When people envision a mature forest, they likely think back to the days before the industrial revolution. They imagine large, unbroken tracts of virgin forestland, teeming with wildlife and dominated by towering conifers and established hardwoods. This idyllic landscape has largely been lost among the many generations that have needed lumber, paper, and fuel to feed the fires of modern human civilization. People have often manipulated forest growth to suit a variety of needs, including economically-driven forestry. But as civilization grows and changes, so do forest management practices.
The Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) currently manages large forested areas that, for many years, had landowners with only economically-driven objectives. Large swathes of forestland were heavily cut to sustain the state’s thriving timber industry. Managing for mature coniferous forests that would provide food and shelter for wildlife was not a top priority for previous landowners.
DLLT is making wildlife habitat a top priority for the management of the 33, 708-acre Farm Cove Community Forest. DLLT has integrated timber management and wildlife habitat goals through a “Focus Species Forestry” planning process, selecting a set of focal species to represent a variety of forest habitat types and including species of particular importance to the local community.
“Every forest type supports some kind of wildlife habitat,” explains DLLT Community Forest Manager Kyle Burdick. “How it’s arranged on the landscape, and in what abundance, is key to making everything work.”
The current winter harvest focuses on managing for a mature, coniferous forest, creating excellent wintering areas for white-tailed deer. While it may seem counterintuitive that cutting trees creates a mature forest, the improved health allows for much greater rates of growth. Through the selective cutting of maple, poplar, birch, and other hardwoods, the future regeneration of cedar, spruce, and fir will create critical food and shelter resources for deer. In the long run, by harvesting hardwood and eastern white pine (tree species that reduce snow loading capacity), the new growth will generate greater canopy cover. The snow loading in the canopy allows for far less snow in the understory, creating easier access to a wide variety of winter foods and dense protection from predators. This management strategy also benefits all other wildlife species that use mature conifer forest, such as American Marten and Pileated Woodpecker. White-tailed deer are a primary focal species and DLLT has mapped and designated over 11,000 acres for management as deer wintering habitat.
“Legally, DLLT only has 40 acres of state zoned Deer Wintering Areas,” says Burdick. “That is less than 0.5% of our self-imposed Deer Management area. We feel that large areas with contiguous cover are imperative to a functional, multi-use forest.”
For more information on Wildlife Habitat Management or to visit the Farm Cove Community Forest, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (207) 796 – 2100.