Forest management is moving toward landscape-level planning to ensure the diversity and sustainability of working forests. Landscape management has typically been focused on huge tracts of public or industrial forest land. But now, outside of the northern forest, most of New England’s forest land exists as a mosaic of thousands of small (less than 5,000 acres), privately owned forest tracts, which require different strategies for landscape-level planning. The Holt Research Forest is demographically well-positioned to explore landscape-level approaches to planning and management in this fragmented ownership pattern.
A concerted effort has been underway for some time to protect the water of the Kennebec Estuary from potentially damaging changes in the use of abutting uplands. A partnership of nonprofit conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and others with state and federal agencies have conserved more than 10,000 acres in the Merrymeeting Bay/Kennebec Estuary region. This area is a focus area of statewide ecological significance as reflected by a Maine Beginning with Habitat publication (Will open pdf). This effort has included many generous donations of property and conservation easements and fee purchase with funds raised from a variety of sources such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (NAWCC), USFWS Coastal Wetlands Program, Land for Maine’s Future, as well as foundations and gifts from individuals.
The Holt Research Forest (HRF) is protected by a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy. The easement allows research and management to continue while protecting the property from subdivision or development.
Though most acquisitions are specifically aimed at tidal wetlands and adjacent upland buffers, larger tracts are sometimes acquired. In close proximity to HRF, the 170-acre parcel to the south is owned by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and was one of the first in the region to be purchased with federal and state funds. The property to the north was donated to The Nature Conservancy. This and other lands along the Back River have been protected by purchase or conservation easements are forming a large area of mostly intact, undivided forest land. To date, more than 1,000 acres of Back River tidal marshes and uplands have been protected providing habitat for a wide diversity of species.