A great conservation opportunity

Dear Editor:

The recent article “Better plan for songbirds sought at proposed wind farm project in Clifton” may leave an incorrect impression about wildlife habitat conservation efforts that are integral to Frenchman Bay Conservancy’s (FBC) ongoing effort to conserve 1,400 acres in Hancock as the Frenchman Bay Community Forest.

Protecting this forest from future development is the most fundamental element in conserving its value as wildlife habitat. Beyond that, FBC’s plan to allow the forest to grow old needs to be understood in context with three key considerations.

First, old forests are exceptionally scarce in Maine. Only 1 percent of Maine’s forests contain trees over 150 years old, according to Maine Audubon’s “Forestry for Maine Birds,” and that’s why Maine Audubon recommends the conservation of such forests. Old forests have natural gaps where old trees die and fall, and thus they have a diverse structure at a small scale, which is valuable habitat for many species.

Second, bird species that prefer younger forests and forest edges will find significant habitat in this tract along its central access road, the Downeast Sunrise Trail, and its extensive wetlands.

Finally, our partner in this project, the New England Forestry Foundation, will protect the neighboring 3,100 acres of land to the north of the Downeast Sunrise Trail. They will periodically harvest timber on their property following high standards for ecological forestry, and thus the overall area, 4,500 acres, will have a mosaic of forest stands of different ages. This will provide habitat for a very diverse suite of wildlife species, both those that prefer young forests and those that favor older forests.

In short, the Frenchman Bay Community Forest project is a remarkable opportunity to conserve a sizable tract, both as habitat for diverse wildlife and as a place for outdoor recreation, practically “out the back door.”

Malcolm Hunter

Board of Trustees Member, Frenchman Bay Conservancy

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