Did You know
Maine has about 4 millions of acres of conserved lands. That’s more acres than Yellowstone (2,219,791) and Everglades (1,507,850) national parks combined.

Monument needs more areas open to snowmobiling

Reprinted with MSA permission from the February 2018 issue of The Maine Snowmobiler

Ya can’t get there from here.

That old punchline from Marshall Dodge’s Burt & I routines almost never failed to get a laugh fifty years ago, but even today like all good comedy, it’s the hint of truth in it that makes it work.

On January 24, I attended the latest of the series of planning meetings for the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument in East Millinocket. I had avoided them until now, but the theme was winter use, so this one was necessary because it turns out that snowmobiling is the predominate use of the monument during the winter months. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but for the most part snowmobiling is working to the point that I would hazard a guess that it could even exceed the sluggish summer visitation. That is probably thanks to the dedication and work of the local clubs who completely understand the need to get south-north. The local snowmobile community was well-represented, and as usual had a firm grasp of what was happening on the ground. The rest of the crowd was locals, some outfitters and of course the usual suspects from the environmental community.

Bob Meyers on a trail near Matagamon in the monument that’s now closed to snowmobiling.

Following planning guidelines, we were split into seven small groups with an assignment to come up with lists of activities, benefits and roadblocks to achieving usage goals. The almost immediate comments were directed at the lack of facilities and lack of access in the wintertime. A lack of cabins for overnight trekkers and toilet facilities was noted.

By the design of the donors, snowmobile use is limited on the west side of the East Branch, which is too bad. As it turns out, snowmobiling is important to the trail system, and at the same time it is an important method of access to a variety of non-motorized use. Due to the location and absence of roads that were transferred to the feds, those who wish to engage in non-motorized activities in many areas of the monument are faced with trekking by foot up to 6-8 miles before they get to where they want to start. One older woman in our group kept talking about the importance of “quiet areas” and “dark skies,” but acknowledged that there was really no way to get to those “special” places.

Which brings us back to snowmobiles. Opening up more areas to snowmobiling would obviously increase non-motorized activities for other users. Heck, maybe some enterprising outfitters could even offer snowmobile rides into the back country like they do at Baxter State Park.

I thought I was quite clever suggesting that KWWNM could adopt the same snowmobile use policy as Acadia National Park. That is any road that is open to motorized traffic in the summer and is unplowed in the winter is open to snowmobiles. It works very well at Acadia and at KWWNM it would open up the Loop Road and significantly increase access to the areas people want to visit. When all the groups reported back at the end of the evening, I was pleased to learn that the six other groups had also come to the same conclusions. I guess that means I wasn’t so creative after all, but then again, great minds think alike.

The only thing holding this back is the ill-conceived deed restrictions put in place by the donors (which I think the Park Service could deal with), and the prostrations of the environmental groups, which if the truth be known, don’t really want people to enjoy the outdoors anyway.

So, that’s my story for this month. I may even go back to another planning session. In the meantime you can weigh in too. The planning process will be going on for several more months, and all are welcome to submit comments to the planning group. Their contact info can be found at https://www.nps.gov/kaww/getinvolved/planning.htm.

As beech dominates, abundance of maples is declining

The change from beech-maple-birch forests to more beech-dominated forestlands could have consequences for ecosystem structure and function, UMaine researchers say.

ORONO — The composition of hardwood forests in the northeastern United States is changing significantly. In the past 30 years in forestlands in four states, climate-associated changes have increased the abundance of American beech compared to three other hardwood species commonly associated with the regional forests, according to University of Maine-led research team.

The significant shift to forests dominated by American beech, Fagus grandifolia, in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont is associated with higher temperatures and precipitation, according to Arun Bose and Aaron Weiskittel at UMaine, and Robert Wagner at Purdue University, the team that conducted the study — one of the first to examine broad-scale changes over a long period of time in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada.

The change from beech-maple-birch forests to more beech-dominated forestlands could have consequences for ecosystem structure and function, say the researchers. Beech is associated with a widespread bark disease and is known to limit natural regeneration of other species. In addition, the wood has less commercial value.

The significant increase in beech in the past three decades also has resulted in decreased incidence of sugar maple, red maple and birch. Factors in the changing forest composition include the ability of beech to shade out the other species.

“Our results emphasize the need for management strategies, such as higher intensity harvesting methods, vegetation control and limiting browsing pressure to reduce beech dominance,” according to the researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The researchers used U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data, 1983–2014, for Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont to study the occurrence and abundance of American beech, sugar and red maple, and birch saplings. Their assessment included sapling encroachment into new areas, as well as the abundance of the American beech relative to the other three species.

They found the beech-dominated forests particularly evident in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Climate-associated changes in forest composition often include high mortality in sensitive species and disproportionate favoring of others that can better adapt to the new conditions, the researchers note. In the northeastern U.S., beech sapling presence and abundance has likely been driven by additional factors, including the long absence of wildfire and clear cutting, and species characteristics, such as shade tolerance.

Forest management needs to include large-scale harvesting and canopy opening to preclude beech-dominated forests from developing in even greater areas, according to the researchers.

Tree Growth Tax session sparks ‘pretty good discussion’

Mike Malesky, right, was one of four tax assessors who testified at a Tree Growth Tax listening session at the State House Jan. 3.

In the first session of the 128th Legislature, chairs of the Taxation Committee requested that a review of the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law be conducted and asked an appointed panel to report back Feb. 1. The panel has met several times and on Jan. 3 offered the public an opportunity to offer perspectives at the State House in Augusta. 

“It was actually a pretty good discussion,” said MFPC Executive Director Patrick Strauch. “None of them were interested in making the program go away but they were interested in making sure it was being adhered to by people who were taking part in it. I think a lot of the feedback we got was how to make sure people know what is involved in the program, so a lot of education and outreach.”

Presiding over the listening session was Stephen Shaler, director of the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine, who chairs the review panel. Other members attending were Tom Abello, The Nature Conservancy; Kate Dufour, Maine Municipal Association Patrick Strauch, Maine Forest Products Council; Tom Doak, Maine Woodland Owners; Rene Noel, Association of Consulting Foresters, and Julie Ann Smith, Maine Farm Bureau. Also present for parts of the meeting were the chairs of the Taxation Committee, Sen. Dana Dow  and Rep. Ryan Tipping. 

About a dozen members of the public attended and six testified, including four tax assessors, Bill Van Tuinen, assessor for towns including Skowhegan, Beaver Cove, Bethel; Darryl L. McKenney, Waldoboro assessor; Kerry Leichtman, Camden-Rockport assessor, and Mike Malesky, assessor for New Portland, Highland Plantation and New Vineyard.
“The assessors emphasized that they were interested in holding on to the authority over who goes into and out of the Tree Growth program,” Strauch said. “They felt that was a taxation issue that needed to be maintained by municipalities. And some of them didn’t know until recently that they could use the Maine Forest Service to help with some of their investigations on suspicious lots. So we got some good insights.” 

Review panel from left, Julie Ann Smith, Maine Farm Bureau; Rene Noel, Association of Consulting Foresters; Steve Shaler, University of Maine (chair); Tom Doak, Maine Woodland Owners, Patrick Strauch, Maine Forest Products Council; Kate Dufour, Maine Municipal Association and Tom Abello, The Nature Conservancy.

Also testifying were landowner Chip Bessey of E.D. Bessey & Son and Clark Granger, Granger Family Farms. 

“Chip talked about his concerns with some of the rates that had gone up and the discrepancies between the megaregions,” Strauch said. “That was a concern of one of the appraisers as well.” 

The panel’s report, Strauch said, is likely to include recommendations on “mechanisms to make sure that foresters are complying with the law. Another issue is the penalties. Is it just too rigorous to get out of the program, for example, if you’ve inherited the land?”

A lot of the action this session will be at EUT Committee

I fully expect we’ll see an aggressive schedule and considerably faster pace in the second session of the 128th Legislature, which begins Jan. 3, than the slow-starting first session. I think we’ll start to see committees hold public hearings/work sessions on the carryover bills as early as the first week in January. They have only four months and they have quite a work load ahead of them.

There are a number of significant controversial issue, including some that MFPC is particularly interested in, like Tree Growth and biomass. In fact, a lot of the action for us this session will be in the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee because there are many bills relating to energy and utility issues, from hydropower to the Renewable Portfolio Standard. It’s too early to say which bills will be most important, because many are just titles right now, but I just know that energy is going to be huge. That committee already had a pretty sizeable workload before we even got the new bills.

Funding for LD 8, the bill to arm rangers, is still on the Appropriations table, and is likely to get caught up with a lot of other bills and state programs in THE top issue this session — how to fund the Medicaid expansion that voters just approved.

The language of the referendum was silent on the funding source because supporters didn’t want to create controversy and therefore lose votes. But now that it has passed and is supposed to take effect – enrollment starts in July – legislators have to come up with some significant money to fund it. We don’t know exactly how much because there are differing opinions between the Office of Fiscal Policy Review, which advises the Appropriations Committee, and the Department of Health and Human Services

There also are a lot of unanswered questions right now, such as how many people will enroll, how quickly they’ll enroll, what eligibility will look like, what the federal match will be and what the federal resources designated to the state will be.

The governor has said it can’t be funded with new taxes or the rainy day fund. I have to believe legislators aren’t going to raise taxes because they’re all running for reelection and no legislator wants to be on the side of supporting a tax increase before a re-election campaign.. So where would the Medicaid expansion funding come from? A concern for MFPC, along with other interest groups, is whether the Legislature might sweep money from other accounts and programs to come up with the funding. We’ll be keeping a sharp eye on this process.

Ranked choice voting is another tricky issue still hanging out there. Many people are frustrated with the citizen-initiated referendum process, especially after the amount of money spent on the casino question that failed this past November. So if there was ever any appetite to do something about the process, you’d think it would be now. However, there is little interest or support within the Senate Democratic caucus to pass a constitutional amendment or a bill tightening up the referendum process. Historically, when voters approve a citizen-initiated referendum, the Legislature has been very nervous about doing anything to impact the will of the people but between rank choice voting and the implementation of legalized marijuana initiatives, we have seen the leadership in the Legislature take steps to block or amend those bills voted on by the citizens.

Just a quick note about the upcoming election. Many more Republicans than Democrats will be termed out after this session – seven in the Senate compared to one Democrat, and 14 in the House, compared to seven Democrats. (Legislators termed out in 2018.)

Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, recently told me Democrats are way ahead in the race to field candidates in every district. But of the 21 Senate candidates registered of Dec. 20, 16 were Republicans and five were Democrats. In the House races, 34 Republicans have registered so far, 19 Democrats, five unenrolled, and two Libertarians. The deadline is not until March 15, so it’s really not an accurate depiction right now. The Senate Republicans do have some big shoes to fill with their term-limited vacancies, but they also have significant shifts of folks from the House running for the Senate, including Jeff Timberlake, Russell Black and Ellie Espling. Maine Senate candidates. Maine House candidates. (Source: Maine Commission on Governmental Elections and Election Practices.)

Whether there are term-limit vacancies or somebody leaving the Senate to run for governor – and there are several with 25 currently registered gubernatorial candidates – the Republicans have done a really good job of getting folks to shift over. So while the Democrats may seem to have the advantage on paper, it’s a long time until the next election – Nov. 6, 2018 – and who knows what can change? Any number of things could impact people’s perception or opinion of whether they’re likely to vote or what candidate they support.

The good news is that with legislators eager to get on the campaign trail and reluctant to face angry voters, it will help us defeat bad bills and make it more likely the session will adjourn close to the April 18th statutory adjournment.

Tree Growth and biomass top forestry issues this session

The first session of the 128th Legislature was very busy and MFPC was involved right down to the closing days of the session. I was hoping that in the second session, which starts Jan. 3, there would be enough legislative discipline – and to some degree it looks like there has been — to limit the number of issues we have to deal with.

There are 319 total carryover bills and about 10 of those are on our watch list, ranging from the age-old guns and rangers effort, to a lot of important discussion about biomass, biomass energy and energy policy. And, of course, the governor’s Tree Growth bill, LD 1599, was carried over as well. I’ll talk about that separately. 

There are also new bills. I’ve been here when quite a few new bills have been allowed in the second session, but this year, it was a pretty rigorous process. A total of 93 new bills have been allowed and there are about a dozen or so that are on our watch list. Details of the bills are limited with only a title and short summary, so there’s no way to know exactly what’s being proposed. There also are agency bills and the governor can always put in a bill at any time. So we’ll watch all of that activity.

As for Tree Growth, the Taxation Committee chairs appointed a committee that includes MFPC to “review all aspects of the MTGTL and develop recommendations regarding any changes you believe to be appropriate to improve the law and its administration.”

Sen. Dana Dow and Rep. Ryan Tipping wrote, “As you are aware nearly every Legislative Session bills are introduced proposing changes to the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law (MTGTL).  This is a very important law that has worked extremely well since its inception nearly fifty years ago.  It is useful to periodically review the law to ensure it is working properly and that participants are living up to the spirit and requirements of the program . . . We want to make sure that any changes are made in a thoughtful manner.

There’s a specific list of items we were meant to investigate. That group has met three times and to discuss what are meaningful reforms that are appropriate for the Tree Growth Tax Program. (Read Legislature Charge to Committee). Here are the latest statistics on Tree Growth in municipalities and in the Unorganized Territory

The committee would like to hear from the public on these issues, so on Tuesday, Jan. 3, there is a public meeting from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Room 126 of the State House (Transportation Committee Room) in Augusta for the purpose of gathering information and comments on the following charges:

  • Identifying changes in penalty provisions that should be made in the law;
  • Identifying any impediments to enforcement and recommending changes that would improve enforcement;
  • Identifying any causes of confusion among landowners, foresters or assessors regarding the requirements or administration of the law and recommending changes to improve administration;
  • Analyzing whether the minimum lot size of 10 acres for new enrollments of land should be modified;
  • Analyzing whether there are changes to the forester licensing law that would improve the administration of the law;
  • Analyzing the proper role of the Maine Forest Service in implementing the law;
  • Identifying whether there are requirements in the law that should be added or dropped;
  • Reviewing changes made to the Law in 2012 and assessing the effectiveness of those changes;
  • Providing any other information regarding the law that you think would be helpful to members of the Taxation Committee.

The report is not yet written, so I encourage our members and others in the forest community share their perspectives with the committee on Jan. 3. This is a forum for people to come and talk to us about the Tree Growth Tax program.

Biomass energy is another very important issue for our industry this session. There is going to be a lot of discussion about what biomass policy should look like and how we transition this important market in the face of low energy prices. We’ll also be talking about the importance of the energy plants that we have online now and the need to build a bridge to new solutions.

When talking with our sawmill members its clear we need to focus on outlets for sawmill residuals and to make sure that one of our strongest sectors is not hindered by the lack of markets for its byproducts. As pulpwood markets have shrunk there has been a growing use of energy markets for sawmill waste.  

A new study commissioned by the Governor’s Energy Office by Innovative Natural Resource Solutions (INRS) has recently been released, Analysis of the Energy & Environmental Economics of Maine’s Biomass Industry, that’s important reading for people who want to get involved with this issue and understand it going forward. We’re also working at the Roadmap level on trying to model a future where we have full utilization of all these materials that come out of sawmills.

Speaking of the Roadmap – aka Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative – we are making considerable progress.  The James W. Sewall Co. has started the Phase 1 analysis of Maine’s wood supply and INRS is working on the wood energy cost benefit analysis, with its report to be delivered in January. The finalists for the Global Market Analysis will be announced soon and work will begin in early January. An RFP was issued Dec. 8 (closing Jan. 10) for a firm to help the Roadmap project write its strategic plan.

We’re really trying to get a handle on emerging wood technologies and how we organize as a state to welcome capital investors. As the committees do their work and the initiatives provide the facts we need,  the focus of the steering committee will be packaging all that together, thinking about how to best relate all of this information to communities and policymakers, and coming up with a vision of what the future could be.

I can report there is a high level of interest from many people in the world examining Maine as a place to cite their wood manufacturing facility and they are asking questions about our resource and workforce. We already have the University of Maine, Maine Department of Economic & Community Development, Maine International Trade Center, Maine Development Foundation and community and industry organizations, including MFPC, working toward guiding this interest to the right places. We’ve been visited recently by potential pellet manufacturers, a fence manufacturer and there’s a strong push to locate a facility for cross-laminated timber in Maine, and all these are being done by a collection of people interested in the future of Maine.

In the perfect world, I would say that we’ll get through the legislative session, dealing with the day-to-day policy issues, while also gearing up to inform future policymakers as we enter into the next election cycle. We’re going to have a lot of information to report as we go through the  Roadmap’s planning process and consider how best to capitalize on those ideas.

So I look forward to welcoming the 128th Legislature back to deal with immediate issues that affect the people in our industry and communities, and to begin sharing the collective industries vision for our future forest economy.

SFI welcomes award-winning Project Learning Tree

If you’re wondering what’s changed or might change since the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) became the new home of Project Learning Tree (PLT)  last summer, the answer is that PLT is continuing to delivering quality programs to Maine’s schools, just as it has since 1977. PLT had previously been housed at the American Forest Foundation.

Pat Maloney, Maine PLT director

“When the transfer from AFF to SFI took place this summer,” said Patricia Maloney, coordinator of Maine PLT. “SFI committed to welcoming PLT into its Washington D.C. offices – first major change! The PLT staff is now fully settled and all seem very happy with the level of professionalism and support that is shared by the SFI staff. Kathy Abusow, SFI president and CEO, wrote that SFI plans to keep everything intact for a couple of years while reviewing the PLT program and evaluating our outreach and network. Once the merger has settled and everyone has some time to reflect, we may see some changes but for now, everyone is getting to know one another, learning how best to work as a team and then moving forward with stronger programs for all.”

PLT is an award-winning environmental education program, which uses trees and forests to increase youth understanding of the environment and conservation. Maine’s PLT is under the auspices of the Maine TREE Foundation. 

Abusow sees PLT’s integration into SFI, which has enthusiastically supported PLT for years, as an opportunity for the program to expand its reach and impact. At the same time,  SFI’s role as a sustainability leader will be bolstered by PLT’s expertise in education, an increasing focus in SFI’s community engagement work.

“We have big plans for the future and are committed to continuing PLT’s work as a high-quality education program.,” Abusow said. “Ultimately, we would like to be able to say that every teacher across North America and beyond recognizes Project Learning Tree as an invaluable resource for professional development, environmental education curriculum, and taking children outdoors to learn.”

PLT has consistently received prestigious awards and recognition from leading educational and community organizations. PLT state coordinators, workshop facilitators, and educators have won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. More than one quarter of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are PLT GreenSchools.

Pat Sirois, Maine SFI coordinator

PLT’s instructional materials are aligned with state and national academic standards and meet or exceed the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood curriculum won a Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award and PLT has also received straight A’s in environmental education from the California Department of Education. More than 20,000 educators attend PLT workshops every year and this partnership between PLT and SFI will help the program grow and reach new audiences across the globe in diverse ways.

At the state level, Maloney said, she and Pat Sirois, SFI coordinator, have begun this transition by talking with one another. She plans to attend the ME SFI/SIC meetings and Sirois already has attended a ME PLT Steering Committee meeting.

 “He worked with us during our 40th anniversary celebration at Hidden Valley Nature Center,” Maloney said, “and is planning to join our MEPLT network 2/2/18 Transition/Immersion overnight at Camp Kieve. The goals of this overnight are 1) to acquaint our program with SFI – both nationally and in Maine, 2) to learn about a number of curriculum changes from PLT that are new to our professional development delivery and 3) review and assess delivery of PLT workshops.”

“For now, we all understand that this is a transitional period and it appears that both SFI and PLT are approaching changes with a great deal of communication and understanding of the change process,” Maloney said. “No doubt, our international PLT Coordinator’s conference to be held in June will include information about the present and the future hopes, goals and expectations for this partnership.”

Low budworm counts allow more time to prepare

Defoliation samples sites. Stars indicate sites where defoliation consistent with spruce budworm feeding behavior was detected.

In mid-October we presented information regarding the on-going spruce budworm surveys in Maine and in the surrounding provinces.  Notably, among the 3,700 acres of light and scattered defoliation mapped in New Brunswick were several sites in the St. John River Valley between Edmundston and Connors (Madawaska and St. Francis in Maine) and defoliation had expanded and intensified in 2017 in the Bas-St-Laurent region of Quebec and other parts of the Gaspe. Two months later, the Maine Forest Service (MFS) has completed a defoliation survey in sites across the northern boundary of the state, counted some of the budworm tracker’s citizen scientist site samples (all those that have been mailed in), tabulated light trap samples, collected L2 samples (second instar larvae) for the Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU)-led study, and we are chugging through samples from the network of cooperator pheromone traps.  A summary of the results of those efforts follows. 

Defoliation Survey

This year we quantified defoliation on a subset of MFS-sampled L2 sites and additional sites in northern Maine. The Fettes Method was used to quantify defoliation on current-year growth. This method provides a systematic approach to measuring defoliation.  It was employed during the last budworm outbreak in Maine, and is currently in use in Quebec. MFS staff received training on implementing the method in a July 2016 field training held in the Matapedia Valley in Quebec.  The Fettes method captures defoliation from all causes and can be used to estimate both current-year defoliation and cumulative defoliation.  Here’s a brief introduction to the approach.

Budworm Tracker sample sites: Volunteers agreed to collect samples at these sites weekly or more frequently.

Trace defoliation was recorded at all 26 sample sites, with levels ranging from 0.2 to 3.9 percent foliage missing. Only four sample sites had defoliation that was in a pattern typical for the feeding behavior of spruce budworm. These were found in two sites near Estcourt Station, one site in Cross Lake Twp. and one site in Connor Twp. 

Budworm Tracker

Preliminary counts have been made on samples from sites where citizen volunteers deployed a pheromone trap and made collections on a more or less weekly basis. (Details of the program can be found at www.budwormtracker.ca.) Samples or data sheets were delivered to the MFS office in Old Town from 24 locations. Sites were established from Lubec and Bangor north. 

Catches ranged from 0 to 52 moths, with the highest captures in the north and east.  More information on this project will become available from the Budworm Tracker program next year. This is the second year Maine has been a full partner in this program.

Light Trap Surveys

Another set of sub-season samples comes from the network of people who tend a light trap during the summer months.  Volunteers at these sites collect trap contents daily and regularly mail them in to the MFS lab in Augusta for processing. 

Light trap sites in 2017. Numbers indicate budworm moths captured. Open circle marks former Allagash site.

The light trap network sites captured fewer spruce budworm moths this year than last.  It is apparent from atmospheric transport models and Canadian weather data that the bulk of spruce budworm moth flights from Quebec did not impact Maine, and this may be reflected in the light trap catches. 

Additional impact could be a result of the loss of a key site in Allagash.  This location had recovered spruce budworm in four of the previous five years of operation. 

We would like to find a trap operator to help fill the gap in the Allagash region.  This year, light traps in Calais, Crystal, St. Pamphile and Topsfield recovered spruce budworm.  A total of 41 spruce budworm moths were captured, down from the 2016 catch of 146, but on par with catches in 2014 and 2015. 

L2 Samples

CFRU cooperators including the MFS have been collecting and supporting processing of L2 samples for the last several years. This year samples were requested from a total of 220 sites.  Samples are being processed at cost at the Canadian Forest Service L2 lab in Fredericton New Brunswick.  Final delivery of samples for the year is planned for December 20.  As mentioned previously, defoliation was evaluated on a subset of the MFS sites. MFS plans to continue to collect this measure, at least from northern Maine sites. 

Pheromone Trap Sites

We believe that all the cooperator pheromone trap samples that will come in have been delivered to the MFS office in Old Town (we’re happy to continue receiving them if that belief is in error).  We’re working through the last of those samples and expect to have counts completed by the end of the year or early 2018. To date, approximately 360 samples have been processed and data entered.  Sixty three samples remain. 

The pattern remains the same as reported previously, with highest captures within about 40 miles of the northern border.  Captures also tend to drop off from east to west.  To date, the highest recorded catch is 68.3 moths/trap in T19 R12 WELS. 

Outlook and Future Plans

L2 and trap recoveries should be finalized and a full report of 2017 spruce budworm activities should be available early next year.  We plan to follow up on the fall defoliation survey with a similar survey of sites in northern Maine in early July 2018.  The continued low populations gives forest land owners and managers, as well as others who will be impacted, additional time to prepare for the next spruce budworm epidemic.  More information on spruce budworm can be found at www.sprucebudwormmaine.org.

What’s up with Maine’s white pine?

Ken Laustsen, biometrician for the Maine Forest Service, reported on the status of white pine at the MFPC Board meeting Nov. 9. “Eastern White Pine is still ranked statewide as #3 in total live merchantable volume and #1 in sawtimber volume,” Laustsen said. “Over the last 20 years, concerns have been occasionally raised about the status and prospects of this species.The presentation addresses both issues, looking at the forest type’s core area and the broader statewide trends.” Status of white pine in Maine slide presentation

Defoliation by spruce budworm at Maine’s border

Although we have still not picked up defoliation by spruce budworm in Maine, surveyors in New Brunswick have, including some right across our border.  Observers recorded very light and scattered defoliation on the New Brunswick side of the St. John River between Madawaska and St. Francis in ground plots.  Aerial survey and additional ground plots picked up a total of about 3,700 acres of light, scattered defoliation in the northern third of New Brunswick.    

The detections near the St. John River were a result of roadside surveys conducted by the province.  Host branches from about one in four ground plots were found to have trace to light defoliation.  This is not the sort of damage that would be picked up by a casual observer, nor through the level of operational monitoring conducted in Maine at current levels of spruce budworm populations.    

The eastern spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana, is a native moth that feeds on spruce and fir needles as a caterpillar (larva).  This species has cyclical populations that build when the host trees mature.   Populations reached epidemic levels in Maine, leading to tree growth loss and mortality, three times in the last century.

In Maine, spruce budworm feeds on the spruces (native white, red, black and introduced species) and balsam fir.  Within that group, the budworm has favorite foods.  It does best on balsam fir and white spruce whose buds begin to expand early in the spring when the caterpillars are ready to feed.  Red and black spruce buds swell after those of white spruce and fir, so the species are not as well suited for feeding by young spruce budworm caterpillars.  Maine has about 5.8 million acres of spruce and fir dominated forests, an area equal to the size of New Hampshire.

Defoliation has intensified on the Quebec side of the border as well, with increases in area and intensity seen in the Bas-Saint-Laurent Region, which lies closest to our northwestern border.  The Province of Quebec has been mapping defoliation from this pest for more than a decade.  In 2017, more than 17.6 million acres of forest were defoliated across the entire province. 

MFS Cooperator SBW pheromone trap results as of October 16, 2017; approximately 62 percent of sites have not been processed. Click image for larger version of map.

The Maine Forest Service (MFS)-led cooperative pheromone trap effort for spruce budworm is wrapping up for the year.  As in the last several years, around 20 organizations participated in the program. Several cooperators have retrieved their traps and sent in samples.  Others will be collecting samples next month, at the same time as a Cooperative Forest Research Unit-led overwintering larvae (L2) survey. In addition, volunteers with the Healthy Forest Partnership, Budworm Tracker Program have brought in their traps for the year and are sending in their catches.  Together, the data from these sites should give us a decent picture of spruce budworm populations in Maine, including potential impacts from moths coming in from the infestation in Canada. 

To date, about 38 percent of the MFS-Cooperator sites have been received and counted. Based on that sample, catches are on par with last year—down significantly from the summer of 2015. Across 160 sites, the average catch is about 7.5 moths per trap (average on the same sites was about 5.5 in 2016). Catches range from 0 to 68.3 moths/trap. The highest catches are found in a 40-milewide band south of the northern boundary of the state.

Sites in the eastern third of the state are trending towards higher catches than those in the western two thirds—this is apparent from Route 9, north to the St. John River. We anticipate receiving moths from more than 250 additional sites, and the picture could change before the dust (composed of moth scales in this case) has settled from those samples.

In addition to participating in the CFRU-led L2 surveys, MFS will conduct targeted surveys of host stands in the coming months in regions closest to the observed defoliation in Canada, and in response to high trap catches.

The coming epidemic of spruce budworm in Maine’s forests will probably be less severe than that in the 1970s-1980s.   However, a significant loss of trees and wide-ranging impacts to Maine’s natural-resource based-economy, forest structure and composition, wildlife and society are expected. Forest and social conditions in Maine have changed greatly since the last outbreak, so it is hard to nail down specifics of what the next will bring.  The low populations, and lack of detected defoliation to date, gives forestland owners and managers, as well as others who will be impacted, additional time to prepare.

Read new MFS report on Forest & Shade Tree – Insect & Disease Conditions for Maine.

News Archive

Calendar of Events

129th First Regular Session of Maine Legislature

The First Regular Session begins Wednesday, December 5, 2018. Statutory Adjournment is Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
When: Wed December 5 2018 12:00 AM - Wed June 19 2019 12:00 AM

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