Tree Farm award winners Wicopy Woods hold sneak peak tour amid COVID concerns
SEBEC — In ordinary times, the Maine Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year hosts Forestry Field Day, a highly anticipated, festival-like event sponsored by Maine Woodland Owners and Maine Tree Farm. This celebration draws a broad spectrum of the forest industry to tour the land and learn about the award recipients’ thoughtful forest management efforts. This year’s winners are Drs. Jessica Leahy and Bob Seymour for their 130-acre tree farm, Wicopy Woods, in the village of Sebec. However, with gathering size restrictions in place in the state because of the pandemic, the traditional, high attendance Forestry Field Day event will have to wait until sometime in 2021.
Every year, Maine Tree Farm honors a woodlot owner who demonstrates a level of forest stewardship that is exceptional. The Outstanding Maine Tree Farmer of the Year is a highly coveted recognition that started in 1954 to reward good forestry practices on properties 10 to 10,000 acres, primarily family-owned. These small woodland owners maintain nearly a third of Maine’s 15.5 million acres of privately owned forests and produce 40 percent of the state’s wood supply. There are 87,000 woodlot owners in Maine and many of these forests are certified as Tree Farms — but only one award is given each year.
Despite the postponement, many felt that some public recognition should be given to Leahy and Seymour in 2020 for such a noteworthy achievement. So on Aug. 30, a small group of masked forest enthusiasts and fellow woodland owners were welcomed by the couple and Maine Woodland Owners for a “sneak peak” tour of Wicopy Woods to learn what makes this parcel so exemplary.
When they acquired the land five years ago, the couple set forth to build on nearly a half century of exceptional management. Wicopy Woods Tree Farm was honored once before, in 1984, as the Maine Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year. The previous owner, Ron Locke, maintained voluminous notes, records and photos of the property, which Leahy and Seymour have used to develop and implement plans that ensure a healthy and vibrant forest for generations to come.
“Our aim from the beginning was to continue Ron’s work on this woodland. Our decisions about harvests and forest regeneration for Wicopy Woods are informed by a combination of Ron’s past management and the goals we have set for ourselves,” said Leahy.
Leahy and Seymour have a forestry background. For one, both are licensed foresters. Additionally, Dr. Leahy is professor of human dimensions of natural resources at the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources and Dr. Seymour has recently retired from the University of Maine School of Forestry Resources faculty after over 30 years as Curtis Hutchins Professor of Silviculture.
The hosts kicked off the program by telling the story of Locke’s effort to turn a run-down farm and woodlot into an example of forest health and productivity. The attendees were then given a tour of the results of their irregular shelterwood silviculture where growth and harvest targets were set and regeneration strategies were developed based on anticipated economic outcomes and ecological benefits.
“Wicopy Woods is forest management at its best, where other woodland owners can learn and be inspired by their efforts. We are thrilled that two very dedicated members of Maine Woodland Owners have received this well-deserved recognition. We look forward to properly honoring them in 2021,” said Tom Doak, Maine Woodland Owners executive director.
Wicopy Woods is named after the tree species Eastern leatherwood (Dirca palustris) which is also called wicopy. It is estimated that at least 300 individual wicopy plants reside in this forest – the largest plants may be over 100 years old.
To learn more about Wicopy Woods, Maine Woodland Owners, and Forestry Field Day visit www.mainewoodlandowners.org. More information about the 2021 Forestry Field Day at Wicopy Woods will be announced once the date is determined.