Stepping up to a high-profile job

A recent timber harvest in Augusta presented Two Trees Forestry with a double challenge – harvesting in the middle of Augusta on a highly visible property and applying the appropriate silviculture in two different stands of white pine.

The 86-acre Stone Street property, borders the Fairview and Cony Street neighborhoods, dense residential areas. In addition, the property is owned by the Elsie and William Viles Foundation – a high-profile client with conservation of forest land as part of its mission. The Viles family fortunes have long been tied to the forest. The family owned extensive forestland in northern Maine as well as Augusta Lumber Company, which operated during the last century.

The situation called for extra discretion.

“This was a prime site to attract attention, smack in the middle of the city, right along Cony Street and behind the Fairview neighborhood,” explained forester Harold Burnett.

The first step was meeting with Patsy West, the foundation director, and learning that improving forest health was the primary goal of the harvest.

“Our original intent was to assess the health of woodlot, and get guidance on what we should be doing to maintain the health of the forest,” explained West. The two stands were quite different with one having been selectively harvested at least twice since the former pasture land was abandoned, while the other, never-before logged former orchard, had sprung up with densely stocked young pines. As Burnett added, “It was a nice opportunity to improve both stands while also offering a hint of what the older stand once looked like.” The older stand having once supported trees much like what was growing to the east is now dominated by 16” to 20” diameter pines, while the younger trees average only 8” to 12” in diameter. Just like an early June carrot garden the young pines needed to be thinned.

But, back to the first challenge. Initially letters went out to all abutters, notifying them of harvest plans, which is standard procedure for Two Trees Forestry. Trees were then marked and access points identified. Given the geography, three entrances were needed. Finally, an excellent logging contractor needed to be found. Fortunately, one of the best, Ron Dostie, lives nearby and bid strongly for the timber.

As expected, a few neighbors had questions. Some who were accustomed to walking in the woods were concerned about post-harvest aesthetic and safety conditions. The land is open to public use with permission. One neighbor was particularly concerned.

“There were neighbors who became anxious,” said West. “What surprised me is that this was ourland and people felt they had every right to voice an opinion on what we do with our own land.”

Nonetheless, in consideration of them, Dostie timed his work so his noisy hydro-ax felling machine and cable skidder were far from most neighbors during the warmer months, when windows tend to be open. Some Viles Foundation board members have experience with timber harvests were particularly interested in seeing high quality work.

“We are very pleased with the harvest,” said West. “It was better than we expected, an exceptional job. They didn’t leave high piles of slash and we didn’t see a lot of nicked trees.”

That was the plan all along.

“I knew Ron would do a beautiful job and he did,” said Burnett