27 minutes, 1996, Beta SP

“Sierra Club defends forest video”
Kennebec Journal, September 5, 1996
by Gary J. Remal

AUGUSTA - The Maine Sierra Club has begun distributing a 27-minute video critical of clearcutting in northern Maine.

The release came on the eve of the special legislative session called to enact an alternative to the referendum banning the forest practice.

David Johnson, a spokesman for the Maine Chapter of the national Sierra Club, which supports the clearcutting ban, introduced the documentary film entitled The Paper Colony to reporters in Augusta Wednesday.

The Sierra Club is releasing the film to cable TV operators around the state and free to individual members of the public in an attempt to counter the blitz of public relations coming from the King administration on behalf of the Compact for Maine’s Forests.

That alternative package of forestry regulations is before the Legislature this week. it was forged by a coalition of paper company officials and mainstream environmentalists.

Johnson bristled at suggestions that the video, made by Montana filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis, who produced the film for The Ecology Center, was propaganda aimed at giving clearcutting a black eye.

“The journalism up until today has clearly been propaganda. It has not been balanced,” he said. “There has not been enough coverage of the ecology. There’s a lot of money being thrown around. There’s a lot of ads on TV. This is an attempt to give some balance.”

Hawes-Davis was in Maine as part of the production for another documentary on the national market for pulp and timber supplies when he saw the potential for a separate film on Maine forest practices and clearcutting in particular, Johnson said. A central theme of the film is the role of large corporate landowners, which several of the people interviewed claim are over-harvesting the woods.

The film was made last spring, he said. Hawes-Davis shows mechanical tree harvesters leveling stands of trees, dramatic aerial footage comparing the view from the air of mature forests and open clearcuts.

The forest shots are interspersed with interviews of Maine loggers, foresters, sportsmen and northern Maine residents, most of whom oppose clearcutting, countered by comments from state and timber industry officials who defend the practice.

“The public can look at that and they can make their own decision,” Johnson said.

Martin Leighton of Willamantic is quoted saying he remembers a diverse, mature forest in his youth, but the results of the large timberland harvesting have changed the character of the Maine woods.

“There were mature trees that had been there in the Revolutionary War. That’s what the paper companies have destroyed,” Leighton says in the movie.

“It’s hard to visualize unless you’ve seen it yourself that there were all those large trees before… It would take so long to grow a forest back, that I have seen, that I wouldn’t even want to think about how long it would be.”

The video quotes Mitch Lansky, the Maine author of Beyond the Beauty Strip, a volume critical of clearcutting, saying Maine has the largest contiguous stretch of commercially owned timberlands in the country.

He charges that the vast corporate holdings of the large paper companies hold political sway with the state’s government which all but precludes effective control or regulation of the forests they own.

“There is only so much wood out there, no matter how intensively it is managed,” Lansky said.