Aug 242010
 

The following article is reproduced with  permission from WoodsWise Wire. WoodsWiseWire is an occasional electronic newsletter provided by the Maine Forest Service, on topics of general interest to woodland owners, foresters, loggers, and others interested in Maine’s forests. To unsubscribe or manage your subscription to the Woodswise wire visit: http://mailman.informe.org/mailman/listinfo/woodswisewire

AUGUSTA, Maine – Woodland owners who would like highly valuable, yet free, professional advice about their woodlots now have a quick and easy online way to request a meeting with a Maine Forest Service (MFS) district forester.

The MFS has a new online request form available on its web site that will get the process started for woodland owners to meet with one of the 10 district foresters around the state, according to MFS officials.

MFS district foresters can meet with woodland owners to walk their property, provide technical assistance and suggest management options, according Morten Moesswilde, district forester for the area including Kennebec, Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties.

“It’s one of our core efforts, to get people to call and ask for assistance when they are thinking about how to manage their woodland,” Moesswilde said about the new online service. “We’ve always encouraged people to call us for help. This is just one more tool for us to reach them.

“It’s really common to meet with the landowner and have them say they didn’t know the service was available and free of charge,” he added.

Working under MFS’s Forest Policy and Management Division, district foresters provide technical assistance, information and educational services to a variety of clients, including landowners, loggers, consulting foresters, and municipalities. Working directly with landowners is one of their primary functions, Moesswilde said.

“We know from research that the most effective way of providing information to landowners is one-on-one contact with a professional,” he said, adding that of all the possible sources of information available, “an unbiased source of professional advice from a state forester is the source that people prefer to go to.”

The state’s woodland owners are “incredibly important” to Maine, which has 17 million acres of forest and is the most forested state in the U.S, Moesswilde said. There are more than 6 million acres of small family forests, making up about one-third of Maine’s forest ownership, he noted.

“They provide the backdrop for why we have such a beautiful state,” the district forester said about those forest lands. “Family forests provide wildlife habitat, clean water; they provide untold amounts of recreational opportunities of every kind,” as well as significant economic benefits.

Each of the MFS district foresters covers defined areas ranging in size from about 400,000 to 3 million acres. Not only do the district foresters meet with landowners, they also visit schools and work with municipalities and organizations such as land trusts to provide forestland information. All are highly trained specialists who can provide independent advice, Moesswilde said. “We have a tremendous staff,” he said. “The people we have are very knowledgeable, very capable.”

Most of the district foresters do between 50 and 100 visits annually with woodland owners, he said. In the past two and a half months, Moesswilde has conducted 31 visits in his five-county district, he said, adding that the fall season tends to be a busy time for the district foresters.

Woodland owners are interested in a number of issues, the district forester said. They want to know such information as what kind of trees they have; whether they have any timber of value; how to go about harvesting; or how to encourage different kinds of habitats. “The range of challenges that landowners face is pretty broad – we try to help them sort through the issues and prioritize based on their goals,” he said.

Moesswilde cited as an example his recent visit to a landowner in Kennebec County, a sixth-generation owner whose family had owned their land since the late 1700s. He walked the property with the landowner and discussed not only harvest opportunities, but also assistance available for a long-term forest management plan, he said.

“The attachment of the landowners to their family property was very evident throughout the visit, as were the ownership challenges they face,” he said.

MFS district foresters will meet with the landowners and spend anywhere from an hour or two to half a day walking the property, looking at trails, roads and water sources, and considering boundaries, Moesswilde said. The district forester can review wildlife habitat, forest development and forest health, as well as discuss Maine’s Forest Practices Act, water quality laws and the non-regulatory “Best Management Practices (BMPs)” for forestry. “Forest management includes all those decisions that pertain to the woodland ownership,” he said.

They then will review options and often refer the landowner to a private consulting forester to develop a written forest management plan. District foresters provide lists of consultants rather than recommend anyone specifically, Moesswilde said. “The landowner needs to find a forester that they are comfortable with – no two foresters are alike,” he said.

“Frankly, we try to meet people where they are,” the district forester said. “We’re not trying to persuade them to do something if that’s not what they want to do. I’m there to help them see it through my eyes and give them an understanding of what their options are … The more they understand their options, the more confident they can feel about their decisions, including hiring the consulting forester that can best meet their needs.”

The new online form requests basic contact information about the landowner and the land, including acreage and location. Landowners can indicate their goals and intended woodlot use on the form. Landowner information for ownership under 1,000 acres is kept confidential in keeping with Maine law. All requests are responded to as soon as possible, Moesswilde said.

Those landowners who prefer can contact their local MFS district forester by phone and request a meeting. The MFS web site also lists information about the regional offices.

“Forestry is a long-term process,” Moesswilde said. “Getting started is often the hardest part for forest landowners. We’re there to get people the information and resources they need to make informed decisions.”

The new request form can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/fpm/df_visit.htm

For information about Maine Forest Service district foresters, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/fpm/ff/foresters.htm

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