Money grows on trees: Falmouth forestry project moves into 2nd year

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FALMOUTH — In this financial climate, any little bit of revenue helps.

So, last year as part of the Open Space Plan, the town approved a pilot forestry program in Hadlock Forest that would harvest 30 percent of the forest and sell the lumber and firewood to benefit the town. At its Nov. 22 meeting, the Town Council approved the continuation of the three-year project.

“The town has owned this property for decades,” open space ombudsman Bob Shafto said. “It’s not very valuable. (Hadlock Forest) is in need of management.”

Shafto said the forest is dense with hemlock trees, which were all about the same age and height.

“They shade out the understory, so there’s not much habitat for wildlife,” Shafto said.

A lack of diversity could also lead to a mass die-off if an invasive insect or disease sweeps through the area, he said. The hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect pest that destroys the hemlock trees, has already been confirmed in towns in southern Maine.

“With forestry, we’re trying to create the kinds of changes that would happen in nature,” Shafto said.

After a year of harvesting, the forests have begun to produce. In a presentation to the Town Council on Nov. 22, Shafto said the town has made more than $10,000 from the forest, with a net profit of approximately $6,200 after paying for a gravel road and forestry services. The net revenue will likely increase in the next two years of harvesting, Shafto said.

However, some people are worried that the forest is being taken advantage of and that it would be better off left to mother nature.

“To (Shafto) hemlock is a low-value species,” said Daniel Hildreth, a Falmouth resident who has served on the town’s Conservation Commission and on the Maine Audubon Society board of directors. “But to me, the forest was not in bad shape.”

Hildreth said he understands why the town is harvesting the forest, but that he doesn’t think the income is worth cutting the trees.

“To my mind, the voters in Falmouth have shown a lot of support for acquiring land for the purposes of conservation and outdoor recreation, not forestry,” Hildreth said.

Much of last year’s harvest was used for biomass, or woodchips, which can be used in wood boilers like the two the Falmouth schools use for heat.

“We need to contribute more to our own sustainability,” Shafto said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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