July 31, 2011

Deirdre Fleming: 'Our garden is our North Maine Woods'

With two-thirds of the state covered with trees, most of it working forestland, Maine's identity is rooted in its trees, its woodland life, its logging history and the relationships between them all.

FOREST HERITAGE DAYS

WHAT: Two days celebrating the state's forest heritage with demonstrations, competitions and tours.

WHEN: Aug. 12-13

WHERE: Greenville

WHO: The Greenville and forestry communities

MORE INFO: Visit www.forestheritagedays.com

COST: Free for all events. Bus tour costs $35 for adults; $28 for youth and seniors

Greenville has been celebrating this for 20 years, and in two weeks Forest Heritage Days again will highlight all the reasons to love a landscape of trees.

The 21st annual event will be held Aug. 12-13 beside and around Moosehead Lake.

Maine's vast forestland makes up much of our recreation, economy, wildlife habitat and certainly the state's sheer feeling of real "green space." Yet so much of the state's logging history is unknown, like the story behind those hardwood trees sitting at the bottom of Moosehead Lake, left from the log runs of the 1800s.

Today some of these natural antiques are preserved as beautiful crafts. The Forest Heritage Days guides explain how.

"It sort of marries two of the biggest elements in the Greenville economy: logging and tourism," said Gary Morse, a logger since 1966 and one of the event's first volunteers.

"In 1991, we wanted to highlight for visitors the logging industry and the other amenities we get out of the forest: hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, wildlife, hikes, bird watching, you name it. What we do in the woods, it's all interconnected," he said.

The annual event will draw several hundred people, Morse said, especially for the Saturday competition, the Game of Logging.

The game was part of the event in its inaugural year, but with many outdated unsafe techniques. The next year, 1992, certified logging professionals came in to demonstrate the safety standards in the industry, like how to fell a tree without it falling on anyone.

Ever since, the game has been a competition and example of safe logging. The loggers not only compete for the right to represent Maine in the national championships, they also teach spectators how to log safely and effectively.

"The first year some folks had no personal protective equipment," Morse said. "They used alcohol-fueled chainsaws, no hearing protection, everything you don't want to do. The techniques demonstrated in the Game of Logging, it's really about how to save lives. You don't know how many lives were lost before, mainly because of tree felling."

This year's Forest Heritage Days may include new educational features, like a lecture from a state entomologist on the problem insects destroying our native trees. The festival also will have booths, demonstrations, tours of logging yards and wood products on sale.

Heritage Days chairwoman Elaine Bartley said the take-home message from the event is that the logging industry is not about "wiping out the trees" but preserving the forestland.

"It's all about how to take care of the land. If you think about it as a garden, a farmer doesn't do terrible stuff to their garden. They want it to yield a crop and rotate their crops. Our garden is our North Maine Woods," Bartley said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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