If you own timberland in the Lakes Region, now is a great time to get a management plan together or updated. Grant money is available to help offset the costs.

A new program aims to keep the woodlands in our major watershed intact, provide outdoor recreation opportunities and ensure scenic beauty in one of Maine’s most rapidly developing areas.

In a current U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service report, “Woods, Water and People,” the Presumpscot River watershed was identified as an area of importance because it supplies drinking water for nearly 200,000 residents, about 15 percent of the state’s population. As such, the state has received a grant from the USDA to help landowners with more than 10 wooded acres develop management planning.

Called the Presumpscot WoodsWISE Incentives Project, the program will be administered by the Maine Forest Service. Applications are being accepted until Jan. 31.

It’s not just the river’s shoreline. A few hundred thousand acres — including lands all around Sebago Lake and following the Crooked River north to Bethel, as well as some in York County (Buxton) — are considered part of the watershed and eligible for funding.

Other partners in the project are the Western Foothills Land Trust, Loon Echo Land Trust, Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District, Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Portland Water District and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.

According to the report, as forests are cleared for both housing and commercial expansion, watersheds all along the Interstate 95 corridor in the Northeas are facing development pressures. The watershed’s proximity to Portland, an area the report names as rapidly developing, puts its protection in the spotlight.

“This program is brand new for the Presumpscot region,” said Andy Schulz, landowner outreach forester with the Maine Forest Service. “The watershed has been identified in numerous studies. There is a high percentage of forested land, much of it in private hands, so there’s a different set of concerns than if it was publicly owned.”

The program provides cost-sharing assistance for woodland management.

“This is a great way for eligible landowners to get some financial support for woodland planning,” Shultz said. “The Maine Forest Service can also provide free consultations with its district foresters.”

Upon approval of an application, Shultz said, a licensed forester would write up what the Maine Forest Service calls a WoodsWISE Stewardship Plan. This includes an inventory of the forest, including timber types and their age, health and condition, and whether any tree species are overcrowded, plus the potential market value. Wildlife habitat and recreational possibilities are also integrated.

“A certain amount of what would go into a WoodsWISE stewardship plan is driven by a landowner’s own goals and objectives,” Schultz explained. “If their goals include aesthetics, or they want to encourage a particular habitat for wildlife, that would drive the plan quite a bit.”

Eligible landowners can be reimbursed 50 percent of their actual cost up to a maximum of $500 for parcels with 10 to 50 wooded acres. The maximum reimbursement for parcels greater than 50 acres is $8 per wooded acre. Municipalities and land trusts can receive up to $12 per wooded acre.

For more information about the program, call the Maine Forest Service. Private woodland owners can contact Andy Shultz, Maine Forest Service Landowner Outreach Forester, at 287-8430 or email [email protected] 

Municipal officials should contact Jan Santerre, Project Canopy director, at 287-4987, or [email protected] Land trust members can call both.

Landowners who would like to meet with a district forester can call: in Cumberland County, Ken Canfield at 441-3712; in Oxford County, Merle Ring at 441-3276; in York County, Dennis Brennan at 592-1251.

For more information, a map and applications forms, go to www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/fpm/projects/presumpscot.

 

Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at:

[email protected] gmail.com