The Forest Society of Maine’s President/CEO Karin R. Tilberg wrote an op-ed for the Portland Press Herald discussing the importance of conservation in Maine’s forests to climate resilience. Here is what she had to say.
Our thoughts are with the millions of people suffering from the force and fury of recent hurricanes, especially those who have lost loved ones. Because the intensity of the storms is determined largely by the temperature of the ocean waters, a warmer climate causes the storms to be stronger and to travel farther north, in our case along the Atlantic coast. Actions we take in Maine can contribute in a small way to limiting the rate of global warming and the resulting intensity of storms including hurricanes. How is this so, and can we do more?
Maine’s North Woods, extending for nearly 12 million acres, are the largest intact forests east of the Mississippi River. Maine’s forests cover more than 90% of the state, and they take in a massive amount of carbon – a process known as sequestration. Scientists at the University of Maine estimate that Maine’s forests sequester nearly 70% of the carbon dioxide emitted in Maine every year.
In its 2022 report, the Maine Climate Council listed the many efforts underway to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. If emissions are reduced sufficiently, Maine’s forests could sequester the equivalent of all the greenhouse-gas emissions generated in Maine. This is true only if we ensure that the forests in our state remain intact, healthy and productive. For this reason, the Climate Council endorsed a goal of conserving 30% of Maine lands by 2030 in its Maine Won’t Wait climate plan.
In fact, the plan earned the 2022 Resilience and Sustainability Award from the American Planning Association as the premier state climate plan in the country. The council’s report points to forest conservation easements as one of the most effective tools to reach this goal. The easements are important to our state, because a large proportion of them maintain the land as working forest, with the specific goal of sustaining our long-standing forest-based and recreational industries and jobs.
In the last few months, several significant forest conservation achievements have been celebrated: Nearly 30,000 acres were conserved through the efforts of the Forest Society of Maine and partner organizations, and 27,000 acres were acquired by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Numerous other projects across the state have added acreage to this year’s tally. This pace of about 60,000 acres per year of conservation, while stunning, must grow in the next eight years to reach the goal of 30% of Maine in conservation by 2030. This is achievable, and conservation efforts in Maine can help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The link between forest conservation and forest productivity here in Maine with the intensity of storms and hurricanes in places like the Gulf Coast may be indirect and appear small on a global scale. Nevertheless, this is yet another case in which Maine’s motto, “Dirigo,” symbolizes our leadership. We are connected across the globe by what we do by deed and by example here in Maine. Forest landowners, the state, and conservation partners who welcome and pursue conservation easements can help to make a difference.
The Forest Society of Maine’s President/CEO Karin R. Tilberg wrote a memorial piece for the Bangor Daily News in remembrance of four of Maine’s great conservation advocates who have passed during the past few months. Here is what she had to say.
Extending for nearly 12 million acres, Maine’s North Woods are unique. They are recognized for their global significance to wildlife, as the watersheds for seven of Maine’s 10 major river systems, and for their ability to sequester large amounts of carbon. These forestlands also serve as a source of employment for those in forest products and outdoor recreation businesses and provide solace and rejuvenation to all who enjoy them.
In the past three months Maine has lost several individuals who were personally connected to and advocated for these forestlands – Marylee Dodge, Sherry Huber, Ed Kfoury, and John McNulty. Each had their own interests with the trees, wildlife habitats, mountains and lakes that define Maine’s forested landscapes. All were articulate, incredibly effective, and dedicated ambassadors for keeping Maine’s forests intact.
Marylee Dodge brought uncountable hours of volunteering to further environmental conservation and including historic importance of forestlands. She served on the boards of several land trusts, including Forest Society of Maine and Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and touted the importance of many projects throughout Maine. She also encouraged people to enjoy the great outdoors through her own fishing and hunting adventures.
Sherry Huber, through her involvement with the Land Trust Alliance and various Maine conservation groups including Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy and Forest Society of Maine, advocated for tools and strategies to conserve forestlands. She was an early and passionate advocate for conservation easements. Her support for easements helped bring credibility to their use for large tracts of forestland. During her 25 years as the head of the Maine Timber Research and Environmental Education Foundation, Sherry brought teachers to the woods to learn about forest management firsthand and helped to instill an awareness of and appreciation for the state’s working forests not only with these teachers, but with the many young children they taught.
Ed Kfoury was a devoted advocate for the western Maine forests and especially the Rangeley Lakes Region. Its beauty and wildness were a defining inspiration to him, and he led in the creation of the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. This organization is a powerful example of how one person’s passion can make a difference for many. He worked to ensure that future generations could appreciate and enjoy the remote landscapes of the region he loved. He brought his dedication to the environment to service on the boards of The Nature Conservancy and Forest Society of Maine, where his experience and strategic thinking helped bring additional conservation to Maine’s forests.
John McNulty began working with Seven Islands Land Company as a field forester shortly after graduating from college. He was devoted to his profession and to Seven Islands, spending 41 years there before retiring as president and CEO. He brought a dedication to responsible forest management to his work, was a trailblazer for forest certification to demonstrate sound practices, and was a leader in the Society of American Foresters. He also viewed conservation easements as a vital tool in helping keep Maine’s forests intact. He brought his support for easements as an effective conservation tool to his involvement on the Forest Society of Maine board of directors. He was a champion of the values of well-managed forests and for the critical role of stewardship and conservation of them.
As we enjoy the out-of-doors this summer, let’s pause to appreciate the woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, wildlife, and jobs that Maine’s forests support, and reflect on Marylee, Sherry, Ed and John, whose efforts are continuing to help ensure Maine’s forests will remain as such for many more generations to come.
Check out this piece in the Bangor Daily News: Remembering 4 champions of Maine’s great forests (bangordailynews.com)
We asked FSM’s 2022 Swan Intern, Eli Forman, to tell us about his first experience conducting aerial monitoring and his experience so far with conservation in the North Woods as the FSM intern. Here’s what Eli had to say:
I didn’t expect to be nervous, but as we pulled into the tiny Newton airfield in Jackman and coasted past a couple idle Cessnas I began to feel a slight twinge in my stomach. The thought that I was about to step into one of those tiny, toy-like planes and hurtle around a remote corner of the western Maine border region recalled my boyhood fascination with survival stories like Gary Paulson’s Hatchet. I’d often imagined myself in the protagonist’s place, crash-landed by a remote wilderness lake with only the titular tool between me and the elements. But now, stepping out of the car and squinting into the glaring morning sun at the open hatch of a 1978 Cessna 172, that story, so thrilling in my cozy childhood imaginings, suddenly seemed way too close to home.
Reassuringly, Erica Dubois, the Forest Society of Maine’s (FSM) senior forestland steward who brought me on this trip, seemed completely unfazed. This was routine for her and the other stewardship staff, who aerially monitor the over 1 million acres FSM holds conservation easements on at least once a year. As the summer 2022 Swan intern, I was fortunate enough to be invited along for the ride. Despite having flown all over the world, I’d never been in a plane that didn’t have an illuminated seatbelt sign, or where I could reach over and tap the pilot on the shoulder.
The scale of what we planned to fly over was immense. In about an hour of flying we’d observe roughly 59,000 acres of FSM-held easements and a couple parcels of fee lands near Attean Pond. From the ground I had trouble wrapping my head around such an expanse, and as Erica and our remarkably mild-mannered pilot, Jim, chatted on the tarmac, I steeled myself for the ride ahead.
After a couple minutes of introductions, we trundled into the plane and put on our voice activated headsets. The plane started up with a smooth rumble and I could suddenly feel the anticipatory lift of the whirling propeller as it swept air under the wings. Jim taxied out to the small runway and with a short notice over the radio, gunned it down the strip. At once we were soaring out over Attean Pond and climbing up and over Sally Mountain as the houses of Jackman shrank like toys below. All trace of my initial anxiety vanished as we levelled out around 4,000 feet. In its place arose total exhilaration and awe at the emerald tapestry flecked with blue unfurled below. The brilliance of the scene made it look constructed, like a diorama in a museum or a meticulously curated model train landscape. The morning air was perfectly clear, and the whole western portion of Maine and southern Quebec seemed to unveil itself before us.
As we angled and swooped around this seemingly vast, unbounded wilderness, I realized that the verdure stretching in all directions was in fact a mosaic of working forestlands. Evidence of forest management dotted the landscape. Roads snaked around harvest blocks with log landings notched out at intervals, patches of clear-cuts sprouted new growth next to partial harvests and dark rectangles of spruce and fir plantations crept up hillsides. There were also large tracts of unharvested lands, which Erica pointed out were being managed as ecological reserves. I watched as sinewy watercourses and remote ponds glittered in the sun, steep ridges swept by, bristling with spruce and fir Krummholz and the thin, angular line of the US-Canada border arbitrarily bisected mountains. The sheer forested continuity of this diverse landscape was astounding to see from the air, and impossible to fully grasp from the ground.
Staring enthralled out the window I finally began to visually understand what people mean when they refer to “The North Woods.” The Maine North Woods are the largest unfragmented swath of forestland left east of the Mississippi. The many resources they provide, such as forest products, recreation, ecological diversity, and cultural activities, sustain many rural communities and foster a unique sense of place that is becoming increasingly rare in our fast-paced society. It’s also ever more apparent how essential these forests are in helping mitigate climate change. Rationally I understood these aspects, and believed in conserving them, which is what led me to work with FSM in the first place, but I was completely unprepared for the emotional weight that fully witnessing this landscape imbued them with.
After what felt like much too short a time, Jim nosed the plane back in the direction of Jackman. We’d covered the Attean, Boundary Headwaters and Number 5 and 6 mountain easements and Erica hadn’t noticed anything concerning. We’d be making field monitoring visits to most of them over the summer, and now that I had their landscape-scale context impressed on my mind I was especially excited to explore them on the ground. We floated back over the houses of Jackman, banked once over the runway and drifted down to a gentle landing. I emerged from the plane a little dazed, both from the wobbly ride and the simple elation of the scene I had just witnessed. That elation stayed with me all throughout our long drive back to Bangor and, as far as I can tell, will remain throughout the rest of this summer’s stewardship work and beyond.