Another forest-related proposal has sparked heated statewide debate. A referendum question will be on the November ballot which would ban clear- cutting in the unorganized territories and revise other forest management practices. The debate has created division along north-south lines, as well as dividing economic interests of the forest products industry from those of tourism and environmental interests. Even the sport hunting and fishing community is divided on the issue.
Maine's governor attempted to defuse the clearcutting initiative by requesting a forest practices commission to develop compromise legislation. On June 3 the commission announced its failure to design a compromise approach. News reports indicated that differences related to treatment of "mapped" vs. "unmapped" streams was part of the continuing impasse. Some commission members recommend delay in future action pending release of inventory of state timberlands under preparation by U.S. Forest Service.
Though the outcomes which will result from any of the policy alternatives may be known to participants in the public debate, specifics of the outcomes have not been communicated to the voting public. There is wide variance in conflicting claims. Substantial feature stories related to the issues have been published in the state's major newspapers, and letters on the topics are frequent.
Characterization of public goals and dialogue:
The debate is widespread and divisive. Many who have taken public stands have also admitted inability to foresee consequences of the alternative outcomes.
The goal of the public process would be to illuminate alternative outcomes and to clarify issues toward finding common ground.
Who owns the affected lands? Who are nearby owners?
What similar lands outside unorganized territories will not be subject to forest practices restrictions?
How does one begin creating "objective" scenarios of alternative forest management practices?
Who would be involved? Who provides the information resources?