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There’s a lot more going on in Maine’s forests than you know about

SWOAM               The Pine Tree Camp on North Pond in Rome hosted a fantastic SWOAM/Maine Tree Farm Forestry Field Day on September 10, and I was very glad I decided to attend. I thought I knew a lot about what’s going on in our forests, including the programs and projects currently underway, but boy, did I learn a lot at this great event, the 62nd annual forestry field day.

Special thanks to the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine for alerting me to this event. As the owner of a 150 acre woodlot and a SWOAM member, I find their work and services to be very valuable.

First of all, I was very impressed with Pine Tree Camp. A project of the Pine Tree Society, the camp incorporates forest management into a setting that provides unique outdoor recreational experiences for people with special needs.  Harvesting trails open the woods up to “remote” places to swim, fish or camp overnight, activities that may be completely new for some campers. My good friend, former legislator and DIF&W Deputy Commissioner Paul Jacques, has dedicated a lot of his time to the camp, and I’m pleased I finally got to see this amazing place.

Bob Myers of the Maine Snowmobile Association was there, and told me MSA has donated an astonishing $4 million over the years to Pine Tree Camp. Pat Sirois, Director of the Maine Sustainable Forestry Initiative, manned a very interesting display demonstrating how forest landowners are helping to rebuild fisheries habitat in our rivers, streams, and brooks, principally by dropping trees into them. Pat’s table demonstrated how this works, with a stream of water running down the table, and spawning habitat being created as he placed downed trees in the flowing water.

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I’m working on a comprehensive legislative bill to address the need for improvements in spawning habitat, so this demonstration was particularly helpful. We really need to add structure to these waterways, including trees and large rocks.

From the Forest Management Plan Funding Opportunity of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Maine, to the USDA’s Fish and Wildlife Habitat Plan, there was a ton of information available here. I had a great talk with Sarah Fuller, a consultant who is working with Local Wood Works, including a project with the Kennebec Woodland Partnership that includes the Kennebec Land Trust, my local land trust that has done great work in my area.

KLT and the Maine Forest Service along with CEI, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and GrowSmart Maine, launched Local Wood WORKS in 2013, with a shared mission to advance forest-based economies and support the long-term conservation and sustainability of Maine’s woodlands. This year they are focused on collaborative pathways for an enhanced local wood economy in Maine. You can learn more at localwoodWORKSmaine.com.

Shelby Wright was there with a booth, promoting the new Keep Maine Clean program that her Maine Resource Recovery Association recently launched, with help from me and James Cote.

I was particularly appreciative of a tour of the camp’s forestlands that John Starrett took me on. John, a SAPPI forester, has managed Pine Tree Camps 285 acres of forest for 25 years. And boy, has he done a superb job. At one spot, he pointed to a stump and told me, “There’s an oak stump we cut in 1991.” Yup, he knows every tree and every stump!

There’s so many great projects going on in the Maine woods now, from Sherry Huber’s Hope Project to the Forestry for Maine Birds program, a partnership of the Forest Stewards Guild and Maine Audubon. Their October 22 workshop on birding habitat sounded like something Linda and I would enjoy.

I was especially impressed and pleased with the work that Dirigo Timberlands is doing, building concrete culverts that provide environmentally friendly and cost effective options for stream and brook crossings. Blaine Miller showed me one of those culverts, installed on the Pine Tree Camp property, and it is really impressive. I hope to write another column on culverts sometime soon, a very important subject for all of us who love to fish.

While forest landowners – with lots of help and the leadership of Pat Sirois – are doing a good job of constructing new culverts that allow fish and other creatures to move upstream – lots of culverts in towns and cities remain a serious problem. Unfortunately, the bond money that has helped towns and cities to fund improvements in culverts is running out, and a new bond proposal failed in the last legislative session.

They even served a very tasty lunch and had my favorite singing group, Stan Keach’s Sandy River Ramblers, entertaining us outside on a beautiful sunny day. Yes, it was a fun day!

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