Certified Maine Hardwood Sawmill, Maine Woods Company

Maine Woods Company: Land Base

The ownership history of the lands managed by Seven Islands Land Company starts in 1841 with David Pingree. Maine has recently become a state, having previously been part of Massachusetts.

 

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Land Base: A Brief History

 

Maine Woods Company Land Base History

Maine Woods Company Land Base History

 

The ownership history of the lands managed by Seven Islands Land Company starts in 1841 with David Pingree.  Maine has recently become a state, having previously been part of Massachusetts.  The area that is now Northern Maine had been divided into six-mile square townships and was being sold at auction.  The land was purchased in the traditions of seafaring captains who dared not shoulder all of the risk associated with a ship and its cargo.  Instead, groups pooled their resources and purchased land to be held "in-common-and-undivided."  This ownership form spread the risk of natural disaster, so that no single owner would be ruined by a disastrous fire or outbreak of insect or disease.


Around the turn of the twentieth century, some of the traditional family ownerships were sold to corporations who used the land to supply lumber and paper mills.  The Pingree family maintained its ownership and became "in-common-and-undivided" partners with these corporations.  Over the decades, the family's conservative approach to forest management began to conflict with some of the corporate objectives.  The family orchestrated a separation of ownerships during the 1960's, 70's, and 80's until it had consolidated the ownership in 100% owned blocks, all under central management.  From over two million acres of joint ownership, there emerged just under one million acres owned outright.


The Pingree family formed Seven Islands Land Company in 1964 to professionalize management of the land.  The name comes from at least three separate clusters of islands on different rivers all within the ownership.  The best known of these was, in river driving days, a major logging support farm on the St. John River.


Since long before anyone became concerned about the destruction of rain forests, the heavy cutting in the Pacific Northwest, or the loss of habitat for endangered species, family representatives and Seven Islands Land Company have been managing the forests "naturally."  All land management decisions had to favorably satisfy the constant question, " Is it good for the land?"  Management and harvest activities seek to emulate natural forest processes.  Emphasis is placed on enduring values such as health of the land, timber quality, and ecosystem integrity.  This has been made easier by close adherence to the conservative philosophy of the owners and by the fact that Seven Islands has no mills that must be perpetually fed with wood.


In the early 1990's, as furor over timber harvesting practices grew all over the world, Seven Islands' management team became progressively frustrated by the rapidly growing public perception that all forest management practices were environmentally unsound.  The managers knew that their approach to forestry was sound, but had no tangible way to distinguish their practices from others in the eyes of the public.  They thought about trying to market their wood as a "green" product, but could not find a practical way of proving that their wood was different from anyone else's.  Then, in 1993, management read a magazine article that referenced "Certified" environmental products.  The article referred to SCS (Scientific Certification Systems) as one of the world's leading certifiers of environmental "green" claims made by industry.


SCS, it turned out, had a special "Forest Conservation Program", concentrating in forest management and the "certification" of well-managed forests.  After much consideration Seven Islands decided to retain SCS for an assessment of the company's forest management practices.  At the very least the assessment would be a worthwhile internal audit - a critical review by an independent party.


An SCS team representing three different scientific disciplines conducted an in-depth study during the summer and fall of 1993.  The team independently chose over sixty sites for field investigation.  They examined historic harvesting records and prospective management plans.  Since good forest management is not limited to the forest, the team also evaluated Seven Islands' relationships with its employees, customers, contractors, and the communities influenced by its operations.  All criteria were given a quantitative score and factored by a weight multiplier, and then totaled to arrive at three final scores.  An SCS evaluation encompasses three basic areas: 1) the sustainability of the forest resource, 2) maintenance of the health of the ecosystem, and 3) community benefits and financial considerations.  Seven Islands scored sufficiently high to pass in all three categories and was accordingly certified as a "Well-Managed Forest."  In its final report the SCS evaluation team stated that it was "favorably impressed by Seven Islands' management program and the integration of wildlife and general forest ecosystem considerations into that program."


With that report Seven Islands became the largest Certified Well-Managed Forest in the northern hemisphere.  Subsequently, Seven Islands' lands have undergone annual audits and re-certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (umbrella for SCS).  Today, Seven Islands has a staff of thirty, twenty of whom are graduate or licensed professional foresters.  Our management can be described as focusing on what we leave for the future, rather than on what we take for today.  Timber from Seven Islands land is sold to regional, independent mills, many of which are family-owned enterprises.  Many of the mill and harvesting contractor relationships go back several generations.  Current harvest levels have been calculated as sustainable for the next two hundred years and beyond.


In 1999 the lands were also certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) of the American Forest and Paper Association, becoming one of a few forests that are dually certified.  Certification of these lands demonstrates our commitment to their future and to the mills and contractors associated with these lands.  Cooperating mills have received "chain-of-custody" certification for the production of certified forest products.  Certified forest products - construction lumber, cedar shingles, hardwood lumber, and hardwood flooring, for examples - are now available in the marketplace.  Seven Islands Land Company is committed to strengthening the position of certified forest products through value-added manufacturing in the New England and Canadian maritime region.


In 1990 the Pingree family deeded over 5,000 acres to the Nature Conservancy for the Big Reed Forest Reserve.  In 2001 the family partnered with the New England Forestry Foundation to protect approximately 80 percent of the Pingree forest from development, while continuing the focus on keeping the timberlands productive.  Seven Islands has also pioneered cooperative management agreements with the State of Maine and other landowners to protect valuable wildlife habitat such as deeryards, heron rookeries, falcon and eagle nesting sites, and unique natural areas for rare and endangered species such as the Furbish lousewort.  we support and encourage research projects such as the Manomet Observatory's study of migratory bird populations in selectively managed forests currently being conducted in our forest.  Our forest lands are open to the public for traditional recreational use.