SAF Northeast’s Maine Chapter hosted a field tour at Holt Research Forest in mid-August
Written by: Gavriela Mallory
On a Friday in mid-August, Maine Society of American Foresters (SAF) members gathered at Holt Research Forest (HRF) for a property tour and discussion of past and future management and research on-site. The tour was led by Barrie Brusila, long-time forester for the Holt Research Forest, Jack Witham, former HRF resident scientist, and Don Cole, the logger for the 2020/21 harvest, along with Maine TREE staff, Logan Johnson and Gavi Mallory. Participants traveled from across Maine to attend the tour. While many were visiting Holt Research Forest for the first time, a few brought their own memories of summers spent collecting data on-site in the earliest days of their careers.
The day started at the western side of the property, where participants saw educational components of Holt Research Forest’s mission in action as Kennebec Estuary Land Trust prepared to host a week-long summer camp based out of Maine TREE’s outdoor classroom. The group then walked across Old Stage Rd. to the harvest landing to discuss the 2021 timber harvest. Tour presenters reflected on successfully meeting their collective objectives for this harvest, including maintaining a diverse forest structure, limiting soil compaction, and contributing to positive public perceptions of forest management in the region. They additionally shared some more surprising outcomes, including a notable increase in oak leaf roller activity and subsequent defoliation of many oak trees on site.
The group then walked into the research area, and Jack Witham shared wisdom gained from many decades spent collecting ecosystem monitoring data at Holt Research Forest. The group discussed projects ranging from deer browse experiments to annual seed collection and inventory efforts. While eating lunch on the banks of the Back River, participants shared questions and observations from the morning: What are the long-term implications of the influx in oak leaf roller following harvest? Will invasive species continue to have a limited presence on-site in a warming climate? How will sea level rise impact Holt Research Forest?
After finishing the tour loop, Maine TREE staff discussed the future of Holt Research Forest. Many of the questions raised by participants are questions this coastal research forest is uniquely situated to answer. As the team at Maine TREE envisions and builds the future for this plot of land, we are continuing to follow our collective curiosity about best management practices for coastal forest ecosystems and how the Maine woods will shift in a changing climate.