Bowdoin College will be removing 68 trees, all but two of which are white pine planted in the 1940s, to make way for two new academic buildings on campus, according to an article on the school’s website.

The college plans to plant 85 new trees, including a variety of evergreens, as well as a mix of deciduous trees and plants that include chestnut and pin oak, birch, witch hazel and winterberry.

“The variety of species will be more resilient to climate change than an in-kind replacement of white pine,” said Bowdoin’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Matt Orlando.

The two new buildings will be located near the corner of College Street and Sills Drive and are expected to be complete in November of 2022.

According to Orlando, the new buildings will be environmentally friendly, electric-powered “mass timber buildings,” meaning the superstructure will be made of wood as opposed to steel or concrete.

“As far as I know, they’re the first of its kind of this scale in the state of Maine,” Orlando said.

Orlando said tree removal will begin Tuesday and that the college contracted with the landscape architect Stimson Associates to determine the specifics around the project. The school plans for the trees to be milled into boards.

According to Nancy Sferra, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Land Management in Maine, by replanting more trees than what the college is taking out “they’re clearly thinking about how they can mitigate the impacts of the construction project.”

Sferra said the list of new tree species “is mostly fine,” noting one species of beech that is susceptible to disease and one bigger, western species of cedar that could act as a large source of carbon storage.

The other species are native to Maine or slightly farther south, Sferra said.

Town Councilor Steve Walker said it is good that the college is looking to increase diversity in tree species, however, pin oak is “like candy to brown tail moths,” an invasive species that has caused severe damage to trees across the Midcoast.

“I’m an advocate for assisted migration of tree species up here with climate change, so I’d encourage them to look at things like tulip trees and other southern species that’ll be up here in 50 years,” Walker said.

Temperatures are rising in Maine as a result of climate change and the state is likely to see more precipitation and drier summers going forward, meaning more southern tree species might thrive in Maine’s future, Sferra said.

“According to a lot of the climate models, that precipitation will be in larger storm events,” Sferra said. “So, our summers might be getting drier, even though our precipitation amounts might be going up.”

In addition to the construction on campus, Bowdoin will also be working with the Town of Brunswick and Central Maine Power to remove or trim hazardous trees along Bath Road which present a danger for power lines, passing vehicles, bicyclists, and others.

“Without any active management, natural succession is occurring,” Orlando said. “That has not necessarily been bad for the habitat and soils as old trees fall and new, mostly deciduous trees have taken root. But we need to make sure we fully understand what opportunities exist for preservation and management of the white pines going forward.

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