AUGUSTA — State officials plan to ask the federal government for financial assistance to help perform aerial mapping of ice storm damage to Maine’s forest land and help landowners afford management plans for cleaning up and harvesting their woodlots.
Speaking before the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on Thursday, Maine Forest Service Director Chuck Gadzik called the Ice Storm of ’98 “a major, significant event to the forests,” especially severe in southern Maine.
The storm took the greatest toll on hardwood stands, especially where foresters thinned the trees to encourage growth. Gadzik described the storm as having “almost a high-grading effect,” refering to the practice of cutting the most valuable trees from a stand and leaving poor-quality trees behind.
Representatives from Champion International and S.D. Warren both said after the meeting that their companies’ timberlands and plantations appeared to have been affected only minimally by the ice storm.
Dave Struble, the state entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, showed the committee preliminary maps outlining the forest areas with light, moderate and severe damage. The entomologist stressed that the damage occurred in patches within those areas, which should not be understood as swaths of complete devastation.
In all, the area in which parcels were affected the most covered 2.1 million of Maine’s 19 million acres. Moderate damage occured within a 2.5-million-acre area, and 5.9 million acres were peppered with light to trace damages. The northern part of the state received no damage from the storm.
The state currently manages money provided through the federal Forest Stewardship Program that helps landowners defray some of the costs of hiring a forester to prepare management plans for their woodlots. Gadzik said the state plans to urge the federal government to increase the amount of money available under the program in anticipation of a rush by landowners to update or initiate the plans in the wake of the storm.
The state also provides a onetime, $200 state tax credit for landowners who undertake management plans.