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This is Governor John Baldacci.

There’s no question that Maine’s traditional forest-based industries have been struggling under the weight of high energy prices and cheap foreign competition.

The headlines in just these recent weeks have been filled with news about mills in Millinocket and Jay facing unprecedented economic pressures.

Hardworking Mainers are feeling the strain as jobs – with good pay and benefits – have left our rural areas.

While there are no simple solutions to the problems facing some of our State’s largest manufacturers, I remain confident that there is a great, untapped potential remaining in our vast forest lands.

This week, I awarded the Austin Wilkins Forest Stewardship Award to Roger Milliken Jr. of the Baskahegan Company.

Roger was honored for his lifelong commitment – and his lifelong commitment includes his family, generation after generation, and their commitment to forest sustainability management. And to his efforts to protect Maine’s northern woods while also helping to maintain productive, working forests.

Roger was critical in helping to balance the environmental needs of our forests with the needs of our forest products industries.

The award is named after Austin Wilkins, a pioneer in the development of the Maine Forestry Department. He is a legend that overcame the great forest fires of 1947 and devoted his long career to protecting the resource that remains the backbone of our economy.

And as he understood back in 1928 when he first joined the Maine Forest Service and as we all understand today, the solution to many of Maine’s biggest problems grow in our woods.

For more than 200 years, we have looked to the forest to build our industry and support our people.

Even as our people and our economy change, our forests still hold the vast untapped potential.

For more than 25 years of involvement in Maine’s woods and the policies that affect them, Roger Milliken offered a good perspective this week.

He sits on the Board of the Nature Conservancy in Washington, and he has witnessed first hand the efforts to conserve forests around the world.

And from that vantage point, he said: “There is no better place on the planet than the State of Maine for us to achieve the ideals of economic and ecological sustainability.”

Milliken continued – he said, “Maine is blessed with a diverse, resilient, and self-generating forest, and it has been supported at least by 11 generations of Mainers. We are also blessed with a diverse, respectful political culture, where we know how to listen to one another and work for a common ground.”

Those attributes position us well to take advantage of our unique resources.

Of Maine’s 20 million acres, about 17 million are forest lands.

Our State has been at the forefront of supporting privately held working forests while also protecting more than 1 million acres of land, ensuring that it is still available for traditional uses.

As Maine and our nation face a new century of challenges and our economy moves away from our unhealthy addiction on foreign oil, our forests offer tremendous potential.

My administration is committed to - and working with – the Katahdin Paper Company in Millinocket, the Wausau-Otis Mill facility in Jay to protect those jobs we have in our paper industry and help to grow them into the future.

And I am also committed to making sure our forest products industry adapts and remains healthy and vibrant.

We are going to grow our wood pellet industry, and it provides a great potential to create jobs and an exportable commodity.

And we are going to continue to pursue alternative fuels, like cellulosic ethanol, which can be produced as part of the pulp making process.

Together, these technologies can reduce pollution, increase energy independence and create new jobs.

Maine’s forest products industry is facing a difficult period as it continues to adjust to high energy prices and unfair trade practices.

But I see our forests as a resurgent resource that will be able to put people to work and good paying jobs and benefits into the future and also improve our security both economically and nationally.

I want to thank you and have a great weekend.

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