Maine Women Owning Woodlands at Hidden Valley Nature Center

A group of people gather in a building listening to a presenter.

Written by Maddie Eberly, Forest Stewards Guild

On a sunny, warm Saturday morning, women landowners began to arrive at the Hidden Valley Nature Center, where forestry professionals waited to greet them with coffee, tea, and donuts. Once all had gotten their fill of drinks and sweets, Maren Granstrom, Forester Intern at Mid-Maine Forestry, and Bambi Jones, 2014 Northeast Region Tree Farmer and co-founder of Hidden Valley Nature Center, introduced participants to the Midcoast Conservancy’s Hidden Valley Nature Center and the Women Owning Woodlands project. Each participant introduced themself and described their land, including a favorite place on the land. Participants shared a favorite place to sit and spot otters, favorite projects including beaver management or maple sugaring and, in one participant’s case, the spot where they married their husband under a tree.

A group of people stand around a person demonstrating how a tool works.
Bambi Jones explained what tools can be used for pruning and
demonstrated how they are used.

Following the introductions, a series of guests introduced important land management topics. Allyssa Gregory, District Forester with the Maine Forest Service, discussed setting goals for your land. She asked participants, “What are your dreams for your woodland?” Participants paired up to discuss each other’s properties, then shared with the group. Many women were concerned with wildlife management, legacy planning, and conservation management. Allyssa reminded all that when she meets with landowners, very often death and taxes are the primary topics. Maggie Mansfield, Forester at Two Trees Forestry, lead the group through a discussion on Forest Management Plans: What are they for? Who can write them? Maggie also dove into the conversation of taxes and state and local programs for forested lands. Finally, Sandy Walczyk, Conservation Forester at Blue Hill Heritage Trust, discussed the “Timber Harvesting Dos and Don’ts” as well as “5 Steps to a Successful Timber Harvest.”

As stomachs began to grumble, it was lunchtime! Lovely spring temperatures allowed participants to sit outside at picnic tables, continuing conversations about their land and getting to know one another better. The speakers sat dispersed throughout the groups to continue answering questions and holding discussions on trees and all related topics.

A group of people stand on a trail in the woods.
Barrie Brusila talked to the group about management
techniques in the woods.

Feeling refueled, the group took to the woods. Bambi introduced a few important pruning tools she has used on white pine around Hidden Valley Nature Center and demonstrated their usage. Bambi and Barrie Brusila, Forester at Mid-Maine Forestry, have pruned white pine to increase the quality of wood being grown for harvest. Continuing along the well-maintained trails, the group periodically stopped to discuss what management has been done in different areas as well as how various management practices might look on the land. The walk ended at a small pond with many turtles basking in the sun on partially submerged logs. Management of water flow, in swiftness and quantity, is a large consideration when creating harvest plans and installing structures such as bridges and culverts. Barrie shared the previous Forest Management Plan for the property with interested participants.

Upon returning to the Nature Center, the women landowners could explore a couple of tables full of resources to take home for continued learning, and a raffle presented four landowners with a copy of “Forest Trees of Maine.” Maren closed out the day with well wishes and encouragement to the women to take the next steps in managing their woodlands. It was a Saturday well spent for the women as they learned how to be better stewards and bonded over their love of their land and its trees.