Falmouth ready to weed trees in community forest

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FALMOUTH — Harvesting of portions of the Blackstrap Hill Community Forest is expected to begin this week.

The harvest area will be confined to roughly 60 acres, but only about half of that will be harvested, according to Bob Shafto, the town’s open space ombudsman. The Blackstrap Hill Community Forest totals more than 500 acres; the town owns just over 230 acres, and the rest is owned by the Falmouth Land Trust.

The plan, which was recommended to the town by the Land Management Acquisition Committee, was adopted by the Town Council last April. Ted Asherman, who chairs LMAC, said the plan stems from the 2006 Greening of Falmouth vision plan, which seeks to maintain conservation of the town’s open space.

Asherman said the southern portion of the forest owned by the land trust will not be included in the harvest site. He said the harvest will help promote diversity in the age and species within the forest, and “ensure the long-term health” of the forest. The area to be harvested is the northern section near Hurricane Road.

Blackstrap Hill Community Forest Harvesting from Sun Media on Vimeo.

The harvest will allow growth of younger forest habitat, which currently struggles to grow because of larger, older trees. Asherman said there are not many young forests in town, and diversification is necessary for the health of both the forest and wildlife.

Shafto said walking trails will not be affected, and trees that are unhealthy or have “aged out” will be removed.

The forester will be Paul Larrivee, who was also the forester for the Woods Road forest harvest last year. He said the harvest will be “based on what the timber tells me,” and he has already marked several trees for removal.

Larrivee said all work will be done with an in-woods processor, which cuts and processes the trees in the harvest area. Limbs and branches will be left on the forest floor to eventually turn into soil.

The landing area will be at the far west end of the forest hayfield, and wood will be trucked from the site via an existing entrance off Hurricane Road.

Larrivee said the weather this year has not cooperated, because the ground needs to be frozen. An unseasonably warm beginning to winter and a recent rain storm will make harvesting challenging.

“I’d like to get a machine there sooner rather than later,” Larrivee said.

If everything goes smoothly, he said, the harvest should not take longer than three weeks.

Shafto said opening forests also opens the door for invasive species to move in, so the area will be monitored after the harvest. He said this is one of the most infested areas for invasive plants, and despite being treated last fall, bittersweets are already back.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth is poised to conduct a harvest of trees in the Blackstrap Hill Community Forest.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.