BROWNVILLE, Maine — The logging industry contributes more than $619 million to the $7.7 billion forest economy in Maine, and now teachers are learning how important our forests are to the state's economy.
The Maine Timber Research and Environmental Education Foundation is giving a group of teachers a four-day tour of Maine's forest-based businesses. The goal is to have them see first-hand how forestry works, from planting trees to harvesting them, and about all the jobs available in the field in hopes they will share their lessons with students.
"Being able to have teachers see that will then change how they talk about these professions and opportunities with their students. We really believe so, and the folks that work in the industry are carrying that message," said Jonathan LaBonte, executive director at the Maine TREE Foundation.
"To push the trades, introduce the trades to kids at a young level now in third, fourth, fifth grade, this is the time to do it," 5th-grade teacher Libby Zipper said.
According to a study made by the Professional Logging Contractor of Maine, in 2017, the industry contributed an estimated $619 million to the state economy.
Salaries in the logging industry can start at almost $50,000 a year.
"Maine is almost 90% forested. The forest sector contributes almost $9 billion a year to our economy," LaBonte said. "So it's really a central part of what Maine is as a state."
The Maine Timber Research and Environmental Education Foundation runs the program, and forester Molly London is part of it.
"We wanted to show that there is a place for young people and for women in the logging industry in the state," said Molly London, a forester at WW London Woodlot Management.
The tour shows teachers how the industry runs sustainably.
"We are creating these jobs, we are supporting these jobs with a resource and when it's managed sustainably, it can create tens of thousands of jobs to support Maine people in communities across the state," added LaBonte.
"Just seeing the loggers that work out here in the different machines and how the process works has just been eye-opening to me," said 3rd-grade teacher Bree Baxter.
Teachers of all ages, Girl and Boy Scout leaders, adult educators, and conservation organization staff, are all eligible to learn about Maine’s forest resources from professionals working in the woods.
The Maine TREE Foundations tour, prepares teachers to return to the classroom with stimulating approaches to share knowledge about the forest with students, colleagues, and communities.
Participants get a chance to speak and learn from landowners, foresters, loggers, mills, and other forestry-related community members.
“Maine TREE’s forest-based education programs, including Project Learning Tree, are extremely well-suited to the current environment of increased outdoor learning and nature-based education,” shared LaBonte. “Educators and students are connecting to the natural world in their communities, outside the four walls of the traditional school building, now more than ever, and this program will provide tools to support deepening that connection with a focus on forests.”