WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $6,000,000 to the University of Maine (UMaine). These resources will help establish a digital monitoring system which will be used to track changes in Maine’s forest ecosystem. The system will help users better assess, understand and forecast changes that directly impact the future of Maine’s forest economy.
“Maine’s forests are a vital contributor to our state’s economy, particularly in rural communities, and that’s why it’s so important that we continue to find new opportunities to support and sustain this plentiful natural resource,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “The research done by the University of Maine’s faculty and students has already helped create new, sustainable uses that boost our economy and conserve our forests. This grant will modernize their important work, improve the data collection process, and provide comprehensive, near real-time information to ensure that both our forest products industry and our forest ecosystems will continue to support good-paying Maine jobs.”
Senators Collins and King are strong supporters of revitalizing Maine’s forest economy and were instrumental in establishing the Forest Opportunity Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiative, an industry-led initiative that is helping to diversify the state’s wood products businesses, attract investments, and develop greater economic prosperity for rural communities impacted by mill closures. The FOR/Maine Initiative was funded in part by the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) requested by the Senators in 2016 in order to create strategies for job growth and economic development in Maine’s rural communities. The EDAT recommended the development of new markets for Maine’s forest resources, including the strengthening of existing forest products manufacturing, the attraction of investment in emerging technology, and the utilization of forest products residuals in CHP biomass plants, microgrids, modern thermal systems, and new forest products development.
In May, Senators Collins and King applauded a partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Maine to launch a first in the nation large-scale bio-based additive manufacturing program within UMaine’s Advance Structures and Composites Center (ASCC). The collaboration will provide ASCC students, faculty and associated companies with access to ORNL’s assets and expertise in advanced manufacturing. ORNL researchers, in turn, will gain access to UMaine’s facilities and expertise in sustainable composites. The partnership will advance 3D printing capabilities with wood residuals, establishing Maine as a global leader in a new manufacturing process and developing fresh markets for Maine’s forest products industry.