On Tuesday, the LePage administration announced that Doug Denico, a former timber industry executive who is the director of the Maine Forest Service, was going to take over the management of foresty on Maine Public Lands. Denico spearheaded the move to dramatically increase logging on Maine's Public Lands two years ago, even though he had no oversight authority at the time.

The governor is seeking to change state law to get access to increased timber revenue from the public forests. In March, LePage announced that he would hold up money for the Land For Maine's Future projects unless he got full support for the continuation of the increased logging on Public Lands.

The Agricultural, Conservation and Foresty (ACF) Committee, who oversees Maine Public Lands, Maine State Parks, and the Maine Forest Service, learned of the sharp increases in timber harvesting this January, after the trees had been cut.

On Wednesday, in what appears to be a counter move, the ACF Committee voted unanimously to attach language to the budget directing the agency to hold the line on logging on Public Lands to an average of 141,000 cords per year, for the next two years - a target number that is widely approved as sustainable by the professional forestry community. The committee plans to put legal teeth in that language next week, when they vote on the 141,000-cord limit as a budget amendment.

Even though the personnel change by the LePage administration that placed Denico at the helm of Public Lands' forestry had already occurred, the committee did not endorse it. Instead, they voted against a complicated departmental reorganization that would officially have placed Maine Public Lands under the authority of the Maine Forest Service. The proposed reorganization was attached to the governor's budget.

Public Lands currently acts as an autonomous agency, as mandated under the formation of the agency three decades ago.

Another aspect of the proposed reorganization embedded in the governor's budget is the elimination of 22 Maine Forest Ranger positions and the addition of seven new armed law enforcement officers dedicated to conservation.

The ACF Committee did not vote on the forest ranger aspect of the reorganization proposal before press time.