Managing Small Woodlots With
Big Federal Dollars
By Jo Josephson, FEN Board Member, Coordinator Western Maine
White Pines, three feet plus in diameter, ten feet in circumference. I once filled a logging truck with only three of them and had lots left over to mill out at home. A few years back they were paying over $600 a thousand board feet for those pines. Of course it was for veneer. Did it all with a tractor and a pruning pole. So went the patter of Ralph True of Mercer during a recent tour of his 250 acre wood lot in Mercer - a wood lot he has selectively managed for over 50 years in Central Maine.
Following True were about 30 small wood lot owners, logging contractors, forest activists, foresters, naturalists, and staff from both the Forest Ecology Network and the Somerset County Cooperative Extension Service, who had joined forces to co-sponsor the event. They had all been lured into the woods with the fact that there is about $9 million in Maine to aid small wood lot owners in weeding and pruning their wood lots and the promise that on the tour they would see some of that money in action.
By late morning, the group had moved onto the 85-acre wood lot managed by True's neighbor Dennis Culley, who had been managing his own wood lot for a mere 15 years. It was Culley, who had come up with the idea of touring the two wood lots. He wanted those involved with earning their livelihood from the forest to not only see the result of careful forest management over the long haul; he also wanted them to get a close-up of what it looked like in its early stages; i.e., what it took to make the transition from growing pulp to growing lucrative saw logs.
As such, at Culley's they saw a lot of recent thinning and pruning, much of it paid for under a variety of federal programs. As Culley described it: "The real work is in the thinning and weeding out of the inferior trees and then pruning the superior trees." Those on the tour saw small "patch cuts" or "small holes" in the forest. As Culley pointed out the more successful patch cuts were no bigger than one-tenth of an acre and regenerated soft wood (a great number of spruce and fir); while the unsuccessful ones were too large, generating trash hardwood (poplar and birch and red maple).
They also saw a recent timber trespass on Culley's land from an abutting landowner and the effect it had on the remaining trees - exposure to wind and drying out of the forest floor. And last but not least they walked the wood lot on so-called nature trails paid for again largely by the federal government. Culley has 8,000 feet of such trails on his land. And as he explained, such trails have multiple use, but for the wood lot owner they provide access to the woods. They must be a minimum of 4.5 feet wide and 9.5 feet high.
The tour which began at 8:30 ended
well after noon. It was deemed successful by all.