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Outcome-Based Forestry

Maine Forest

In 2001, the Maine State Legislature enacted a bill to allow the establishment of an experimental “Outcome Based Forestry” (OBF) program. The law defines OBF as a “science-based, voluntary process to achieve agreed-upon economic, environmental and social outcomes in the State’s forest, as an alternative to prescriptive regulation, demonstrating measurable progress towards achieving statewide sustainability goals and allowing landowners to use creativity and flexibility to achieve objectives, while providing for the conservation of public trust resources and the public value of forests.”

Parcels are exempt from the clear-cutting standards of the Forest Practices Act.


In the past thirteen years, the Legislature has passed several amendments to the OBF bill. These amendments have substantially changed the law from its original intent. Most recently, the OBF Panel approved a significant change to the policy regarding standards for participating in the program. The change states that if a parcel of land is enrolled in a third-party forest certification program (which most large ownerships are), that requirement alone is enough to qualify for participation in the OBF program. As a result, this could mean that most of Maine’s forest lands could be exempt from the clearcutting standards outlined in the Forest Practices Act.

Maine Audubon supported the creation of the OBF program in 2001, but raised several concerns that were largely addressed through amendments to the proposed legislation. Those concerns included the need to clarify that the program is creating a time-limited experience and not a permanent policy change. Any longer-term policy changes need to be approved by the Legislature.

Almost two years ago, the Maine Forest Service entered into a five year Outcome Based Forestry Contract with Irving Woodlands on its one million-plus acres in Maine. The public and the Legislature did not become aware of this contract until the fall of 2013. Instead of creating an experimental program to utilize different forest practices to achieve the same goals as the Forest Practices Act, the contract indicates that Irving’s mere participation in forest certification is sufficient to allow its participation in the OBF program.

Proposed Legislative Action

Representative Jeff McCabe and Senator Jim Boyle have proposed bills (LDs 1823 and 1847) to reign in the Outcome Based Forestry program. Together, their bills:

  • increase reporting to the Legislative oversight committee;
  • require analysis of whether the proposed alternative practices provide at least the equivalent level of protection as the clearcutting standards of the Forest Practices Act;
  • provide an assessment of the program to determine whether it should continue;
  • add detailed requirements of the expert OBF panel membership and create staggered terms for its members;
  • require the Forest Service to brief the Legislative oversight committee prior to entering into additional contracts; and
  • limit the program so that no more than three of the six total allowed contracts can be for parcels of land over 50,000 acres.