How Can We Ensure Our Forests For The Future?

Change is a constant in the forest of Maine. Today, the people of Maine face a new challenge; how can we ensure the Maine forest will continue to provide a source of renewable resources, habitat for a wide range of species, recreational opportunities, clean air and clean water, income for some and spiritual solace for others?

The answer comes from a combination of different approaches to land management, including programs designed to conserve the working forest and protect forest habitat on private lands.

The Working Forest
Maine forests can support a wide diversity of wildlife species and timber harvesting, while still providing recreational opportunities and environmental benefits like clean air and water.

Assistance Programs Under the American Tree Farm program more than 1,800 forest owners actively manage one third of the Maine forest (7.6 million acres) for timber, wildlife and recreation.

The Maine Forest Service Forest Stewardship Program guides forest management for 3,000 landowners in the state.

Information and Professional Assistance Information is readily available to forest owners, regardless of the number of acres they own. The Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM), a membership organization currently with 3,000 members, provides information and assistance on balancing economic and ecological land use values.

Licensed and certified professionals also have roles to play. More than 250 licensed professional foresters work with landowners to protect ecological and economic land values by writing forest stewardship plans, laying out woods roads and hiking trails, enhancing wildlife habitat, evaluating and selling timber, overseeing logging operations, and guiding landowners through federal, state, and local laws.

Do you have a favorite patch of woods?
What makes it special?
Do others consider it special too?
Who owns it? Is it privately or publicly owned?
Do you want it to remain forested?
If so, what could you do to keep it from being developed?
Who would be affected by your actions? Why?

Loggers do the heavy lifting. They construct forest roads, harvest trees, and transport wood to sawmills. Over 4,000 people, most of them loggers, are active Certified Logging Professionals, indicating that they completed training in sustainable forestry practices, logging safety, first aid, and environmental regulations.

Conserving Working Forests and Protecting Special Forests

Properly managed working forests provide wood, environmental benefits, recreational benefits, and wildlife habitat. They can be home to rare plants and animals, offer spectacular views, or provide unique recreational opportunities. Land trusts, conservation organizations, and the Land for Maine’s Future Program seek to protect forest and agricultural lands from development.

Land trusts promote and help landowners through the legalities of voluntary land conservation. Under a conservation easement held in trust by a non-profit land trust, private landowners maintain ownership of their land while agreeing to restrict future development.

The Nature Conservancy, the Forest Society of Maine, Maine Audubon Society, and other conservation organizations are not conventional land trusts, but also acquire conservation easements to protect forests from development. As of 2002 land trusts and conservation organizations own 251,000 acres of forest outright and protect over 1,125,000 acres by purchase or easement.

The Land for Maine's Future Program (LMF) identifies lands of statewide significance to recreation and conservation. LMF facilitates the purchase of this land by the Departments of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Conservation, and Agriculture. Since Maine voters approved a $35 million bond to create LMF in 1987, LMF has protected over 88,000 acres of land, including 193 miles of shoreline and 86 miles of recreational corridors. In 1999, Maine voters approved a $50 million bond to finance new acquisitions by LMF.

Forest Research
Forest research influences land use decisions and policy. In 1995, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences established the Shifting Mosaic Project in an effort to develop a new management model for effectively balancing ecological and environmental goals in industrial forests. Since then, partnerships evolved with the University of Maine, state natural resource agencies and conservation organizations. Today, scientists and foresters conduct research on over 90,000 acres of Maine forest.

The Maine Forest Service and the United States Forest Service also conduct forest inventories to provide information used to guide land use decisions. Data collected includes information on tree species, size and health, tree growth and mortality rates, and timber harvesting rates.

Forest Fact

Twenty percent of Maine’s rare plant species are found in York and Cumberland counties – areas experiencing the greatest development pressures. Wild ginger and American ginseng are both listed as threatened species in southern Maine.

PLT Activity #50: 400-Acre Wood
Students play the roles of managers of a 400-acre public forest. Through these roles students begin to understand the complex considerations that influence forest management decisions.

PLT Activity #57: Democracy in Action
Democratic systems depend on citizen involvement. This activity helps students learn about the roles and responsibilities of citizen groups in environmental policies and decision-making, and about how young people can become involved in the process.

forest conservation and management program
Maine Department of Conservation
provides a range of accurate information about forest resources and sponsor of Maine Project Learning Tree, Tree Farm and Certified Logging Professionals
a program to assist small landowners and anyone with an interest in Maine woodlands
encouraging and educating private forest landowners
history and land acquisitions under the land for Maine’s Future Program