By Sheila Grant
Special to The Weekly
Low Impact Forestry is a set of logging practices that seek to balance ecological needs with economic realities. For the past 13 years, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardners Association has overseen the Low Impact Forestry Project, offering workshops and hands-on learning opportunities to teach sustainable methods to interested logging professionals and landowners.
Low Impact Forestry “is a more holistic approach to woodland management, compared to conventional forest management styles,” explained Andy McEvoy, the LIFP coordinator. “It has equal parts to do with stewardship and management and represents a new perspective in forestry.
“Conventional forestry practices over the past 50 to 70 years have left us with a resource that is in need of a lot of stewardship and nurturing. Our forests are an amazing, abundant crop that we grow, but they do need tending and care. Landowners and resource managers need to start putting in the time to care for the forests so that we will continue to have an abundant resource in the future,” McAvoy said.
It is important not to try to create fast money out of a slow-growing “crop,” but equally important to ensure that “our forestry community is compensated adequately and asked to work in a fair way,” he said. “And ecologically, we need to continue to increase the vitality of our soils and not deplete our resources, because a forest is only as good as its soils are.”
The Low Impact Forestry Project is a group of loggers, foresters, scientists, landowners and concerned residents who met informally at first and then formed the group. Workshops include landowner education about what low impact forestry is, how to get started, and who to work with. Classes also include home firewood production, invasive plant training, and chainsaw and small machinery training as well as how to work with draft horses in the woods.
“There are a whole suite of practices,” said McEvoy. “We don’t subscribe to one practice more than another. It depends on the skill of the operator and using the right tool for the right setting.”
Because the program falls under the auspices of MOFGA, it tried to “draw a link in a very real way between farm, field and forest,” McEvoy said. Traditionally, farmers have owned as much, if not more, woodland than farm fields and used to spend the winters cutting cord wood and fence posts.
As the two industries have become more professionalized and grown and become part of a global market, that tradition has shifted, he said, “but we are trying to make that connection again, and trying to make folks realize how blurry that line is. [Society in general] has lost that association we always had with the forest in Maine, especially the working forest.”
However, healthy forests contribute to everyone’s well-being, he said, whether it is through hunting, skiing, walking in the woods, wildlife photograph, or other outdoor pursuits. “That’s part of what this program is all about: helping folks realize that all of those things are part of forestry values and stewardship.”
Fall classes include Level II Draft Animal Logging, a four-day Low Impact Forestry Workshop, and Level I Chainsaw Safety.
For more information about the Low Impact Forestry Program and upcoming workshops, email McEvoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the MOFGA website, mofga.org. Additional information about low impact forestry practices can also be found at lowimpactforestry.org.