When AMC launched the Maine Woods Initiative (MWI) in 2003, it was with the key goals of working with community partners to conserve thousands of acres of Maine woodlands and to provide new opportunities for nature-based recreation. To date, 70,000 acres of what was industrial forestland is now owned by AMC and managed for a mix of conservation, ecological preservation, sustainable forestry, and public recreation as a result of MWI.
AMC recently engaged a Maine-based economist to quantify another aspect of MWI: its economic impact. The findings by David Vail, the Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus at Bowdoin College, are impressive: AMC’s activities in the Moosehead/100-Mile Wilderness region have contributed $22 million to the Maine economy, including nearly $16 million in Piscataquis County, since the start of MWI.
Titled “AMC’s Contributions to the Maine Economy,” the report shows AMC has spent more than $44 million on capital investments and operating expenses in the region, of which $22 million flowed through the Maine economy. (The economic benefits of some expenses, such as land transactions and vehicle purchases, accrued outside of the state, the report notes.)
Vail’s research also shows that MWI directly or indirectly created 71 jobs statewide in 2014, including 56 full-time equivalent jobs in Piscataquis County. AMC makes a point of hiring local contractors and buying local building supplies when taking on projects such as the construction of Gorman Chairback Lodge, which opened in early 2011. The report notes that 60 percent of AMC’s capital investments in such projects remained within Piscataquis County.
AMC’s lodge guests and workshop attendees provided economic support as well, spending more than $1.1 million in local communities since AMC took over the operation of Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, in 2004. Moving forward, AMC’s local economic impact is on track to increase with the reopening of the renovated Medawisla Wilderness Lodge and Cabins in early 2017. Another expected driver of economic growth is an expanded recreational trail network on the Roach Ponds tract, currently under construction by AMC and local partners.
From the start, AMC leaders saw MWI as a way to address the region’s ecological and economic needs by supporting local forest products jobs, and working with community partners to create opportunities for new, nature-based tourism and recreation.
Walter Graff, AMC’s senior vice president and leader of MWI, wrote in Vail’s report that the organization’s vision for the initiative is long ranging: “True success will be measured over the long term by the generations of visitors and citizens of the region benefitting from a closer connection to the outdoors resulting in a healthier and more economically diverse community.”
Graff said the economic report “may be useful to others who seek to evaluate whether MWI is or could be a model for conservation and community development in other rural areas. We welcome inquiries and encourage discussion along these lines.