incentives would lead to “soot.” NO. $ only for high efficiency, low emissions tech.

By: Rob Riley

To some, “rural” is an abstract notion, sometimes conjuring images of farms, forests, or mountains, but less often bringing to mind the people who live in rural places. Even less do we consider the ways that rural life has shaped our nation.

In the Northern Forest for instance — 30 million acres spanning northern Maine through northern New York — people living in rural communities within this vast forest forged new industries and drove commerce by sawing lumber and making paper, generating electricity from racing rivers, and farming rugged land to feed people in growing cities.

Their hard work helped to accelerate the country into prosperity while earning good livings for their families. But nothing is static. Economies and trade evolve. Climate changes. Land and industry ownership change. Politics change. And as a result, people and communities change. And the change can be devastating.

When economies and communities begin to fail, people and the landscape pay the price.  The assets that had once been the source of prosperity begin to fall in to disrepair. That is when communities face change on a grand scale.

You can watch the panel discussion I was part of at the Aspen Ideas Festival:


Last week, President Trump presented a budget blueprint that decimates programs critical to rural communities. This “skinny budget” was “dropped” (as they say in DC) while I was in Washington, DC, attending two events that showcased just how important these programs can be.

The first event was an Aspen Institute Summit on Inequality and Opportunity, which was designed to identify the structural challenges for marginalized people in the U.S. and highlight innovative (and inspiring) approaches to tackling these problems. The second was the America’s Rural Opportunity series where the Center, the Aspen Institute and the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities highlighted innovation and opportunity in rural places.

In both events, stories of entrepreneurial and community success highlighted individual initiative, grit and persistence in the face of innumerable obstacles. Speakers reflected on the non-linear path to success and the “instability factor”– the feeling of being always on the edge of not making it– and how, if not for unique partnerships, a little capital, a bit of support by others, they might have given up. And if they had given up, in one example, it would have meant that 20 new jobs would NOT have been created in a family-owned restaurant in rural Texas. The speakers shared inspiring stories and, when asked about the president’s budget, were clear in their dismay.