This week, Apple partnered with the Conservation Fund to donate an easement on 32,400 acres of forest, which the tech giant purchased last year, to the Forest Society of Maine. Apple's gift connects over 1 million acres of forest that reach far beyond Maine’s border with Canada.
Forests by far define Maine's landscape: Approximately 90 percent of this New England state is covered by trees, more than any other U.S. state. The 12 million acres nestled against the Canadian border is home to few people, but they offer residents and visitors diverse wildlife, plenty of recreation choices, and economic opportunities. But unlike much of the western U.S., the vast majority of Maine's forests are privately owned – as much as 93 percent according to one survey.
Over the last several years, changes in the U.S. forestry sector caused shifts in ownership for millions of acres with little certainty about their eventual fate. Hence steps taken by companies such as Apple are important in order to allow for some economic activity on this land, while protecting wildlife and permitting recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing.
Apple’s donation of land and funds will protect the Reed Forest in Aroostook County, located in the northern region of the state, according to the Forest Society of Maine. The endowment allows for sustainable timber harvest that helps employ 38,000 locals, ensures clean water for local communities and provides a carbon sink as a buffer against future climate change risks.
This is not Apple's first forestry initiative. Last year the tech giant entered into an agreement with WWF to halt deforestation in China. Its project aims to transition 1 million acres of forested lands to responsibly managed forests by 2020. The paper produced from trees grown within these forests will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). With the world’s population growing and demand for paper products rising in kind, Apple views these partnerships as a way to groom sustainable development while reducing any encroachment on natural forests.
“For Apple, this is the beginning of a worldwide effort, one that represents a new approach as it reassesses its impact on the world’s paper supply chain,” wrote Lisa P. Jackson, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and who now serves as VP of environment, policy and aocial initiatives for Apple, upon announcing the company’s work with the Conservation Fund last year.
Apple has long been called out for its lack of transparency, and the company has been opaque about where it sources the paper and cardboard needed to box its product suite of electronics and accessories. As Philip Elmer-DeWitt has pointed out on Fortune, Apple’s purchase and donation of forest lands is a way to counter the amount of pulp and paper consumed by its supply chain. Critics of the company will not be mollified until Apple sheds more light how it procures its paper supply; others will see this as a sign that the company is trying to do its part to mitigate its impact on the planet.
Image credit: Lee Coursey/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked an lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.