August 04, 2020

Refuge personnel refute clear-cut fears> Meeting between Moosehorn officials councilors proposed

CALAIS — Despite concerns about clear-cutting that were expressed at a City Council meeting last week, personnel at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge said Monday they had not deviated from a wildlife management plan implemented nearly 15 years ago.

Refuge manager Mark Sweeny said he would welcome an opportunity to meet with the City Council to discuss clear-cutting practices at the refuge.

At the Calais City Council Thursday night, John Owen and his son, Michael, said they were concerned about the amount of clear-cutting that had taken place near the Icehouse Road and Vose Pond.

A popular hiking and biking area, Icehouse Road can be reached from Route 1. It follows a nearly 5-mile stretch through a heavily wooded area and ends on Charlotte Road.

Michael Owen said he had run in that area for the past eight years, and he told the city councilors Thursday night that he had noted marked changes in the area.

“In the last year and a half they have cut down as much up there as in the previous 5 1/2 years,” he said.

Greg Sepik, refuge wildlife biologist, explained Monday how the management plan helped the forest.”The idea here is to maintain a well-balanced, multi-age forest. The forest of the Northeast is one that is rejuvenated by disturbance,” he said.

Sepik said that in the past, fires helped rejuvenate forest areas, but today, management planning had taken over. “Some trees can only grow if they are disturbed, aspen being one and white pine being the other,” he said.

The biologist explained that aspen and white pine were important because the refuge was a huge migratory bird area and those two trees were critical to their habitat.

“If you were to walk through these sites if the leaves were off, you’d see just oodles of bird nests,” he said.

During a tour of the area Monday, Sepik pointed out several different levels of tree growth, from the most recent clear-cut to acres that had grown back during the past two to 10 years.

Sweeny said the refuge used a lottery system to select logging contractors who cut up to 150 acres each year. “All of our blocks are small. They are little 5-acre blocks,” he said.

The $20,000 to $30,000 loggers pay the refuge for stumpage goes into the general refuge revenue-sharing account. The money is paid to municipalities in lieu of property taxes.

“Any harvesting that is done generates revenue benefits for Calais or Baring or whatever town it happens to be in. It doesn’t benefit the refuge at all. We don’t get a red cent out of it,” Sweeny said.

During the tour Monday, Sweeny brought along a large notebook with the refuge’s management plan. The nearly 24,500 acres in Baring and the smaller Cobscook Bay region of the refuge have been divided into a grid system, and each section on the grid represents a section of wooded area to be cut.

Sepik said refuge personnel used a cyclical plan. “You are going to be out of an area for anywhere from five to 10 years. Then you move back in and make another series of cuts,” he said.

Within the plan there are several sites that will never be cut, such as a 5,000-acre site near Route 191 that has been designated as an old-growth area. He said other areas that would never be cut included those designated as too fragile to cut. One of those, he said, was Magurrewock Mountain, which would be left untouched because of fear of erosion.

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