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Thursday
Mar262015

“THIS IS MY (MAINE) OFFICE” FILMING GETS UNDERWAY AT NUMEROUS HARVEST SITES

Why would anyone want to be a logger or a forester?  That’s the question being asked of a number of loggers and foresters around Maine as the Maine TREE Foundation and the Maine Forest Products Council put together an eastern version of “This is My Office.”  Originally filmed on the west coast of the U.S., this video will encourage Maine men and women, young and older, to consider a career in our forest that shows the Maine woods and the trees that grow in them.

As everyone knows, forests in different parts of the country and the world are very different, depending on things like soils, weather and temperature to be hospitable to any given species.  As in “The Maine forest is NOT the rain forest.”  The western version of “This is My Forest” is clearly not made in Maine.  For one thing, the scenery is very different as are the trees themselves. Logger Derek Madden Tells Videographer Andy Collar why he Loves his Job

The stars of Maine’s production are the loggers and foresters being interviewed; young, older and in between, male and female, they represent skilled practitioners of these professions.  They are articulate, enthusiastic and passionate about their jobs.  Some of the topics they discuss are: how logging has changed, including new technology and machinery; jobs opening up as Baby Boomers retire; the dramatic improvement in safety; the challenge and fun of working in the woods and being part of an active team; wood is a renewable and environmentally sound material; and forest stewardship is an important element of forest practices.

The video’s primary goal is to make young Mainers aware that logging is a professional occupation that requires skills, training and a strong work ethic and that people who work in the woods love their jobs.  It’s also important to let people know that the forest products business is not only alive, but thriving. 

Maine’s video will be ready for distribution later this summer, but in the meantime, if you would like to see the west coast version, type in This is My Office - The Pacific Forest Foundation.mp4 on your search engine and enjoy.

Thursday
Mar192015

Exploring Maine’s Natural Resources with Project Learning Tree

With close to 90% forest cover, Maine stands as the most forested state in the country which is one of many reasons why the Maine TREE Foundation sponsors Project Learning Tree (PLT). What is PLT and how does it work?

Project Learning Tree is an international award-winning environmental education program with curriculum for educators from Early Childhood through high school. PLT offers natural resource workshops throughout the state that teach not only about trees, but also about land, air and water. These workshops are designed to integrate the needs of the school and community with best practices for environmental education. Teachers, natural resource professionals, community leaders, homeschoolers and college students attend these sessions which include time for exploring the outdoors with field investigations.

A Maine PLT workshop may include studies of invasive species, tree identification, forest management, soilAnita Smith & Kelly Kelley at the MEPLT facilitator training last Spring studies, tree products or tree measurement. Other examples of Maine PLT offerings include Forest Field Days with schools, communities and land trusts; information about establishing Outdoor Classrooms; the Forest Inventory Growth (FIG) project which provides students with experiences in setting up permanent forest plots, collecting data about that plot and then entering findings on a FIG website; presenting a PLT workshop on Day One of Summer Teachers’ Tours.

Why outdoors?

Getting kids out in nature is more essential today given that children are spending nearly 8 hours a day using entertainment media and only 6 percent of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. We are at risk of losing an entire generation’s appreciation for how nature works and what it needs to remain healthy and productive. Tomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit. That requires a commitment to providing children with environmental education that leads them toward becoming the global leaders of tomorrow.

And we are standards based!

Visit the Project Learning Tree website to learn about PLT’s commitment to current educational needs and how the curriculum provides teachers with ready to use lessons that meet in-school requirements.

Friday
Mar132015

Saving the Northern Long-Eared Bat From Extinction

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has stricken the Northern Long-Eared Bat of Maine and state and federal regulators are taking steps to protect the bats and restore the population.  At present, the bats are proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered on both the state and federal level.  Decisions are pending this spring.

What is White-Nose Syndrome?

The recently identified White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) affects bats who hibernate in colonies during the winter, and is caused by a fungus called Geomyces destructans. The name refers to how infected bats develop a white fungus on their muzzles.

WNS was first identified in New York and it has spread throughout the northeast US, through Maine, and even into Canada. WNS has killed more than a million bats in the northeastern states. In many areas where the long-eared bats hibernate, ninety to one hundred percent of them have perished from WNS.

While the fungus that causes WNS is not well understood, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife believes that spores attached to humans may have brought the disease to uninfected areas. They have requested that climbers and spelunkers curtail their activities.

 

Meet the Northern Long-Eared Bat

Because these bats have become so rare, few in Maine know what they look like or where they can be found. Their bodies are about 3 to 3.7 inches long, with a wingspan of 9 to 10 inches. Their fur is usually medium or dark brown on the back, and tawny or pale-brown on the underside.

While they may use other habitats where they are less susceptible to WNS, most northern long-eared bats hibernate in large caves or mines during the winter. They prefer those with big passageways and entrances, high humidity, and no air currents. In the summer they venture out to find food and mate, seeking shelter in hollow trees and logs or rock crevices, and sometimes in barns and sheds.

What’s Next for These Bats

Initial contamination of caves in NY may have been from cavers who brought fungi from Europe but most of the spread has probably been bat to bat exposure either during summer or during winter in infected caves.

Humans have not yet found a way to fix the damage, or even necessarily prevent the further spread of WNS. Listing the bats as endangered or threatened will not solve the problem but highlights the seriousness of the situation and prods us to look for solutions.

Monday
Mar022015

Dr. Robert Wagner Invites a Public Feedback on the Spruce Budworm Report

Dr. Robert Wagner, professor of Forestry at Maine University takes a look at one of the most aggressive insects native to Maine. It is called the spruce budworm, a bug that has been responsible for the destruction of millions of spruce trees throughout Maine. Spruce budworm infestations occur in 30–50 year cycles. Between 1970 and 1985 millions of acres of forest were lost.

Dr. Wagner says that the budworm cycle is a natural part of the spruce-fir forest. However, the budworm is also something that Maine and affected areas in Canada need to stay on top of.

Since the onset of the current outbreak, the spruce budworm has defoliated trees on over ten million acres in southern Quebec.

The spruce budworm has increased steadily in northern Maine forest over the past several years. Balsam and White Spruce trees are at greatest risk. Forests at greatest risk stretch across the northern half of the state.The budworm is very destructive and alters the forest landscape every time they appear.

Over the past year, experts from the University of Maine, Maine Forest Service, and Maine Forest Products Council have been working on a risk assessment and statewide preparation plan for the coming spruce budworm outbreak. Dr. Wagner is asking the public for their comments on the report. Public comments will be taken till March 31, 2015. Please send any comments to robert.Wagner@maine.edu.

 

Thursday
Feb262015

Beneficial Insects in Maine Forests

Insects described as beneficial are those that prey on bugs humans would classify as destructive or undesirable. Carpenter ants, fleas, and termites all fit into that category. Ninety-seven percent of all arthropods found in or around your home are either neutral or beneficial. Homeowners can use beneficial arthropods to keep their yards free from pests and the pesticides that would be necessary to kill an outbreak.

There are two different kinds of helpful arthropods: parasitoids and predators. Predators assault their prey, often by setting traps or overpowering the victim. Predators include spiders, most beetles, and some species of wasp.

Parasitoids on the other hand will attached to a host and reproduce by laying eggs on or in the host organism. When the eggs hatch, the larvae often eat the host. Sometimes the eggs hatching will be enough to kill the host before being devoured.

 

Here are five of the most helpful arthropods.

 

  1. Ground beetles are large oval bugs with a sleek exoskeleton, long legs, and strong, sharp jaws. Beetle larvae is also predatory, feeding on caterpillars and small insects. Adult beetles also consume snails, slugs and moths.
  2. Spiders are predators and have a wide variety of methods for catching prey. Some build trapdoors, striking when an insect walks by. Some use webs, others their impressive speed, strength, and reflexes. Poisonous spiders found in North America are not typically present in Maine. Spiders are the most common type of predator.
  3. Syrphid flies have a yellow abdomen and are mistaken as yellow jackets and honey bees. These insects are valuable backyard allies. They don't sting or bite, eat aphids and other pests, and contribute to the cycle of nectar and pollen.
  4. Tachinid flies are a parasitoid that lay eggs on their host. When maggots hatch, they enter and devour the host. These bugs hunt caterpillars, grasshoppers, and Japanese beetles, just to name a few.
  5. Wasps are known for being aggressive predators, but there are species of parasitic wasps, too. Wasps bite and sting their prey and for this reason are more likely to target "soft" prey like caterpillars or snails. Wasps can be dangerous too close to your home. Always consider the safety of your family and pets, first.

 

If you want to attract some assistance fighting pests there are some easy ways to spruce up your yard.

  • Most arthropods exhibit a preference for certain types of plants. Flowers with both pollen and nectar tend to attract beneficial parasitoids and predators alike.
  • Different flowers mature at different times throughout the year. Plan your yard so you have flowers blooming at different times. The more often nectar and pollen are available for the surrounding environment the better.
  • The University of Delaware investigated zapper lights. They determined that these types of lights killed far fewer pests than beneficial insects.
  • Be prepared to see some damage to your vegetable garden. Most beneficial arthropods will not cause enough harm to compromise the plant.
  • It never hurts to use a little extra water or shade. Keeping the yard fresh and growing will improve the overall health of the land's ecosystem. If you have the space, planting a few trees will help, too.