Two Trees Forestry
If you go too fast, you'll miss the story
The most creative solutions invariably involve others. Little would anyone know as they navigate the sloping curve along the Poland Corner Road that the little woodlot behind the "Davis Family Forest" sign is a testament of that truth. It's a story whose most recent chapters detail how the Davis family's philanthropy enabled Maine Audubon to profitably protect the Poland woodlot, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine to recoup its purchase with one timber sale, Two Trees Forestry and Central Maine Logging to demonstrate their skills, and Fred Huntress to help protect several unique trees.
A single black tupelo, or blackgum, is growing in the back corner of SWOAM's Davis property. Capable of living 500 years, the gum tree may be around to witness the story's many future chapters thanks to Fred Huntress' keen eye. The local forester saw the rigidly horizontal branching and perhaps the shiny, oval-shaped leaves, and as a knowledgeable birder, may have seen grouse, wild turkeys, or even pheasants feeding on its small blue berries. Fortunately for our story he also marked the tree with plastic flagging, so that I, for one, was able to confirm my first "gum" sighting in Maine. Later, I showed it to the logging crew so that they could avoid it while removing some of the surrounding 80 and 90-foot tall white pines.
When SWOAM and Maine Audubon were negotiating the protection and sale of the land, no one missed the forest for that tree. "We knew what we were getting," said SWOAM's executive director Tom Doak, about the heavily wooded property. Though SWOAM purchased the land at a bargain price, the protection that SWOAM's Land Trust was able to provide, made it a winning proposition for the Davis family and Maine Audubon.
As SWOAM rarely purchases land, the organization was eager to initiate a timber sale to restock its cash reserves, while also showcasing the harvest process to members and others. Therefore Mike Dann, SWOAM's forester, and the Land Trust committee requested proposals from a broad group of foresters, who would act on SWOAM's behalf. "We know that foresters sell timber in many different ways, so our request allowed for many types of offers," said Dann. SWOAM made it clear that it would accept both stumpage offers from logger/foresters and fee-for-service offers from foresters, with the caveat that all bidders had to estimate, or guarantee, what the timber would sell for.
As a consulting forester I never buy a client's wood. I feel that it constitutes a basic conflict of interest -- to broker a landowner's wood while at the same time buying it. However when I considered SWOAM's request from its perspective I knew that a guaranteed stumpage offer would be the best. But how? Knowing that creativity generally requires others, I called Wayne Field of Central Maine Logging with an unusual request. Would he be willing to bid on unmarked timber? After we walked the lot together, and based on more than 15 years of work experience together, he offered very high prices for the pine logs. Then, as we discussed the pine and hardwood pulpwood prices, he paused. After considering his options and with an eye toward the competition he said, "Let's make a statement." We did. Thus I locked in stumpage prices before even getting the job. Though SWOAM received six other bids none came near the combination of Wayne's high stumpage rates and my low fees. On top of it, Wayne offered to construct the yard/parking area for free.
Later, I walked through the virtually completed harvest site and talked with Wayne's crew. They reported that a Maine Forest Service ranger had been in to look over the job and couldn't believe how much pine was left on the woodlot to grow and how little damage had been done to those still-standing trees. That, after removing 185,000 board feet of sawtimber, 350 cords of pulpwood, and 350 tons of biomass chips, with net income of more than $42,000 - enough to pay back SWOAM's cash reserves.
While many unique features of this project came together well, so much of what occurred on the Davis Family Forest can happen anywhere. Unique trees were protected, a wetland complex was buffered and avoided, walking trails were reestablished, invasive shrub species were located, the growing conditions for quality timber were improved, and income was earned.
The property remains a peaceful place to walk, where you may see a type of tree that you've never seen before. Gape at the pines that tower above what once were farm fields, and if you aren't too concerned refresh yourself at the old well. It's not deep but the water is cold and clear. But as you navigate the Poland Corner Road's remember first to slow down. To the east is the creative work of many.