October 16, 2013

Community forests make a comeback in Maine

Cities and towns are harvesting their own wood for town services, a newly recycled concept with a history in Maine going back 200 years.

By North Cairn ncairn@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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The city of Portland has about 500 acres of community forests, including the 30-acre Baxter Woods between Forest and Stevens avenues.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Tom Hoerth, Bath’s city arborist and tree warden, cuts a white birch Tuesday in the Butler Head Preserve to increase the sunlight for the sugar maples. The work is part of the city’s community forest-management program. Schoolchildren learn a practical skill and produce a marketable item, maple syrup, in the forests.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Local residents are allowed to harvest firewood – as in many community forests in the state. Canoe builders can take cedar and ash for their work, and craftsmen are permitted to take balsam fir boughs for wreaths and other projects, Berry said.

In the Downeast Land Trust, the two conservation areas represent diverse forests, primarily hemlock, as well as spruce, white pine, sugar maple, birch, beech and fir, Berry said.

They contain some of the most spectacular undeveloped lakes and other waterways, land, trees and wildlife in the region, he said. And each forest – commercially harvested for generations – maintains the tradition of active forestry.

One of the better known and larger community forests is Amherst Mountains Community Forest, nearly 5,000 acres surrounding six ponds in the town of Amherst, managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Under an agreement that established the community forest in 2011, harvesting of portions of the woodlands was allowed, with any proceeds shared between the state and the town.

The combination of alliances and advantages that such agreements make possible is compelling enough to have produced community forests in Maine that range from humble to huge.

Garfield Plantation, population 90, has 13,000 acres, and Winterville Plantation, with about 200 residents, has set aside almost as much, Santerre said. Augusta has 860 acres, Eagle Lake has 4,000, Mattawamkeag has 1,000, and Bethel has 175.

Lewiston has 600 acres, and Portland has about 500. “Both are managing those forestlands,” Santerre said. “Portland actively manages parcels as small as a couple of acres, mainly for safety and timber stand improvement.”

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:ncairn@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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John and Barbara Capasso of Falmouth walk with their dog Phoebe in Mayor Baxter Woods in Portland Friday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Topper West, maintenance, grounds and transportation director for Falmouth schools, shows the biomass furnace and conveyer belt filled with wood chips from Maine harvested wood. This is one of two and is located at the elementary school complex.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Mayor Baxter Woods in Portland

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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