The University of Maine has partnered with research institutions and community organizations across Northern New England to devise new forest products and management strategies using $1 million from the National Science Foundation.
The Coalition of Northern Forest Innovation and Research, led by the Northern Forest Center in Concord, New Hampshire, is among the first recipients of the new NSF Engines Development Award, created to bolster research and development among robust partnerships that will accelerate technological, economic and workforce development at the regional level.
With this funding, CONFIR will spend the next two years creating various research proposals to earn the title of NSF Engine and the opportunity to receive up to $160 million. That funding would allow the group to conduct research and design products that will open new markets for rural economies and preserve the Northern Forest for years to come.
The goals for CONFIR’s research and development efforts include increasing the number of forestry workers with in-depth skill sets; creating and promoting new best practices for preserving forests from the effects of climate change; publishing new resource management strategies; and accelerating the production of innovative manufactured wood products and other forest-based goods and technologies.
“We are pleased to be part of this coalition of leaders and innovators in forestry research and entrepreneurship, and that the National Science Foundation will support our work in preserving Maine forests and growing the regional economy,” says UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “For more than a century, UMaine has stood at the forefront of science, technology and workforce development in the forest economy, all to help protect these vital ecosystems that serve as an economic, environmental and cultural foundation of our state. With this new funding, we look forward to strengthening our collaboration with other universities and community-focused organizations to build the research and development base to keep the forests of Northern New England resilient to climate change, create transformative bioproducts, further expand our rural economies and train the next generation of environmental stewards.
The lead researchers from UMaine’s School of Forest Resources involved in CONFIR are Shane O’Neill, forest industry business development manager, and Aaron Weiskittel, director of the University of Maine’s Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.
In addition to the Northern Forest Center and UMaine, CONFIR’s core partner organizations include the University of New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, the University of Vermont, Northern Vermont University, the Maine Development Foundation and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
“The Northern Forest is a regional ecosystem, and its forest economy spans state and national boundaries as well,” says Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center and director of the CONFIR initiative. “Our coalition and this award connect the leading work of the University of Maine and the FOR/Maine initiative with their counterparts in New Hampshire and Vermont. This combined expertise and regional network is crucial as our region’s forests and the businesses and communities that depend on them face climate change, dynamic wood markets, and other challenges. Collaborating regionally to chart solutions to those challenges will help forests and forest industries be resilient into the future.”
Visit the Northern Forest Center CONFIR website for more information.