AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Hancock Timber Resource Group have signed a forest management agreement that will benefit deer and other wildlife.
The Long-Term Deer Wintering Area Agreement recognizes the importance of proper forest management for sustainable wildlife populations and ensures that important deer wintering areas (“deer yards”) will be preserved and cooperatively managed for both timber resources and critical wildlife habitat. The area to be cooperatively managed totals 6639 acres in Indian Stream Township (T1R6) and the northern half of Squaretown Township (T2R5) in Somerset County.
“Partnerships forged through these kinds of agreements with large private landowners are necessary to protect significant wildlife habitat. The Indian Stream Deer Wintering Area provides important winter shelter for deer and it is one of the largest deer yards in the upper Kennebec drainage,” said Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist for MDIFW. Officials said that these agreements benefit the landowner because they offer long-term guidelines for timber harvesting, and benefit the state because they offer long-term protection and management for fish and wildlife habitat.
Wildlife biologists consider quality deer winter shelter the major limiting factor in sustaining deer populations in Maine. In addition, properly managed softwood stands provide habitat for a variety of upland wildlife species. “This is good news for hunters and wildlife watchers alike,” said Henry Whittemore, Northeast Regional Manager for Hancock,” this shows that sustainable forest management and good wildlife habitat are indeed compatible.”
Healthy deer populations in Maine depend on wintering areas that provide shelter and open space at the same time. Evergreen canopies keep snow depth underneath to a minimum and allow deer easy mobility while they conserve energy. Open areas within the shelter portions provide winter forage on which deer depend to survive. While last year’s mild winter contributed to a healthy Maine deer herd, biologists believe that maintaining a strong deer population over time depends on protecting large stands of mature hemlocks, spruce and fir to shelter deer from cold, wind, and deep snow.
The agreement signed on January 16th allows Hancock Timber to harvest softwood and hardwood while maintaining a minimum of 50% coniferous canopy cover for wintering deer. Areas opened up through timber harvesting will contribute immediate forage from the tops of felled trees, and sunlit areas for new tree growth, and yearlong browsing.
The agreement contains important provisions to maintain deer travel corridors, to establish compatible gravel excavation and road construction practices, to protect stream banks and ensure that recreational camp leases are compatible with deer wintering management objectives within the 6,639 acre area.
“This is Hancock’s first agreement with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife,” said Eugene Dumont, Wildlife Management Section Supervisor for the Department, “to date our cooperative long-term deer wintering area management agreements have been a successful partnership, and Hancock Timber Resource Group deserves a lot of credit in pursuing this agreement. Since 1995, MDIFW has signed eight agreements with five different industrial forest landowners totaling 84,000 plus acres. More of these agreements are pending with other landowners.”