My niece, Mallory Bussell, is graduating from UMaine Orono this year with a degree in forestry. For her Forestry Management class last fall, she developed a management plan for my parents’ property. This is the most comprehensively anyone has looked at the land in decades (maybe ever!), and I discovered a lot from it, both about the property itself and about what forest management means.
Mallory found that the property had three different soil types, and the use that the land was put to historically seems to correspond to the best use of that soil:
- The PWC type is rocky and sloped—typically used for woodland, with high potential for white pine, sugar maple, white birch, balsam fir, beech, white ash, bigtooth aspen, and quaking aspen, which provide food and habitat for many species, including deer, bear, and ruffed grouse. This is the soil type found in the wooded areas of the property.
- The PtC soil is silt loam soil with a slope, typically used for pasture or hay, although the slope increases the possibility of erosion. This is the soil found on most of the cleared (or formerly cleared) areas of the property.
- The ToC soil is shallow with low available water capacity, typically used for hay or pasture, although white spruce and Eastern white pine can grow there. This is currently evergreen forest with clearings covered in moss.
For the forest management plan, Mallory ignored all the cleared areas or recently regrown areas and just focused on the wooded areas. She identified three separate stands of trees there:
- Stand A has the highest volume of trees. It was once cleared but reverted back to woodland, probably more than 70 years ago. The dominant species is American beech, some of which are resistant to beech bark disease. There are 15 different species of trees in this stand, reaching a maturity level that will soon lead to self-thinning. There is also an old excavated spring. The combination of food, water, and shelter make it a prime habitat for wildlife. An abandoned ATV path crosses this stand.
- Stand B is the largest, but with a lower volume of trees and more skid trails, due to cutting that my father did, with more fir thickets and understory growth. Balsam fir and red maple are the dominant of 18 different species. Multiple small wetland areas feed a brook located just off the property. The conifers intercept snow, as well as provide browse and predator protection for deer, moose, and other wildlife. This area is relatively inaccessible due to the slope, and it’s probably best to keep it that way because of the wildlife habitat.
- Stand C was once used as pasture and blueberry fields, many years ago. More recently, it was harvested for firewood. This stand mostly consists of softwood, specifically balsam fir and red spruce, and for some reason is growing in almost entirely in balsam fir, which may be of concern considering a spruce budworm outbreak is predicted in the near future.
- Stand A is a valuable wildlife resource. One way of maintaining it would be selectively cutting the diseased beech. This would have to be done very carefully, so as not to disturb the healthy beech roots, which are shallower than other roots. Mallory says, “Harvests of up to 3 cords per year for a period of three years with a re-evaluation at the fourth year may be suitable to manipulate regeneration and stand improvement.”
- Stand B should be left alone for now to recover from the cutting and reassessed in a few years, continuing its use as wildlife habitat.
- Stand C should be left alone for five years, at which point individual stem selection or small gap harvests should be considered to thin out the fir. Leaving a small portion of logs on the forest floor to serve as nurse logs will help encourage regeneration of desirable species.
It’s possible for some of the land to qualify under the Tree Growth Tax Law, since Stand A consists of more than 70% hardwood. Stands B and C would not be eligible for Tree Growth, since they are mostly softwoods. However, as far as I could tell, the focus of the Tree Growth Law has to do with commercial growth and harvesting of trees, not primarily for recreation or conservation purposes, so we might do better with a conservation easement.
Mallory also included an appendix with info on blueberry management, apple tree pruning, how to prevent soil erosion, and more. It’s a huge wealth of information, and I’m sure it’ll be incredibly useful as our family decides how to best care for the property.
Posted: March 1st, 2012 under Miscellaneous.
Tags: forest management, forestry, land management, This is now probably the most well-surveyed piece of land in that area not owned by a paper company., University of Maine