Practicing Sustainable Harvesting on AMC Land

September 29, 2014
Marc ChalufourAn aerial view of the Roach Ponds Tract ecological reserve.

AMC Assistant Director of Research Dave Publicover says American marten don’t like young forests. Large, contiguous tracts of what he calls “relatively mature forest with good structure and deadwood” are favored by marten as preferred hunting and denning habitat.

Conversely, “lynx need young, dense spruce-fir” forests, which provide habitat for the snowshoe hares on which they prey. “These are ‘umbrella species,'” says Publicover, “and the thinking is, if you maintain adequate habitat for those two, you’ll provide habitat for something like 80 percent of the species in the state.”

That state is Maine, where AMC is managing 66,500 acres (100 square miles) of forestland for a variety of uses, including recreation management, habitat protection, and sustainable forestry. And Publicover, together with Huber Resources consulting forester, Ted Shina, sets harvesting prescriptions for AMC land. The work helps to demonstrate that thoughtful forestry is a valuable conservation tool. At the same time, AMC realizes income from timber sales that helps sustain its Maine Woods Initiative and helps to support the local economy by employing forest products workers.

AMC’s long-term objective is to work toward a future landscape that resembles an old growth forest, Publicover explains. “Over time, these areas will increase the supply of big, old, dead trees,” he says. “It doesn’t make economic sense to let these trees get to be 200 years old and then die and fall over on private commercial land.”

Since AMC’s objectives are more wide-ranging and not strictly financial, its management plans allows it to treat the forest differently. For example, Publicover points out, “When we started with the (37,000-acre) Katahdin Iron Works (KIW) tract, we knew we wanted to protect the headwaters of the West Branch of the Pleasant River,” a rare and significant native brook trout fishery on the property. To help ensure the integrity of the headwaters and other natural resources, AMC designated 10,500 acres of the KIW tract as ecological reserve lands where timber harvesting will not be carried out and motorized use is not allowed, save for occasional maintenance vehicle use. On the 29,500-acre Roach Ponds tract in the northern reaches of AMC’s holdings, another 10,500 acres have been designated as ecological reserves. On those lands, limited harvesting for ecological restoration is permitted.

In reserve areas, management often means leaving nature to its own devices, Publicover says.

Other segments of AMC’s property—slightly less than half of if its acreage—is open to timber harvesting.

This year marked the first for harvesting in the Roach Ponds tract since AMC purchased that land in 2009. And, again, thoughtful forestry can lead to a more natural landscape.

“This was an ‘ecological restoration’ harvest in a 55-acre, 35-year-old red pine plantation in the ecological reserve south of First West Branch Pond. The harvest was designed to remove about half of the volume of the stand in scattered patches about one-quarter acre in size,” Publicover explained. “The rest of the stand will be removed in a second harvest 10 to 15 years from now. The intent is to remove this unnatural stand and allow the native forest vegetation to regenerate.”


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Rob Burbank

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