Our Flagship Resource Protection Program: Forests for Our Future

Since beginning our program expansion in 2017, we have been all about connection, collaboration, and integration. In 2018, we’ve been thematically integrating our various types of work in order to share a coherent vision and plan for conservation with residents of Waldo County, and this idea comes to full fruition in our new forest conservation program. Waldo County is over 80 percent forested, and even properties focused on agriculture or residential use often have significant woodland areas. Forests are facing unprecedented threats, including forest pests poised to decimate dominant tree species in Maine and invasive plants impacting forest regeneration. Climate change is poised to exacerbate these problems as well as to create major changes in our forest composition. Conserving forests is a major focus of the SWCD, and a forest-based economy is a significant part of many Mainers’ livelihoods. It is for this reason we have worked to create a strong program to help people steward forests for a productive, biodiverse, resilient future  through a project called the Forests for Our Future (FFOF). A central feature of this program is to integrate many facets of our work to educate the public on forest stewardship, and to bring diverse individuals and organizations together in forest conservation efforts. This wide-ranging effort follows our District model of building collaboration and community.

The FFOF program is an innovative approach that unites a wide variety of outreach and technical assistance activities. The project is designed to offer a coherent strategy and public face for the district’s varied programs to protect forest resources. One part of the program, now in its second year, is a monthly series on small-scale woodland stewardship that addresses many aspects of woodland management, from sugarbush maintenance to smaller-scale harvest and forestry plans. In these workshops, community members tour local woodlands with landowners who are implementing effective practices to steward their woods. The SWCD is partnering with the Maine Forest Service to implement the series. In addition to workshops, staff is offering conservation assistance to forest owners wishing to implement adaptive management.

Another goal of the FFOF program is to provide leadership in response to forest pests such as the emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that attacks North American hemlock trees. The district has spearheaded local efforts to monitor these pests as infestations approach the area. Pest monitoring is the first part of a continuum of services and includes assistance to municipalities and landowners in planning for and responding to pests.

Another aspect of the program’s multi-faceted approach is engaging high school students to educate them about forests. The students learn about forestry while gaining skills in science through creating and sampling Maine Forest Inventory Growth plots, which are part of a Project Learning Tree program. College students help high school students learn as a part of the district’s Conservation Corps internship while gaining valuable skills. They also assist forest landowners in mapping and managing invasive plants and help local conservation land managers monitor biodiversity. One popular part of the internship experience is planting new types of trees in local parks and mapping the urban forest canopy while quantifying storm water management provided by the trees.

The FFOF program also aims to develop knowledge for the future through developing forest management practices that support resiliency. The district has started a partnership with a local private demonstration forest to implement forest adaptation strategies, including planting tree species that are not currently native in the area but have potential to offer ecosystem functionality, urban tree canopy and forest cover in the future. Waldo County SWCD provided the forest management plan for the demonstration forest. An exciting developing on this front is a new partnership we have with the Forest Ecology program of the National Park Service’s Schoodic Institute, which will fund forest adaptation research in Waldo County, including planting trees in experimental plots in 2019.

The FFOF program has ultimately been a great tool to unite many partners in forest conservation work. Through ongoing publicity of the umbrella program, Waldo County SWCD’s constituents gained an appreciation of the multi-faceted nature of addressing major conservation challenges and understanding of the role soil and water conservation districts serve in bringing people together to tackle pressing resource issues.

Emerald ash borer Emergency Order expands to include York County towns

Public Informational Meeting to be held in Lebanon on October 1

In response to the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) infested trees in western York County, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Bureau of Forestry Director has expanded the Order Area in the Emergency Order to Stop Movement of Ash first issued in August of this year. The Emergency Order restricts the movement of certain ash (Fraxinus spp.) products and any untreated firewood from EAB infested towns in Maine.

Current Order Area Towns:

AROOSTOOK COUNTY towns of Frenchville, Grand Isle and Madawaska

YORK COUNTY towns of Acton, Berwick, Lebanon and Shapleigh

To protect the ash resources of the State of Maine from the unrestricted spread and establishment of a dangerous tree-killing forest pest, the Director of the Maine Bureau of Forestry has taken action and issued the Order pursuant to authority granted by 12 M.R.S. § 8305. For more information about EAB, or to view the full text of the order, visit the Department’s EAB information page: www.maine.gov/eab.

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Invasive Species Spotlight – Himalayan Jewelweed: Pull it out!

You may have noticed a very tall and attractive pink flower in fields and roadsides that is starting to bloom now. Himalayan jewelweed (Impatiens glandulifera) is a highly invasive plant that has become very problematic in areas near Waldo County, where it has completely crowded out our native asters, goldenrods and other wetland and open area plants in some places. It can also impact production areas managed for hay fields, pasture and blueberries. Himalayan jewelweed is unusually tall for an annual plant, often reaching 5-7 feet in height. It is a prolific plant (each plant can produce about 800 seeds with high germination rates), enabling it to out-compete native vegetation. Its replacement of perennial vegetation on river banks may lead to increased soil erosion. Himalayan jewelweed is found in early successional forest, edge, floodplain forest, railroad right-of-way, roadsides, wet meadows, as well as gardens and yard, preferring moist sites.  It is commonly found in riparian habitats (along streams). Himalayan jewelweed resembles our native jewelweed, which is orange flowered and not as tall.

The good news is, if you catch it early, it is relatively easy to manage. Pull gently on the plants and they generally come right out including the roots. Pulled plants should have dirt removed from roots and be placed on non- soil surfaces in the sun to dry out. Break off the flowers and bag them, closing the bag and leaving it in the sun for a while, then incinerate or dispose of the bag. The flowers can create their seed pods even if pulled. Ideally, pull the plants just as soon as you see them flowering, to avoid “popping” mature seed pods, which spread the seed by exploding. Cutting this plant or topping it will just cause it to quickly regrow new flowers. Plan to pull it the next year as well as new seeds sprout, but eventually you can eradicate it this way. Extensive stands can be managed with a foliar herbicide spray applied in July. There are many places in Waldo where this plant is just beginning to get a foothold, so pulling any you see on your land and talking to your neighbors about it may help us keep this plant at bay in our area.

If you enjoy having a tall, beautiful pink flower this time of year, a good substitute for Himalayan jewelweed is our native fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), which can be planted from purchased seeds, and coastal joe pye weed (Eutrochium dubium), available from Wild Seed Project.

Woodland Stewardship Series: The Value of Old Growth and Mature Forest

Next in our Small Scale Woodland Stewardship series: Join us for a hike and talk in a old growth forest. Learn about what an old forest is like and how it offers many benefits from wildlife habitat to recreation and enjoyment of nature. Old forests are one of the most diverse and fascinating natural landscapes you can find in Maine, and also one of the rarest. Most forests here have experienced significant logging in the last 100 years or are recovering from other uses. Old forests often have a tremendous structural complexity, undisturbed microtopography and soil, and ancient trees in all stages of life and death. This allows for many species of birds, wildlife and plants to thrive here, including some that only live in these types of forests. Leaving some areas of forest unharvested for longer periods can create mature forest conditions that are an excellent way to support wildlife habitat and also enhance enjoyment of your woodland. Join us for a walk on the Hidden Knoll trail in the Sheepscot Headwaters Preserve to explore the beauty and habitat potential of undisturbed forest as well as unusual land features.

These events are free and open to the public. This event will be cancelled in the event of heavy rain or thunderstorms. Please check  here for cancellation Parking is often limited, so please consider carpooling if you can. For more information contact Aleta McKeage, Technical Director of Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District at 218-5311 or Morten Moesswilde, Midcoast District Forester with the Maine Forest Service, at 207.441.2895. This Maine Forest Service and WCSW event is in collaboration with Midcoast Conservancy.

When and Where: Saturday, August 25th at 2pm. Meet on the Halldale where the Hemlock Hollow Trail crosses about ½ mile south of the Penney Road, in Montville (in the Sheepscot Headwaters Preserve of the Midcoast Conservancy). Distance: 3 miles, moderate difficulty (We will not be walking fast).

 

The Emerald Ash Borer Now in Maine – Important Information

See the source image

The Emerald ash borer (EAB) was discovered in Maine for the first time in May of this year. The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that has killed millions of ash trees across the Eastern US. In areas where it is established, nearly 100% of ash trees are killed. Ash trees are an important component of Maine forests, providing lumber and other wood products, wildlife food and habitat, and materials for First Nations basket makers. All species of ash are killed by the emerald ash borer.

Here are two good publications from the Maine Forest Service on what landowners, foresters and loggers should know about managing and planning for this serious pest:

Woods Wise Wire, June 5, 2018: Emerald Ash Borer Discovered in Maine

EAB Information for Maine Landowners

Other Information on Managing EAB Infestations

EAB Decision Guide for Landowners

Managing EAB infestations

A Checklist for Municipalities

Check out our new information page on invasive forest pests.