Prior to the Conservancy’s ownership in 1999, the land was owned and managed by large timber companies. Decades of industrial timber management dramatically altered forest composition and structure, with one of the effects being that the species composition and structural diversity of the forest were greatly reduced. For example, stands that typically contained a 25%-75% softwood (spruce, fir, pine and cedar) component have often been reduced to less than 10%, with little softwood regeneration present. Coupled with extreme levels of moose browse on hardwood species, the overall growth of young forest stands has been severely compromised across the ownership.
Current management across this large ownership includes:
- Protecting a vast landscape of plant and animal communities, including several rare species
- Sustainably managing forests to provide important habitats and contribute to the region’s economy
- Providing a location for research on important species like the Canada lynx and American marten
Climate Change Impacts
Over the long-term, climate change is expected to cause the decline of more northern species, while increasing potential habitat for species that currently have more southerly distributions. While the St. John is located extremely far north in the United States and may be buffered from substantial changes for some time, managers of the forest are beginning to consider how to adapt the forest to uncertain future conditions.
The Nature Conservancy received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Climate Adaptation Fund to improve the ability of the St. John Forest to adapt to changing conditions. The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify restoration and adaptation activities across several hundred acres (see table below).
In the spring of 2015, a 10 acre pilot planting was done to test softwood under-planting at ~100 black spruce seedlings per acre. Seedling species availability was limited in 2015 and we intend to increase the density and diversity of species in future plantings with spruce, white pine and cedar in future plantings at a density of approximately 400 trees per acre. Our initial interest is to evaluate how the seedlings compete against hardwood competition, which is severely browsed and suppressed by moose.
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.