Land Donation, Wilkins Award Highlight Forum     


     When Executive Director Tom Doak said during the Maine Woodlands Owners Annual Meeting Jan. 10 that there would be a major announcement during the afternoon Forestry Forum, he wasn’t kidding. He called the Chandler family of New Gloucester to the podium to reveal that Maine Woodland Owners will receive “the largest” land gift in its history – 2,500 acres, entirely within New Gloucester. By comparison, the Chandler’s gift to Maine Woodland Owners is about one-half of the organization’s total land trust acreage. 

     The Chandler family ownership dates back to the 18th century. Steve Chandler, retired from the U.S. Forest Service, and who represented the family, (Steve, Natalie, Charlie and Bertha), said their history in New Gloucester began when Peleg and Sarah Chandler arrived in an oxcart from North Yarmouth in 1762. The Chandler sawmill, established in the 1890s, was one of the first such year-round operations in Maine, and provided steady employment for many in the community during hard times in the following century.  Tom Doak said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen better long-term management. We’re all in awe of this spectacular gift.” 

     The Chandler Brothers’ gift almost upstaged what was expected to be the highlight of the day – presentation of the 14th annual Austin Wilkins Award, representing exemplary forest stewardship – to Maine Woodland Owners. The citation – a hand-carved wood plaque – was presented by Senate President Mike Thibodeau and House Speaker Sara Gideon; U.S. Senator Angus King, who was in Washington, D.C., added his congratulations through a video message. It was just the second time in the award’s history it has gone to a non-profit organization, rather than an individual or business; Maine Tree Farm was the 2013 recipient.

     Speaker Gideon said, “At the State House, we understand that the working forest is central to our environment and our economy, as well as our way of life.” President Thibodeau said, “What a prestigious award this is. . . . We recognize that Tom [Doak] and his team do a terrific job at the State House representing you and all your members.” 

    During the morning Forum sessions, Doak provided an overview of the Tree Growth Tax Law, and asked a series of 10 “True or False” questions about the program that challenged the audience, though most of the questions were answered correctly. 

     University of Maine graduate student Casey Olechnowicz presented the best mobile device Apps for woodland owners. 

   Board President Jessica Leahy gave a brief presentation on succession planning, subject of a long-running Maine Woodlands series that culminated in a handbook, “Creating a Legacy.” A new publication, based on research at the University of Maine and other public and private universities, has just been released. Called, “Their Land, Their Legacy,” it’s intended for those who can help woodland owners with their succession plans, including foresters, loggers, tax professionals and land trusts.  The new report is available free online at the University of Maine website, as well as printed copies. “Creating a Legacy” is still available from Maine Woodland Owners. 

    Author Michael Wojtech provided a detailed look at how to identify tree species from their bark, which became the subject for his doctoral thesis at the University of Vermont, and then a book, Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast, published in 2011.  Wojtech traced the life cycles of trees that “all start with smooth and unbroken bark,” through the appearance of lenticels, horizontal peeling, “ridges and furrows,” and scales or plates that mark the aging process, and showed how each species adapts over time. He showed key details, such as the fungi that create “a whitewashed look” on the trunks of many sugar maples. 

    For the third consecutive year, a film and musical presentation by Sumner McKane entertained Forum attendees. “The Northeast by Eastern” is based on the more than 75,000 glass plate negatives produced by Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co., based in Belfast, whose salesmen-photographers fanned out all over rural New England and eastern New York State, selling black and white postcards that preserved images of countless rural communities. 

      Finally, Nancy Olmstead of the Maine Natural Areas Program gave a lively and fast-paced review of invasive plants in Maine. Her work, and that of student interns, was presented in Maine Woodlands, and will be amplified in a new guidebook due out this summer.