Bridging sustainable forestry with landmark conservation campaigns.
Finding common ground between industry and the environment comes naturally to Roger Milliken Jr., who serves as president and CEO of his family’s Baskahegan Company, which owns approximately 120,000 acres of Maine woods. He also serves on the board of Milliken & Co., a South Carolina-based textiles and chemicals empire co-founded in 1865 by his great-grandfather Seth Milliken.
“My grandfather bought the land with the intention of cutting it hard and making his money back,” he says. “There turned out to be fewer trees than he thought. Operations were shut down during the Depression and there was no revenue until the forest grew back in the 1960s.” His son, the late Roger Milliken Sr., was committed to holding onto the land, and out of his efforts grew the family’s focus on sustainability.
“A healthy forest is an essential foundation for a financially healthy company,” says Roger Milliken Jr., who is a former chair of The Nature Conservancy’s global board. He also directed and chaired the Maine Forest Products Council, which represents landowners, loggers, truckers, saw mills, and paper mills. His leadership resulted in the bipartisan passage of Maine’s landmark Forest Practices Act, and he was also an integral part of several conservation campaigns including For Maine Forever, which protected 185,000 acres along the St. John River, and the Katahdin Forest Campaign, which protected 295,000 acres.
“The 1998 St. John Campaign was, at the time, the largest fundraising campaign that had been run by The Nature Conservancy anywhere in the world. It proved that the Conservancy could practice land conservation at a scale of hundreds of thousands of acres,” Milliken says.
He also shared with The Land Report his unique perspective. “As someone who is a member of both the forestry community and the environmental community, I found myself being a bridge person between the two,” he says. “It was so clear to me that both of these organizations and the timber industry wanted a healthy productive forest in Maine and the Northeast. It was evident that we had way more in common than not. I was involved in a lot of shuttle diplomacy between these two communities that cared about nature.”
Milliken, a practicing Buddhist, is married with two children. He was graduated from Harvard College, where he studied English. He studied Sanskrit and Pali at the University of Hawaii. He’s currently updating Forest for the Trees, a history of Baskahegan first published in the 1980s. When he proposed to the board that the book be re-issued in a more graphically rich format, he recalls, “They said ‘Why not bring it up to date incorporating the last 30 years during your management?’ I foolishly said ‘Yes.’” The revision — complete with maps, photographs, and in-depth interviews — will be published in limited edition.
Download your digital version of the Spring 2013 edition of The Land Report.