- Irland, Lloyd C.
The Irland Group and University of Maine, School of Forest Resources
We have heard it said the Maine has all the public land it needs. No supporting rationale for this view has been offered. One way to look at this question might be to compare Maine to other states.
It has long been said that of all the forested states, Maine has the lowest percentage of public land, at roughly 6%. In recent years, this percentage has risen, in part due to acquisition of easements rather than outright ownership. A current “league table” showing state and their public land ownership does not exist. Based on sources for 2012, we can compare state and federal fee ownership in Maine to a number of other eastern states. States with less state ownership than Maine are almost all farm states like Illinois, or southern states with histories of hostility to public ownership (or government action of any kind). There appears to no current estimate of lands owned by local and county governments, but it could be in the 100,000 acre range.
So, how much public land is enough? This question has no ready answer. Others have persuasively advocated for retaining New England’s extensive forests, farms and working landscapes. Nothing needs to be added here to those arguments (Harvard Forest, 2010, New England Governors, 2009; New England Forestry Foundation, 2014)