Following is the definition of sustainable according to the dictionary (merriam-webster.com):
Main Entry: sus·tain·able
Date: circa 1727
1: capable of being sustained
2 a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
Aldo Leopold, the father of Wildlife Management, state that “the first rule of intelligent tinkering is keeping all the parts”. With this in mind, what are the parts that we should be keeping, just in case?
The forest community types found in the Acadian forest should be sustained. Each community type has its own array of associated plants and animals that occur at different ages. More common, prolific, and shorter-lived species such as Balsam Fir require less management attention than less common, less prolific, and longer lived species such as cedar.
Markets for wood product come and go, but demand for quality wood as fuel is a sure bet. Oil and other energy sources can vary widely due to market forces, and the development of industrialization in other parts of the world, notably China, may lead to shortages or higher costs. Demand for wood for fuel in the raw form, or for manufacture of wood pellets or other new products will increase. It must be understood that the highest quality fuel comes from tolerant hardwoods such as Sugar Maple, Beech, and Yellow Birch. These trees are “tolerant” of shade, which means that they can grow in shade conditions. Best sustainable yield is attained if harvest removal is limited to a maximum of 40% removal, including harvest trails. Higher removal results in less yield and potential competition from less valuable intolerant hardwoods such as poplar or White Birch.
Market demand for lumber varies with economic conditions (better economy = more houses being built = more demand) and natural disasters (hurricanes and tornados = increased demand for wood). New products continue to be developed from lesser-quality wood, such as pressed board, etc. Pulp wood demand will demand as production continues to shift to third world countries with lower environmental and labor standards, and closure of domestic pulp and paper mills continues. The only potential for stopping this trend is more stringent tariffs on incoming products.
Trees harvested for pulp can be of smaller size and lower quality than trees used for lumber.
Forests effectively filter runoff from rain, snowmelt, and flowing water. Forest cover also moderates extremes of temperature, preventing direct solar radiation, and evaporation. Roots of trees stabilize soil on the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes.
The forest products industry has a long history in the Acadian Forest. Increased corporate ownership of the industry has led to proportionately less money paid to workers, rapid change of ownership, and associated loss of job security.
Private and government ownership of forest land presents numerous opportunities for income generation.
Changes in land ownership have led to more restrictions to land access in many regions. There are numerous current and potential uses of our forests for recreation including hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, bird-watching, photography, and sight seeing.
Reductions in disposable income and international instability may create increased demand for forest recreational opportunities in lieu of international vacation experiences.
Forests store, or sequester, Carbon. Carbon is released during combustion of oil, coal, and other fossil fuels. All life is Carbon based. In order to restrict CO2 emissions, and ensure that the total store of Carbon in not reduced to dangerous levels, many countries are utilizing a Carbon credit system. Burning fossil fuels uses credits, while allowing trees to grow can earn carbon credits. Forest owners can earn money by promising to leave forest land un-harvested (sequestering Carbon) and selling carbon credits to net users.
There is wildlife associated with every stand type and every stage of development. Some wildlife such as moose and coyote thrive in a wide variety of habitats and therefore are less needy of special management considerations.
Of more concern are wildlife with special habitat requirements, such as deer in winter in this northernmost portion of their range, or other year-round resident wildlife associated with mature forest conditions.
Deer - Northern Maine, Quebec, and New Brunswick represents the northernmost range of Whitetailed Deer. Deer in this area are dependent on high quality winter habitat, and especially Cedar and Hemlock, which during their long life (up to 400 years or more) provide both shelter and highest-quality food to help deer survive our long harsh winters. Balsam fir is also important as litter-fall (twigs, lichens, and other material that falls to the ground during weather events) is also edible and provides nutrition. Spruces also provide important shelter values, but monoculture plantations of black or white spruce are not used by deer, seemingly because of the absence of available food. While hardwood does not provide good winter nutrition to deer, they like eating it, and often select softwood stands which contain some hardwoods.
In order to sustain deer in areas with extreme winter conditions (like northern Maine), softwood forests must be allowed to live beyond the point that they are normally harvested (nowadays at 35 or 40, just when they begin to provide winter deer habitat). Managing on a minimum of at least an 80 year rotation will allow a fir or white spruce stand to provide deer habitat for ˝ of its lifespan. Softwood near streams, especially containing Cedar, should be considered for management on a longer rotation to support wintering deer and other wildlife. Softwood stands with southern aspect are also attractive to deer, as they like the Sun in the winter like we do. Management to achieve a balanced age class of forest stands within the management area will ensure that at least 50% of the management area will be sustainably providing habitat.
Lynx - Lynx have been getting quite a bit of attention lately, why? They are a federally listed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Lynx, who reach their highest densities in the boreal forest to the north, are highly dependent on their primary prey, the Snowshoe Hare. Hare reach their highest densities in dense young softwoods, including plantations. Unfortunately, maximizing habitat for hare and lynx creates young Boreal-Foresttype conditions. Snowshoe Hare also reach highest numbers in regenerating forest that has not received pre-commercial thinning. Pre-commercial thinning, however, is often important in reaching maximum tree growth.
Pine Marten - Important forest research conducted at the University of Maine at Orono by Dr. Daniel Harrison has shown that Pine Marten have requirements for large patches of forest comprised, 1,200 acres or larger, in which at least 75% of the area is comprised of stands of any type that are 30 feet in height and greater, with adequate stand density. Marten are considered by some to be “umbrella” species and since management to support them satisfies the needs of many other native wildlife.
Other Year-round resident wildlife (including hibernators) - Wildlife that stay here in the winter (rather than fly south) often live in and feed on dead and dying trees. All stands of all ages have dead and dying trees, but older stands provide larger cavity trees for birds and wildlife to live in. For example woodpeckers feed on insect larvae in dying trees, and Barred Owls live in cavities in large dead and dying trees. Bear often den under the base of fallen trees. Amphibians utilize the moist environments provided by large decaying logs.
Biodiversity is the variety of life. Since each forest vegetation community (forest ecosystem) has its own characteristic array of associated wildlife, each forest community type should be sustained.