Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
What Can We Do Today to Make a Difference for the Forest?

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Fall 2019 \ What Can We Do to Make a Difference for the Forest?

Low-Impact Forestry Area of the Common Ground Country Fair. Jean English photo
Learn about carbon sequestration in forests, controlling invasive species, and more in the Low-Impact Forestry Area of the Common Ground Country Fair. English photo

By Noah Gleason-Hart

The challenges facing our forests are daunting. A long history of high-grading – cutting the most valuable trees and leaving those lacking quality – has left many of our woodlots degraded and young. Introduced plants and insects threaten the existence of key species, such as ash, and hinder the ability of forests to regenerate and remain healthy. Climate change has already begun to change the composition of our forests and will continue to impact their ability to provide full ecosystem function.

Solutions are being developed. Carbon markets, perhaps the best-known solution, have been an important topic of discussion at MOFGA’s low-impact forestry (LIF) program and across the forestry world. By compensating landowners to increase the carbon in their woodlots, and carrying it for the long term, carbon markets soften the blow of climate change, reward landowners for the environmental services their forests provide, and incentivize more-sustainable management. However, they are deeply complex and difficult to enter, especially for small landowners. As a landscape-level solution, they hold promise, and I hope for their future viability for us as small landowners, but I am still often left wondering: What can you or I do, today, to make a difference for the forest?

Thankfully, we are not powerless. As long as we accept the premise that many of the complexities of forest ecosystems remain unknown, and we proceed deliberately and thoughtfully, we can take action. With just our hands or a weed wrench, we can pull invasive plants. With a tape measure and a free computer program, we can estimate the amount of carbon sequestered in our trees. With a pair of loppers, we can cut beech sprouts to encourage the survival of red oak and white pine saplings. With a shovel we can underplant species of trees predicted to do well in a changing environment, or reintroduce previously decimated species, such as the American chestnut, to our woods. With a chainsaw we can cut firewood for the winter while we remove trees lacking quality and we focus growth on long-lived, financially valuable, carbon-sequestering hub trees.

Whichever of these tools you choose, this is the important point to remember: Regardless of the size of your woodlot or your level of experience, you can learn to build financial value, encourage biodiversity and foster the carbon sequestration potential in your woodlot. We have work to do, so why not start today?

For those attending the Common Ground Country Fair, I look forward to seeing you at one of our workshops under the LIF tent. From a workshop about managing invasives at 1 p.m. on Friday, September 20, to a continuation of our carbon forestry exploration at noon on Saturday, September 21, we have a lineup of programming we hope will inspire you to become more engaged in your woods. Please don’t hesitate to come up and introduce yourself; I would love to hear about the woodlots you own, manage or dream about, and learn more about how LIF can support you in your forestry efforts.

Noah Gleason-Hart is MOFGA’s new low-impact forestry specialist. You can reach him at [email protected] … and at the Common Ground Country Fair.