I’m not kidding when I say Maine is the only place I’ve ever really wanted to be. I grew up in Brownville and had a childhood a lot of folks in rural Maine can relate to: I was always outdoors hiking, fishing, hunting, building forts in the woods, and swimming in lakes and streams after spending a lot of the day getting dirty. From a young age, I knew I wanted a career that kept me outside and in the woods.

I went to the University of Maine for forestry, moved to LaGrange, and started working in the industry before I even graduated.

But when the coronavirus pandemic struck our state, it hit the logging industry hard. I was able to make ends meet for a few months, but like for so many others it was very challenging.

That’s when I got the opportunity to work on the Clean Energy Corridor. I’ll be honest. At first, I was on the fence about the project, for the same reasons as many of you. I worried about the environmental impact and whether it would benefit Mainers. But after doing my own research, I truly believe it’s going to do a lot of good for our state.

For one thing, a lot of the corridor goes along existing transmission lines, and the new part will mostly go through industrial forestland. I know the area well—it’s where I worked as an intern while still at UMaine. When I looked into the precautions being taken to protect the environment, it became clear to me that nothing was overlooked in trying to limit the project’s footprint.

In the new segment, we’re using a new vegetation management method that will limit the corridor to 54 feet across. That’s smaller than the red zone in football. We are only clearing what is absolutely necessary, and we are making sure that timber isn’t wasted. It will be turned into lumber for flooring, furniture, pallets, pulp for paper, or even shingles and fence posts. We’re also taking extra precautions around fish-bearing streams to minimize disturbance to the soil and water. I am excited to help meet the goals and objectives of this new vegetation management strategy. I believe it will be challenging, yet rewarding.

One of the biggest benefits of working on the Clean Energy Corridor is the longevity of the project. As a forester, we’re the first ones on the job and the last ones to leave. That’s years of stability and good-paying work that lets me stay at home, in LaGrange, where I plan to start a family someday.

But the project isn’t just an opportunity for people like me who have experience. It’s also a chance for newcomers to learn on the job, and get the experience that will set them up for a solid career in a good industry. The project gives preference to Maine workers before anyone else. At a time when unemployment is high because of the pandemic, that’s even more valuable.

At the end of the day, the Clean Energy Corridor benefits Maine families now and helps set us up for the future. The infrastructure will pay dividends when the 1,200 megawatts of clean, renewable hydropower starts flowing, helping us move toward a carbon neutral world. The hundreds of jobs that need to be filled now will give Maine families a steady income and a sense of stability during a time when many have been hit hard. And it lets people like me, who have never wanted to be anywhere else, stay right here at home in Maine.

Jason Durant is a resident of LaGrange.


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