Dave King: Our forests need help

Published: 02-01-2023 9:41 AM

Kate Lindroos’ column “In the fight against logging, conspiracy takes the (profitable) reins,” (Gazette, Jan. 18) points out how the International Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that forest management can help mitigate climate-related risks to forest health. To that last point I can offer a personal testimony. As a youth in Maine we used to ramble among the dense hemlock woods that populated the sloped ravine on the western area of our property. The darkness in those stands were so deep that sparks would fly across your vision as your eyes futilely sought the light. As the cleansing scourge of the deep winter freezes began to fade into memory, the hemlock woollyadelgid arrived to infest the woods. The forest at that point was single age, having reclaimed open pasture used for sheep farming. The forest grew dense, as a monoculture of hemlock, shading out all understory vegetation, and ultimately starving all trees of sufficient space and light. The canopy began to thin, starved for water and nutrients, making them even more vulnerable to the adelgid. Several years ago at the urging of a local forester, and the state extension, we initiated a salvage operation to remove any trees that had residual value, but as importantly, to start some new growth to form the future forest. Unfortunately, we were too late, many of the hemlocks were too gone to be valuable, and started crashing down across the property in a mat of downed trunks and branches. Because the canopy had been so dense, there were no young trees to take the place of those that were vacating the canopy. If 25 years previously we had logged the property to thin the canopy and give space and light to a new cohort of diverse species to take the place of the dying canopy, perhaps now we would still have a forest. But instead, due to our negligence, we have 20 acres of scattered, doomed hemlock and deformed light-starved pines.

Dave King



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