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Building a Local Wood Movement

The forests of Maine are unquestionably one of our State’s most important assets, providing wildlife habitat, jobs, wood products, water quality protection, and recreational opportunities.  To many, these woodlands are the landscape that best represents Maine.

Ensuring that these lands stay forested and continue to provide so many benefits is a goal that many widely diverse groups and individuals share.  The alternatives to thoughtful planning and management – scattered development, fragmentation, and a loss of access – are undesirable outcomes for many, no matter what their connection to the Maine woods.

Many of the groups that I have worked with, Maine’s 90 land trusts, have purchased forestland or used conservation easements to keep these lands undeveloped.  The Forest Society of Maine has had great success in working with owners of larger tracts of forestland, and smaller land trusts are doing what they canPhoto Credit: Pam Wells to conserve Maine’s forest.  But the money and time it takes to do this conservation work, especially for the smaller groups, means their normal conservation tools may not make a big “dent” relative to the size of Maine’s forested landscape.

As a result some groups are also looking at additional ways to ensure that Maine’s forests remain intact.  One idea, following on the local food movement that is gaining traction in Maine, focuses on promoting greater markets for wood grown in Maine.  If there were a higher demand for sustainably harvested Maine wood from homeowners, craftspeople and others, landowners might be able to count on a larger and more regular revenue stream from their harvested timber than currently exists.  Ideally this would give landowners and their heirs more options than selling off their forestland.

In addition, many believe that wood harvested for a local market will result in people caring more about the manner in which the forests are harvested.  More people might be more interested in supporting local forestry if they see it as part of the community’s livelihood – but especially if it’s clear that water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and scenery are also part of the equation.

As an example, a recent unpublished study, by Ken Lausten of the Maine Forest Service and Theresa Kerchner of the Kennebec Land Trust, of Kennebec County’s 608,000 acres looked at the wood supply available in Kennebec County and the potential for sustainable forestry as well as additional permanent "forever wild" land conservation. Their study noted that there are 374,000 acres of forestland with 7.2 million merchantable cords of various species in Kennebec County (2011 U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data). The county’s timber resources are concentrated in three species: eastern white pine, northern red oak, and red maple.  The report’s authors noted that while not all local demand for wood products and fuelwood could be met by these forest resources, there is potential for new sustainable wood product markets that could engage residents with forestland conservation and sustainable timber harvesting in their communities.

According to the authors, "The Kennebec County study also underscored two critical points: New England’s forests are changing parcel by parcel with the decisions of individual landowners; and the underlying threat to woodlands in the northeast is neither sustainable forest management nor permanent land conservation, but rather the permanent conversion of forestland to commercial and residential development."[1]

Spurred on by the energy within the Kennebec Land Trust, and with funding from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, a diverse group of partners is planning the first gathering to promote this idea of a local wood movement in Maine.  The Local Wood Works conference will be held on November 14th and 15th at the Augusta Civic Center. 

This conference is an opportunity for landowners, foresters, loggers, processors, wood-based businesses, state agencies, conservation organizations, artisans, students, and forest & wood products enthusiasts to connect, learn and propel Maine’s local wood economy into a more sustainable future. 

For more information about the Local Wood Works conference, see  For a list of the land trusts in Maine, look here:  or contact Warren Whitney at for more information.

Warren Whitney, Land Trust Program Manager

Maine Coast Heritage Trust



Warren Whitney is the Land Trust Program Manager at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and works to bring a variety of communications, training, networking, capacity building and other services to Maine’s land trust community.   He began his career in the GIS world, joined the Board of his local land trust, and eventually became the Executive Director of that small land trust.  After working out of the spare bed room of his house for a few years he joined MCHT, where has been for the past 12 years.  

[1] Laustsen, Ken and Kerchner, Theresa; Forestland Conservation: A case study in sustainable forest management, local wood production, and land conservation, unpublished, July, 2013)


Beware of Woodland Plant Invaders!

Maine woodlands are vibrant and productive places where trees and other native plants co-exist in a relatively balanced way.  There are also a number of exotic, invasive plants that are able to grow rapidly and aggressively enough to out-compete and displace locally adapted native plants. They often “leaf out” before natives, getting a head start on our relatively short growing season.

According to The Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP), an invasive plant is defined as a plant that is notPhoto Credit: Steven Katovich, US Forest Service, native to a particular ecosystem, whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. There are currently approximately 2,100 plant species recorded from Maine. Approximately one third of those are not native. Of those plants that are not native, only a small fraction is considered invasive, but these have the potential to cause great harm to our landscape.

Invasive plants can make it difficult to reach many of the goals that landowners commonly have for their woodlands. For example, invasive plants compete for resources with desired tree species, especially young seedlings.  This can make it difficult to establish new seedlings to replace larger trees when they die or are harvested.  Some Photo Credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.orginvasive plants, particularly species of vines, such as Asiatic bittersweet  can even kill valuable mature trees by smothering or strangling them.  Other species, such as Japanese barberry, often form dense thorny thickets. These thickets can make it nearly impossible to access the woods for work or enjoyment.  Because invasive plants can out-compete native species, they can also lead to a reduction in the diversity of species present in the forest.


Not all non-native species of plants are invasive; in fact many non-native species never escape from cultivation.  Of the species that do escape into the wild most never become invasive.Photo Credit: Ronald F. Billings, TX Forest Service, Bugwood.orgBotanists use what is called the “tens” rule to describe how many plant species are likely to become invasive.  According to the tens rule only one in ten non-native species is likely to escape into the wild. Of those that escape, only one in ten is likely to become invasive.  

Although there are many species of plants that are considered invasive in Maine, there are a few species that are of particular concern in the forest. These species include:

To learn more about how to identify invasive plant species, and how to manage and control their impact, check out MFS Information Sheet #7, “Invasive Plants in Maine Forests.”


You can also get a ton of information from the Maine Natural Areas Program’s Invasive Species

As always, you can call the Maine Forest Service for more information or assistance at 1 800 367-0223 (in state) or (207) 287-2791, or e-mail

Kevin Doran, Natural Science Educator, Maine Forest Service and Andy Shultz, Landowner Outreach Forester, Maine Forest Service.


Maine Task Force Helping Prepare for Coming Spruce Budworm Outbreak 

The July 16, 2014 FMF blog post entitled “Preparing for the Next Spruce Budworm Outbreak” by Alison Truesdale outlined the challenges of the coming spruce budworm (SBW) outbreak in Maine. The current outbreak has grown rapidly since 2007 and has now defoliated more than 8 million acres in Quebec. Pheromone traps across northern Maine have captured rapidly increasing numbers of SBW moths since 2010, so visible defoliation of spruce-fir stands is not far off.

 To help Maine prepare, representatives from the Maine Forest Service, Maine Forest Products Council, and University of Maine’s Cooperative Forestry Research Unit have been working together over the past year. This Maine SBW Task Force includes leading experts from across the state who have been assessing the potential impact of the SBW on Maine’s forest, and developing specific recommendations for how to best prepare for and respond to the coming outbreak.

A draft report has been completed and is now undergoing internal review by the SBW Task Force. The risk assessment in the draft report indicates that 5.8 million acres of spruce-fir stands are at risk of some level of defoliation that can lead to widespread tree mortality and reduced growth. Results from two recent studies on the potential wood supply impact of the coming SBW outbreak were reviewed. These studies indicated that annual reductions in spruce-fir wood volume (or biomass) of 15% to 30% are possible from a moderate to severe outbreak, respectively.  

These studies also concluded that recovery of the spruce-fir forest following peak impact of outbreak will be slow (~40 years), and that the overall impact would be similar (both in severity and rate of recovery) regardless of when the outbreak begins.  

The good news from one of these studies is that Maine forest landowners can substantially reduce losses in spruce-fir wood volume by:

  • Adapting current harvesting to reduce the area of high-risk stands (i.e., those with high balsam fir and white spruce composition) ahead of outbreak,
  • Protecting high-risk and high-value stands with the biological insecticide B.t.k. on no more than 20% of the affected area, and  
  • Salvaging dead and dying trees where they occur.

The draft report also includes more than 70 specific recommendations for preparing for and responding to the coming outbreak by:

  • Monitoring SBW populations,
  • Managing forest stands to mitigate the impact,
  • Protecting high-risk and high-value spruce-fir stands,
  • Revising specific forest policies and regulations,
  • Addressing key wildlife habitat issues,
  • Implementing effective public communication strategies, and
  • Developing new knowledge through research.

The SBW Task Force is working now to develop a publically reviewable draft of the report later this fall. Public review and comment will be solicited during late 2014 and early 2015. 


Dr. Robert Wagner is Director of the University of Maine’s Cooperative Forestry Research Unit and Leader of Maine’s SBW Task Force. He can be contacted at or 207-581-2903 for more information about the SBW Task Force. 


Land Conservation with Water Quality in Mind

It is easy to take for granted the abundant, high quality water resources in the state of Maine. With the drought out west making the news, it should remind us that we are lucky to have these resources and we should work together to protect them for the future. Sebago Lake is one of the largest, deepest lakes in Maine and it is clearer than 95% of the other lakes in the state.  The water in Sebago Lake is soPerley Pond good that the Portland Water District (PWD) is able to use it as an unfiltered drinking water source for over 200,000 people.  The excellent water quality is largely a result of the predominantly forested watershed.

Forests produce great water quality because they have multiple ways of stopping pollutants from getting into water bodies.  First, the forest canopy slows rainfall which prevents rainwater carrying pollutants from flowing directly to the lake in large surges. Water that lands on the forest ground is infiltrated into the leaf litter layer and is taken up by the roots of trees and other plants in the forest. 

At 450 square miles, the Sebago Lake watershed stretches from Standish all the way to Bethel. If you look at aerial images of the watershed, you can see that, like much of the state of Maine, forest dominates the landscape. In fact, according to a 2007 study, 82% of the Sebago Lake watershed is forested. 

Sebago Lake WatershedEven though the watershed is ideal for producing excellent water quality, the land is almost entirely privately owned which means that there is no ensuring that it will not be developed into parking lots, gravel pits, or big-box stores in the future. This is where the PWD Land Conservation Policy comes in to play- recognizing the value of maintaining forested land, the policy states that PWD supports land conservation within the Sebago Lake watershed when the goal of conserving the land is consistent with protecting water quality. PWD partners with land trusts and landowners to help with their conservation efforts. Within the past few years, the PWD Board of Trustees has re-affirmed their commitment to watershed land conservation by approving policy changes which allow for greater monetary contributions. They also requested that a formula be developed so that the method for evaluating each project is consistent. The hope was that increasing the available funding to land trusts and landowners will spur more people to conserve their land.      

The method that was developed evaluates potential conservation land based on characteristics related to water quality.  Protecting water quality is the ultimate goal of PWD’s land conservation program, so projects that conserve land with important water quality features are the highest priority.  Some characteristics that the method considers are proximity to water bodies, forest cover, amount of wetlands and presence of significant sand and gravel aquifers. There are other factors that are considered as well, including the parcel’s proximity to Sebago Lake. 

The land conservation program has been very successful in recent years, with the Board approving contributions totaling $68,990 towards 1660 acres in 2013 and $346,000 towards 1300 acres in 2014. This is more money than had been spent on watershed land conservation in all previous years,

Northwest River combined. The pace of conservation has been impressive and has been largely due to the diligent work of the area land trusts and support from the PWD Board of Trustees. By conserving forested land, we work towards ensuring good, abundant drinking water quality for years to come.   


Laurel Jackson is a Water Resources Specialists with the Portland Water District.  In addition to managing the District’s land conservation program, Laurel’s responsibilities also include water quality monitoring on Sebago Lake, providing technical assistance to lake front property owners and doing outreach to lake users about the importance of protecting Maine’s valuable water resources. 




Students from Around the World Study Land Use in the Penobscot Watershed

I just wrapped-up a spectacular week along the Maine coast working with an exceptional group of young professionals from around the world.

The 4th annual Acadian Program in Regional Conservation and Stewardship was held at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park in July and August of 2014. The Acadian Program bringsAcadian Program participants atop Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park. (Melissa Carmody photo) young professionals from around the world to learn about large landscape conservation using Downeast Maine as a living classroom and laboratory. The region, with its remarkable past and history of innovative conservation initiatives, provides an extraordinary setting for young professionals from the U.S. and abroad.

This year’s program of 17 participants included students from Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Belize, and Argentina. Two teams of young professionals came from Chile and Vietnam. Together, on the Maine coast, students learned about conservation challenges and successes, and honed skills in designing and implementing innovative conservation strategies using the vast array of public, private, non-profit and academic resources available.

The week-long program was conducted in three parts. We began with two days of instruction in the theory and practice of large landscape conservation, with speakers from Harvard, the University of Maine, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Sea Grant, and others. Then, student teams from around the world led half-day discussions of a current conservation challenge regarding a large landscape initiative in their region. After their presentations, presenting teams worked with their new colleagues to brainstorm and then propose effective policy responses to their challenge.

Homepage of the Maine Futures Community Mapper – (Courtesy of the University of Maine)The last three days of the course focused on the ecological, economic, and social restoration of the Penobscot River watershed following the historic removal/modification of several large dams – including the removal of the Veazie Dam last summer. Students learned about the Bay-to-Baxter Initiative – a new proposal to leverage the Penobscot’s natural amenities for much-needed economic growth (see Participants were then introduced to the award-winning Maine Futures Community Mapper – a stakeholder-driven online tool designed to help planners, businesses and residents make more informed land use decisions (see and FMF’s recent Fresh from the Woods article).

Students and course faculty spent a day touring the Lower Penobscot River watershed, learning about local agriculture, forestry, and conservation initiatives. Bangor planning officials briefed the group on the more than $200 million in downtown waterfront revitalization efforts, and the group ended its tour at the Veazie Salmon Club overlook watching the Penobscot River flow free through what was once the location of the Veazie dam. Students were also introduced to the challenges facing the region – from development threats, mercury contamination from Orrington’s shuttered Holtrachem plant, new gravel mining operations in shoreland zones, and the loss of forests to non-forest uses.A newly permitted large-scale gravel operation within the 250-foot shoreland residential district in Orrington, Maine. Note Penobscot River, large clearcut in foreground, and conversion from forest to non-forest use. (Courtesy of the University of Maine)

Since 2011, the Acadian Program has hosted more than 60 students from 15 countries and five continents. Program partners include the University of Maine, the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Harvard University, and the Schoodic Institute located in Acadia National Park. For more information and to learn more about this year’s interns, see


Robert J. Lilieholm, E.L. Giddings Professor of Forest Policy, University of Maine, Orono

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