Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maine’s Natural Resources Overwhelm the Senses with Sights and Sounds and Tastes By Genevieve Fraser

Cutler, Machias Bay, Maine

Maine’s Natural Resources Overwhelm the Senses with Sights and Sounds and Tastes
By Genevieve Fraser
Towards the end of summer as the Natural Resources Council of Maine joined with four other environmental organizations in an effort to block a Canadian pipeline project that could make Portland, Maine, the “tar sands capital” of the eastern United States, I was touring parts of the state on my way to visit family members living DownEast.

Rogue Bluffs, Great Cove, Maine

As I traveled along back roads, I passed endless fields of wild blueberry (vaccinium angustifolium) which thrive in the glacial soils and northern climate found in the fields and barrens of Downeast Maine and Canada.  These wild delights are one of only three berries native to North America. The other two are the cranberry and grape.
According to the company of the same name, “Wild blueberries are rich in antioxidants and have grown naturally for thousands of years.  Unlike highbush cultivated blueberries, Wild Blueberries are not planted. These lowbush blueberries are primarily spread by rhizomes or underground runners, which give rise to new roots and stems. All shoots arising from the same rhizome system have similar characteristics and are referred to as a blueberry clone.”
“Wild Blueberry fields and barrens actually produce many different lowbush blueberry clones, which account for the variations in color and size that characterize the Wild Blueberry crop,” the Wildblueberries.com website claims.  Based on my experiences driving and later wandering through fields and backwater dirt roads, I would agree.  I even wrote a poem comparing my life in the forested landscape of northwestern Massachusetts with the coastal reaches on Maine.

Foreign Forest by the Bay

The forest felt foreign
As I entered carefully
Stepping between the sharp
Rocks jutting amid the sandy
Soil and wiry grasses
Along the private road
Low hanging blueberry
Patches picked clean
Wild turkey feasts
Disrupted as I entered
Village rooftops and church
Tower visible over the ridge
Between the hedges and fir
Boulders and goldenrod
Not far the bay ebbing
With the sea gulls overhead
White wings against blue
Skies black crows perch
As I wander back ready
To leave to find my way
Back home to the inland
Forest of sturdy pines
Rich soils and heady dreams

Auger Hill Farm,  81 Pumpkin Ridge Road, Marshfield, Maine
Pure maple syrup and honey are also part of nature’s bounty in Maine with road-side stands displaying jars of sweet stuff along with fruits and vegetables.  And maple sugar shacks seem a natural part of the landscape...as much so as the piers and wharfs and lobster shacks.

And though the angling season for Atlantic salmon in Maine is CLOSED YEAR ROUND until further notice, efforts are underway through the Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) to “conserve Atlantic salmon and its habitat, restore a viable sports fishery and protect other important river, scenic, recreational and ecological resources in eastern Maine,” the Federation’s mission statement asserts.

I was vacationing not far from the the East Machias Aquatic Research Center (EMARC), a project of the Downeast Salmon Federation.  They are in the process of developing a research and community outreach facility on the East Machias River which will include a fish hatchery, a flow-through fresh water experimental station, a state certified water quality testing laboratory, a technical resource center, and a small historic museum and education center.
East Machias River

Since the 1970s, Maine’s aquaculturists have been raising salmon.  Today, hatcheries throughout the state produce 3 - 1/2 million fish each year for net-pen operations along the coast.  In addition, thousands of trout, salmon, and bass are stocked annually across the state to support the tourist industry. 

In addition to aquatic resources, Maine has 17 million acres of forest land, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 48 parks and historic sites and more than 590,000 acres of public-reserved and non-reserved land. 

Throughout its history, Maine has enjoyed a strong and diverse forest products industry that, though facing challenges from global competition, continues to thrive. Hunters, naturalists and recreation enthusiasts have also been drawn to the country’s forest habitats that provide food and shelter to moose, bear, deer, turkey, waterfowl, and a wide variety of other game and non-game species. 

Maine’s Department of Conservation considers the state’s forest products manufacturing industry as critical to the state’s economic health.   “It is also critical to the maintenance of undeveloped forestlands and the many benefits it supplies, helps support a traditional way of life in many of Maine’s communities, and serves as an anchor for the state’s resource based economy.  Maintenance of a robust and diverse forest products industry has important environmental and social benefits, as well as economic importance to Maine.”

PHOTO CREDITS:  Genevieve Fraser

1 comment:

  1. This is a very interesting and informative post! -- words and photos. As an upstate New Yorker who was privileged to stay briefly in Maine one summer long years ago, Gen Fraser makes me want to re-visit a treasured part of America.

    Robert H. Stiver, Oahu, Hawaii, 10/20/2011