“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” -Chinese proverb
The most important aspect of environmental stewardship is planning for the future. Foresters and land managers are always thinking decades ahead, envisioning what beneficial results will emerge from present-day decisions placed upon the land. With this shrewd thought process at hand, their management choices will eventually create thriving forest communities for the future environmental leaders and stewards of tomorrow.
Downeast Lakes Land Trust recently completed a summer timber harvest on the Farm Cove peninsula of the Downeast Lakes Community Forest. Sitting high atop a hardwood ridge filled with American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera), this particular harvest area was a great candidate for the replanting of a less-common tree not found in many places in the community forest: the northern red oak (Quercus rubra). With its stately shape and sturdy structure, red oaks can grow to towering heights with numerous benefits to forest ecosystems. One of the greatest benefits of these giants are their seeds: the well-loved acorn. Acorns provide a nutrient-dense food source for several species, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear, and many more.
On a late October day, DLLT President David Montague joined teachers and students from nearby Lee Academy to learn all about the value of planting seedlings after a timber harvest and the wildlife benefits derived from northern red oak. Armed with shovels and watering cans, Lee Academy science teacher Susan Linscott and wellness teacher Angela Arthers led 11th and 12th grade environmental studies students into the community forest to help plant 50 red oak seedlings before the onset of winter.
“We enjoyed the day and they [the students] definitely learned something,” said Linscott. “We were starting our FIG (Forest Inventory Growth) plot and had been discussing ecosystem services and climate change, so they could relate to the reasoning for planting the red oaks.”
The red oak project was developed as a pilot program, and joins the collection of American chestnut seedlings planted by young volunteers this past August. DLLT is looking forward to future seedling plantings with area schools. The 55,678-acre Downeast Lakes Community Forest is conserved in perpetuity, and the next generation of foresters, land managers, and volunteer stewards is growing up right before our eyes. In order to continue cultivating healthy ecosystems and productive forests, students in the Downeast Lakes region will need to be equipped with the proper knowledge, skills, and passion to carry the torch.