Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Biomass energy field trip

Students in PS3003 Sustainable Energy, including famous SEM students Michelle, Mac, Steven, Jared, and Sly, all visited former US Navy Commander Rick Holt's seven hundred acre working forest in Dixmont Maine, where we learned about forest management, with an emphasis on how biomass extraction for firewood, pellet, and chip is used as an adjunct to tree stand improvement practices.

Ricky first demonstrated the used of the "Biltmore" stick to estimate board feet content of a sawlog.

We then took about a mile and a half walking tour of the forest, inspecting tree stands in various stages of management. This is an area where future maple sawlogs and veneer logs are being encouraged by selective cutting of lower value, damaged, diseased, and otherwise competing trees, which are then used for firewood. Ricky explained that it helps when making a veneer log to increase the light availability of the target tree only slowly, or sprouts will appear on the trunk, leading to knots, which reduce the value.

This was a tree cut to stop the spread of the sugar maple borer, a pest of maple trees. The road in the background is one of several Rick has built over the years to facilitate forest management and timber extraction. Rick was able to show us very clearly how the new roads, with proper culverts and water-splashes or "rock fords" are a great improvement on the old skid roads and trails. Eroded skid trails from former harvest areas are easy to see on the landscape, even though it's been forty-five years since the harvesting was done.

Here's the view from the dam on Ricky's pond.

The landscape we see here is quite new, since the whole area was logged off and used for extensive sheep farming in the 1800s. Ricky has a map showing the names of some of the settlers. Most of the names are north British, which is not surprising, considering that extensive sheep farming of very similar upland ranges was developed in Britain. The settlers would have known how to manage the landscape and climate for sheep. Americans used more woolen clothing and ate more lamb and mutton back then, so there would have been a better market for the products than there is now.

Many thanks to Ricky for being willing to share his knowledge and his land with our students. Ricky is a great forester, but he's also a very good teacher, so the field trip was especially worthwhile.

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