Group works to revitalize economy of Northern Forest region

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(Host) The decline of the timber and paper-making industries has devastated many communities across northern New England and New York.

But a group dedicated to revitalizing the economy of the Northern Forest says that can change if governments and residents in the region work together.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has the story.

(Sneyd) A vast forest still stretches for 400 miles across 30 million acres of coastal Maine and through the mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

This region was once the heart of an economy that was the envy of the nation.

Leaders of the Northern Forest Sustainable Economy Initiative say that could happen again.

Rachael Stuart is with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and is part of the initiative.

(Stuart) “Within that economy, the northern forest is our asset. It’s a world class asset. It has to be preserved. And we don’t even know the revenue stream that the forest can produce and the kinds of products and services that it will be producing in the future economy.”

(Sneyd) Groups like the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation launched the Sustainable Economy Initiative to develop a plan for the future.

In a report they just released, they come to a simple conclusion: The economy has to be based on more than just the forest.

Joe Short has managed the initiative’s work.
He says it’s important for people and governments across the region to band together.

(Short) “This is the first time that the four northern forest states have come together to focus on the shared economic challenges and opportunities facing their northern forest communities and consider how we can work across state boundaries to address them.”

(Sneyd) In a letter to the region’s four governors, the initiative sums up its vision this way:

"In practical terms, we want cell phones and Internet service to work as well in the Northern Forest as they do in Boston or New York City. We want the businesses and employees of the region to share the pride-and the financial rewards-of meeting the growing worldwide demand for high-quality "green" products. We want the region to benefit from meeting more of its energy needs with sustainable local resources."

The initiative says this can be accomplished by investing in work force training, rebuilding transportation networks. And especially getting reliable cell phone and high-speed Internet service to every corner of the Northern Forest.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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