Scientific forestry is the science of managing forests amd tree plantations. Natural forests with different types of trees were cut down and replaced with one type of tree planted in rows known as plantation. The forests were surveyed by officials according to areas under different types of trees and plans were made for forest management. A portion of the plantation area was cut down every year and replanted so that it was available to be used within a few years.
Percival Baxter was a man of vision. After all, he gave the people of Maine what is now Baxter State Park, including careful stipulations about how it should be managed. He left it to be "forever wild," and we can be forever grateful. Baxter further stipulated that 28,500 acres in the northwest corner of the park be set aside for silviculture and the study of forestry. Baxter had visited forests in places like Finland, Sweden, and Germany. These visits inspired his vision of a special forest here in Maine. This area has become the Scientific Forestry Management Area (SFMA). It is well managed, a splendid example of forestry which does not destroy the forest, and a beautiful place to visit.
After several decades of dormancy and several false starts, the planning and operation of the SFMA got going in the mid 1980\'s. In 1987 Jensen Bissell, current head of the forestry operations, arrived. Jensen is in his mid 40\'s, has tousled dark hair and wire-rim spectacles. This man can walk at a brisk and vigorous pace through woods all day long. He may be the happiest man in Maine. He studied forestry at Syracuse and loves the scientific, intellectual side. He worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon for ten years and knows that there will inevitably be a pragmatic, economic aspect to forests and their harvest. As head of the SFMA he can combine both, and apparently there is nothing else on earth that he would rather be doing.
The SFMA has been separated into different management areas - harvested previous to 1987, harvested 1987 to 1997, unharvested and unaccessed forest, fire origin stands, and reserve/riparian areas. Roads have been cut through the forest, but they are not accessible to the general public, and they have been designed to have the least possible impact. Nevertheless, there is a certain sadness to roads cut through these beautiful woods.
The tour traverses most of the roads with several stops to get out and walk the woods. On one stop we walked through a section which was harvested last year, crossed a reserve section which has not been harvested, and entered a section which was harvested three years ago. The biggest differences were the slash on the forest floor and the amount of light. The trees had not been damaged by the equipment, the canopy was intact (albeit thinner), and the forest was healthy. Just walking these woods demonstrated that the forest does not have to be destroyed in order to harvest it.