We recently received some good economic news in the North Country. But we also heard of a proposal that threatens the economy of our region.
Good news, first. The board of directors of the Wausau Paper Mills Company recently voted an additional $8 million for capital improvements. The expenditure will increase the speed and papermakmg capacity of their No.5 and 6 paper machines. To quote Thomas J. llowatt, the vice president and general manager of the company's printing and writing division: "This capital authorization represents a continued expression of confidence in the employees of the Groveton mill to deliver superior results." In the words of Wausau's president and chief executive officer, Daniel D.King: "The Groveton mill has been an excellent contributor to Wausau Paper's growth and success over the past several years. These capital projects will allow the mill to continue to meet the ever-increasing needs of our East Coast customers."
We're certainly happy to note the company's vote of confidence in Groveton. But we shudder to think how Wausau or other companies would view our region if the folks in the Northern Forest Alliance had their way.
Said folks have a blueprint that spells trouble for the Northeast Kingdom and the North Country. The alliance proposes the creation of a system of "wudlands" to do various things, such as providing "solitude to rekindle the spirit." One of the proposed wildlands includes the Nulhegan and Victory basins. This consists of most of the land within an area from St. Johnsbury to Island Pond to the Canadian border, east to the Connecticut River, down to Lancaster and back to St. Johnsbury - a large part of the Northeast Kingdom. And, of course, there's another stretch from Berlin up to the Connecticut River Headwaters and the Androscoggin Headwaters in Maine.
This isn't environmental protection. It's tree hugging gone mad.
Transforming said private areas into wildlands would, of course, deprive Ethan Allen of a nearby natural resource - and have unhappy consequences for their Orleans and Beecher Falls plants. This may sound like a suitable arrangement for some downcountry residents, who wish to take a vacation from their urban jobs. They can have "solitude to rekindle the spirit" in the woods. But meanwhile, a lot of local residents will be out of jobs.
Before New England senators and representatives are too quick to appropriate federal money for land acquisition, we trust they will closely examine the consequence of such actions for their constituents.