The opportunity to protect and manage wildlife habitat was one of the strongest motivations to create the Downeast Lakes Land Trust.
Diverse Habitat, Diverse Wildlife
Our region is fortunate to have productive wildlife habitats. Eastern and northern Maine’s Acadian forests are part of the largest contiguous block of forest matrix in the eastern United States. According to The Nature Conservancy, this is the largest intact temperate broadleaf and mixed forest in the country and one of the largest in the world. It is an ecological resource of global significance providing habitat to a great diversity of plant and animal life. What creates this diversity? Habitats vary from open water to non-forested wetlands, forested wetlands, and uplands. Forests vary from boreal conifers to northern hardwoods, with a wide range of age classes. Timber management is our most powerful tool to continue to provide diverse wildlife habitat. Our goal is to sustain habitat for the full-range of native wildlife across our landscape and over time.
Focus Species Forestry
We integrated our timber management and wildlife habitat goals through a “Focus Species Forestry*” planning process. We selected a set of focal species to represent a variety of forest habitat types and have included species of particular importance to the local community. Our list of focal species includes white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare, American marten, ruffed grouse, American woodcock, black bear, black-throated blue warbler, pileated woodpecker, beaver, brook trout, Atlantic salmon, bald eagle, spotted salamander, and wood frog. As an example, white-tailed deer are a focal species for management of mature conifer forest, which provides necessary winter habitat. We have mapped and designated over 11,000 acres for management as deer wintering habitat that will provide this resource to deer and will benefit all wildlife species that use mature conifer forest. We are confident that by following our focus species approach we will provide habitat for the full range of native wildlife. We hope that this project, and our management, will serve as a model for other landowners that are interested in integrating biodiversity goals with other forest management objectives. The Fourth Machias Lake Ecological Reserve and a set of smaller designated Special Management Areas provide additional protections for exceptional wildlife habitats and ecological resources.
Habitat Restoration and Enhancement
Our wildlife habitat work doesn’t end with timber management. For example, brook trout is our focal species for cold-water streams. Our management plan protects brook trout habitat through riparian buffers that protect the trees that shade streams. The network of forest roads was built before widespread awareness of the needs of trout and other aquatic wildlife. Most stream crossings used culverts that were too small or not properly placed to provide fish passage and risked failure during high stream flow. DLLT is working to replace these older culverts with bridges or bottomless arches that provide a natural stream channel, with passage for brook trout, Atlantic salmon, and other aquatic wildlife. Through 2015, DLLT has restored 25 road-stream crossing sites. Restoring free access to habitat is essential to protecting populations of wild brook trout. Maine has >80% of the remaining U.S. native stocks of brook trout, making our local efforts significant nationally. In addition, we have created small patches of early-successional habitat in six areas of the Community Forest since 2006. These young forests are important habitats for woodcock, grouse, and many other species. Maintaining a balance between ecological protections and habitat stewardship is at the heart of the work of DLLT. * Focus Species Forestry is a method to simplify the task of integrating timber management with conservation of biological diversity. A useful forest management handbook Focus Species Forestry, a Guide to Integrating Timber and Biodiversity Management in Maine was published by Maine Audubon in partnership with the Maine Forest Service, Maine Natural Areas Program, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, and the Small Woodland Owners of Maine.