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September / October 2003

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Future Forests


Future Forests
On the 100th anniversary of UMaine's forestry program, researchers share their vision of what the North Woods could be like a century from now


Training tomorrow's forest managers
Getting an education in forest resources has changed from the 1920s when students attending forestry camp lived alongside hard driving loggers during a north woods winter. Forestry today is a high tech balancing act of ecology, engineering, timber production, public recreation and financial planning.


Full views of future forests
Faculty insights on what it will take to balance competing demands and sustained productivity in future forests are presented in their entirety.

Links Related to this Story

To the public, the North Woods has many faces: a source of livelihood and forest products, a recreation and sports destination, a wilderness to preserve and an undeveloped area waiting to be tapped. Forestlands in Maine and beyond are cultural as well as natural resources with economic, aesthetic and environmental benefits.

Underpinning all those expectations is the ability to manage forested landscapes.

According to the Society of American Foresters, the United States has about the same amount of woodlands 747 million acres as it did 100 years ago. However, the pressures on those resources are much greater today than they were in 1903. In the next century, the capacity of our woodlands will be challenged like never before.

Chief among those challenges is a growing world population, standing today at about 6.3 billion and expected to double in the next 50 years. "A growing population will put increasing demands on forest resources," says Bruce Wiersma, dean of the University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture. "As they have for centuries, our forests must continue to contribute to this country's economic foundation while increasingly being part of the global marketplace. The economic benefits, whether realized in the form of forest products, tourism or quality-of-life issues, are crucial to our future. Such contributions to economic well-being help to stabilize the human population and ultimately to protect the environment."

Clues to what the North Woods might look like 100 years from now are rooted in the issues facing today's forests and the research being done to secure their future. This year, the University of Maine celebrates 100 years of teaching and research in one of the country's longest-running forestry programs. Its interdisciplinary approach to forest management includes the study of soils and ecosystems, history and climate change, wildlife and water quality. In the following pages, UMaine faculty provide a glimpse of what it will take to balance competing demands and sustained productivity in future forests.

by Nick Houtman
September-October, 2003

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