Forest Management: Evergreen Cemetery
As the many visitors to Evergreen Cemetery know, the city Forestry Division is overseeing a Forest Management project in the 100-acre woods. The concept of conducting urban forest management is an often overlooked component of maintaining sustainable, long term forests. While the equipment used for this work is similar to timber harvesting on private or commercial lots, the urban forest management project has a focus on improving forest health, habitat, and recreation activities. Understanding the landscape history of New England and how our forests have evolved demonstrate the resiliency and human influences that shaped today's remaining forested open spaces.
The Evergreen Cemetery woodlands forest management plan was recommended by the Maine Forest Service via a grant from the US Forest Service to help communities better management their woodlands. The proposed thinning work will remove risk trees and thin sections of the woods to improve health. Conducting this type of work in an urban setting requires patience as the project looks 'messy' and disruptive when in progress while the results of reduced risk and improve forest health will last for decades. The window to conduct this work is relatively short as frozen ground and snow cover needed to reduce impact to the forest floor.
In 2007 the City of Portland received a grant from the US Forest Service via the Maine Forest Service to conduct forest management plans to help evaluate and recommend improvements. The goal is to protect and conserve remaining fragmented forests that play an important role in collecting storm water, habitat for a variety of wildlife and recreational uses. Some of the highlights of the plan that also included nearby Mayor Baxter Woods, Baxter Pines, Pine Grove Park and Evergreen – conduct forest management work to create a mixed age stand of trees, this is achieved by removing the weakest, defective trees allowing the remaining trees room and sunlight to grow, remove invasive trees particularly Norway Maple. Forest management work mimics natural processes that have historically shaped our forest but have not been favored in urban settings. The work at Evergreen has been designed to target the forest stands that are in decline and those with little, if any understory plants or regeneration of new trees for the future. By creating openings in the canopy and more light we can expect to see a flush of new growth in the next few years that will ensure future forest and improve habitat. Once the work has been completed trail restoration will follow. The woods will look messy to us humans with the various tree branches but it ideal for wildlife and soil improvement as the wood decays. It will be interesting to watch what new growth follows and how the woods evolves. We will continue to monitor conditions and watch for invasive plants.
Field Notes – did you know that the White Pine groves were farm fields or pasture lands in the 1800’s? As agricultural uses changed White Pine, which only grow with ample sunlight, quickly seeded in and grew to the current tall and thin condition. Ideally these stands should have been thinned decades ago to allow remaining trees room to grow. Likely we will see a mix of White Pine and northern hardwood trees grow here in the future.