“In the Field” - A Forester’s Forester
by Karin R. Tilberg, Deputy Commissioner
Department of Conservation
As we walked the private woodlot with a private consulting forester, Maine Forest Service District Forester Dennis Brennan, made a rapid and accurate assessment of how to best control a number of invasive plant species including Oriental bittersweet, Japanese barberry and Morrow honeysuckle that had encroached on a good portion of the parcel. Brennan suggested a treatment approach that was cost effective for the landowner and that would reduce the spread of the invasives. It was clear that he was a forester’s forester – an expert professional that other professionals look to for consultation and advice.
Indeed Maine Forest Service Foresters work with landowners, professional loggers, consulting foresters and others throughout Maine and help answer questions about managing woodlands, preventing disease and pests and how to go about having woodlands harvested. As we continued our woodlot visit, Dennis outlined the many outreach and education roles that he and the other 9 District Foresters undertake in the normal course of their work: workshops and financial assistance programs to professional loggers; small landowner assistance; best management practice training to protect water quality; workshops and classes in forest management to small landowners; technical assistance to tree boards, conservation commissions, planning boards and code enforcement officers; and outdoor classrooms and education for teachers. A new hot trend is Global Positional System (GPS) training workshops that are very popular.
Each of Maine’s ten District Foresters is responsible for a large geographic area that directly supports the $10 billion forestry industry in Maine and the many public benefits that derive from well managed forestlands. Dennis is responsible for York County and he is in great demand. Overall, requests for help from Foresters is increasing due to concerns about invasive species, reports of timber trespass, and requests for assistance in complying with forestry and water quality regulations. On this topic, Dennis took me to an active harvesting operation to explain their work in reviewing compliance with forestry regulations.
Every active forestry operation is required to have a copy of the Forest Operations Notification that must be sent to the Maine Forest Service prior to beginning a timber harvest posted on site. On this occasion, the notification was properly posted and we walked the site to look at the operations. It had begun to rain and Dennis explained the importance of laying out and conducting a harvest using Best Management Practices to safeguard against siltation and erosion into brooks and streams.
This operation was well underway and appeared to be in accordance with Maine’s Forest Practices Act rules. Brennan and the other Foresters review the Forest Operations Notifications that are sent to them and try to visit as many active harvest operations as possible. When there are potential problems, they are the professionals who must document any violations, bring enforcement actions and work with landowners to ensure compliance in the future. Clearly, however, the bulk of their efforts are directed at prevention and education.
Part of Dennis’ work supports efforts to have forest land in Maine become “green certified.” Forest certification presents an opportunity to distinguish Maine’s forest products in the global marketplace and strengthen the state’s forest products economy. Forest certification demonstrates that forests are well managed, that they support healthy wildlife populations, they offer recreation opportunities and can supply materials to support Maine’s economy now and for the future. A third-party audit verifies conformance with nationally or internationally recognized certification standards. As we drove to the Maine Forest Service office, we happened upon a landowner who had proudly posted that their land was Green Certified.
The job of a District Forester is complex. It requires a broad array of skills and knowledge regarding soils, forestry, water, wildlife, pests, biodiversity, administration of grants, getting wood to market and public relations. New regulations require Foresters to integrate those requirements into their outreach and education programs. Yet, Dennis Brennan enjoys his work thoroughly and thrives on the opportunity to work with people and to bring information about forest stewardship to landowners and the broad array of people who work in the forest products sector. He and the other District Foresters are helping landowners and professional who work in the woods to ensure the health and vitality of Maine’s forests for now and into the future.