FLA applauds the Maine congressional delegation for their recent comments to United States Department of Agriculture expressing concerns with the agency’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) guidance for nonindustrial private forestland (NIPF). In December 2020, the agency proposed a 45,000 acre upper threshold to qualify as NIPF in NRCS programs, which would exclude many landowners and organizations that perform substantial conservation work on a landscape scale. This change would not only hinder conservation efforts, but would hurt the logging, forest products, and outdoor recreation industries that are critical to rural economies.

“Given the importance of Maine’s outdoor recreation and logging industries to our state’s economy and the role NRCS plays in sustaining our forests, it is troubling that your agency has chosen to pursue a threshold of 45,000 acres when determining what qualifies as NIPF,” wrote Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02). “We remain concerned that entities that have previously used NRCS funds could become ineligible to participate in NRCS programs… The loss of these [NRCS] funds would be a severe blow to Maine’s economy that is already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Read a copy of the letter here.

FLA echoes the delegation’s concerns and agrees that labeling landowners as “industrial” because of an acreage threshold will bar certain landowners from the financial assistance necessary to carry out vital conservation and management on their land, and will have negative consequences to landowners, forest health, and the economic contributions from recreation and timber harvests. We believe that landscape-level conservation can only be achieved by bringing large private forest landowners to the table, and that all forest lands and landowners should be eligible to participate in NRCS conservation programs regardless of arbitrary factors imposed by program administration.

Read FLA’s public comments on this issue here.