The tourism and recreation industry is an increasingly important source of jobs and economic opportunity in the Northern Forest—supporting 74,000 jobs across the region, with more on the way. The Northern Forest offers a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities. Its mountains, lakes, rivers, and wildlife—along with its distinctive local culture and communities—offer vacation experiences for everyone from wilderness adventure seekers to families looking for a quiet lakeside retreat.


Many communities look to recreation and tourism as a source of new forest-based jobs and economic opportunity. Not only that, recreational access to public and private land is a significant community benefit. This is particularly true in the Maine Woods where the Center concentrates its tourism development program.

We know the region has what it takes to attract visitors from around the world who will pay well for authentic experiences and top-notch service. We believe that high-quality destinations create the best visitor experiences and quality employment opportunities for Northern Forest residents. Successful businesses can invest in training their staff, pay higher wages, and are more likely to offer employment benefits.

That’s why the Northern Forest Center is working to enhance tourism and recreation by:

  • Advancing standards-based cooperative marketing in partnership with top quality tourism providers through Maine Woods Discovery
  • Offering financial assistance to help tourism providers implement innovations that will strengthen their businesses, expand job opportunities and attract visitors to the Maine Woods
  • Strengthening pathways to livable-wage tourism jobs with workforce and business training through the Maine Woods Tourism Training Initiative
  • Advocating for creation and support of rural Recreation Destination Areas to enhance the quality of tourism experiences in the Maine Woods
  • Coordinating regional efforts including a semi-annual Maine Woods tourism stakeholder retreat

For more information about the tourism economy in the Northern Forest, see The Economic Importance of Forest-Based Economies of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont & New York 2013.


The Center has provided focus and direction to groups that represent diverse interests within Maine’s tourism industry. Its leadership has helped advance practical, actionable steps for developing tourism strategies and marketable product.

—Carolann Ouellette, former Director, Maine Office of Tourism

Whose Land Is This?

Tourism providers depend on a vast landscape of mostly privately owned forest for their guests to enjoy. In Maine, 92% of the forest is privately owned, and most of that is managed to produce forest products, providing jobs for 104,000 people. By managing the land for forest products, landowners are keeping forests as forests, rather than converting them to other land uses.

Most large private landowners traditionally grant public access to their lands for outdoor recreation—from hiking to hunting—and their road networks provide access to favorite destinations. The Northern Forest Center recognizes that this traditional access is a privilege and not a right, and works to build good relationships with landowners to ensure ongoing public access to the forest. Learn more about this work at Maine Woods Consortium and Keeping Maine’s Forest.