27 minutes, 1996, Beta SP

“The Paper Colony: New Video on Maine Woods”
The Northern Forest Forum, Winter 1996
by Marion Hourdequin

In his new 27-minute documentary THE PAPER COLONY, Doug Hawes-Davis draws attention to the intimate connections between land ownership, industry and political power in Maine. Timber from lands owned by Champion International Paper, and Boise Cascade goes directly to fuel the mills of the same companies. Through combined ownership of land and industry, corporate timber interests play a powerful role in the Maine legislature - to the point that industry employees frequently serve as state representatives.

Not surprisingly, many of Maine’s representatives fight hard to maintain the lax environmental regulations that permit decimation of the northern forest. State Representative Bob Cameron (a Boise-Cascade employee) puts it bluntly, “Open heart surgery is not pretty, but it’s something we have to do in order to save peoples’ lives. And sometimes we have to clearcut in order to protect the forest.”

The ecological justification for such statements is dubious, at best. But it’s clearly not ecological concerns that drive clearcutting in Maine. As Louis Oulette of Millinocket explains, “It’s terrible to see the clearcutting because the beautiful state of Maine is really being butchered by clearcutting, but you gotta have it to make the money. You gotta have it.”

In their quest for money, large corporations have wrested control of Maine’s forests from the people. However Mainers have a growing concern over clearcutting and its ecological consequences. This widely-shared concern stimulated the citizen initiative to ban clearcutting - an initiative that won 30% of the vote in the November election.

In a style characteristic of his earlier documentaries, SOUTHBOUNG, GREEN ROLLING HILLS, and THE ELEMENT OF DOOM, Hawes-Davis uses the voices of local people to tell the story of the clearcutting controversy in Maine. He skillfully weaves together the impressions of loggers, environmentalists, state land managers, industry representatives and others, illuminating a conflict, which is shaping the future of Maine’s northwoods.

Without drowning the viewer in a sea of depairing imagery, Hawes-Davis offers an honest and jarring look at the Maine landscape and the devastation that has occurred there. Excellent aerial footage along with creative cinematography carry the viewer full circle from clearcuts to paper production to human consumption. The Paper Colony illuminates both sides of the clearcutting debate and uncovers the driving motivations behind each perspective. Hawes-Davis successfully puts the issue in both local and national context, and the video should interest not only Mainers, but all those concerned with forest ecosystems and the need to liberate them from corporate domination.