October 18, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), co-chairs of the Senate Working Forests Caucus, today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve forest industry employment and participation through a grant program aimed at rural and underserved communities. The Jobs in the Woods Act would support developmental programs designed to better equip and train the forest products workforce for careers with the U.S. Forest Service and timber industries. Nationally, the forest products industry employs roughly 925,000 people directly and supports nearly 2 million jobs indirectly. In Maine, the industry supports nearly 14,000 jobs across the state.
“Maine’s forestry industry has been foundational for our state economy for generations, and is critical to our continued economic success,” said Senator King. “As the industry continues to evolve, we must ensure our forestry workforce has the proper training and skills to help responsibly manage our forests while growing our local economies. The bipartisan Jobs in the Woods Act will make substantial investments to support new and innovative workforce programs – helping Maine people get good, quality jobs and securing the future of our state’s timber industry.”
“Maintaining a robust and skilled forestry workforce is essential to Idaho’s forest and economic health,” said Senator Risch. “The Jobs in the Woods Act will empower our rural communities to build up the timber workforce with educational and training programs to ensure Idaho continues to effectively manage our forests and prevent catastrophic wildfires for years to come.”
"The Professional Logging Contractors of the Northeast applauds Senator King for cosponsoring the Jobs in the Woods Act and fully supports this important legislation,” said Dana Doran, Executive Director of the Professional Logging Contractors Northeast. “Targeted workforce education and training programs are needed to provide pathways and open doors to careers in the logging and forest trucking industry. Good jobs are plentiful in the industry and opportunities are strong for the next generation, particularly in the rural areas where this legislation would have the greatest impact."
“Maine landowners rely upon a well-trained workforce to harvest timber and move it to market,” said Dan Lamontagne, President and CEO of Seven Islands Land Company. “Seven Islands Land Company strongly supports the Jobs in the Woods Act, which will provide workforce development opportunities across the forest industry, and help students transition into rewarding forest-based careers in rural, timber-centric communities across the state. Thank you to Senator King for his leadership on this issue, which is so important in Maine and across the country.”
“From the forests to the mills, ongoing labor shortages present real challenges for Maine’s forest products businesses. It is predicted that by 2030, we need to recruit 5,000 additional workers to fill shortages, which makes legislation such as the Jobs in the Woods Act important for our industry,” said Patrick Strauch, Executive Director of Maine Forest Products Council. “The grants provided by this legislation could make a real difference in helping meet our current and future workforce needs. The Maine Forest Products Council thanks Senator King for his advocacy and support.”
“Like other parts of the country, Maine is experiencing labor shortages in the forest product industry,” said Ryan McAvoy, a Sappi North American Wood Procurement Region Manager. “We have challenges filling jobs from the stump to finished product, and we need help educating, training and bringing younger people into our workforce. The Jobs in the Woods Act would greatly assist in developing and sustaining a viable workforce for the forest products industry here in Maine, as well as other states around the country.”
“The sustainability and competitive viability of the forest products industry relies on an intact, healthy wood supply chain, including a viable workforce. The Jobs in the Woods Act provides workforce training opportunities for those interested in a career in forestry,” said Tim O’Hara, Forest Resources Association Vice President of Government Affairs. “A key component of the legislation includes education opportunities to expand high school forestry curricula in rural forest-based economies. These programs will provide an opportunity for young adults to establish a good career in the communities where they were raised.”
“Labor shortages across the forestry sector are hindering our ability to get critical work done on the ground. State and federal agencies, NGOs and the timber industry are all struggling to find qualified applicants, impacting everything from forest land management to the forest products supply chain. This has consequences for forest product pricing and availability, wildfire scale and scope, and for the average American’s day-to-day,” said Scott Phillips, President of the National Association of State Foresters. “State foresters recognize the Jobs in the Woods Act as an indispensable and necessary intervention for the future of our nation’s forests.”
The Jobs in the Woods Act is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
A one-pager on this legislation can be found HERE.
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator King has been a national leader in efforts to support Maine’s forest products industry. This past April, alongside Senator Risch and the Working Forests Caucus, Senator King introduced a resolution to recognize the 151st Arbor Day. He also introduced the bipartisan Future Logging Careers Act to help train the next generation of Maine loggers.
Most recently, Senator King introduced the bipartisan Timber Innovation Act for Building Rural Communities Act to improve forest health and support Maine’s rural economy. He also introduced legislation to establish a “Future of Forests” panel tasked with making recommendations to secure the health of America’s forests. Senator King was key in establishing the Forest Opportunity Roadmap Maine (FOR/ME) Initiative, a participant-led initiative that is helping to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, support research and development, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures.