TNC Returns Preserve to its Natural State Using Grant Money, Fire

Southwestern Maine, 2003-2004

The Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy used a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildland urban interface grant to reduce flammable vegetation on its 3,000-acre Waterboro Barrens Preserve in southwestern Maine and return it to its natural state.

The TNC's project partners include the Service, Maine State Forest Service and local fire departments from Waterboro, Shapleigh, Newfield, Limerick and Alfred.

In 1947, a wildfire destroyed nearly all of Waterboro Barrens and many of the surrounding communities. Nearly 60 years of fire suppression have again made the preserve a wildfire hazard to surrounding communities.

Wood chips from strategic tree-thinning projects on the preserve were sent to a renewable energy electrical plant. The project employed local people and the money it generated helped Waterboro Barrens managers prepare plans for a rotating schedule of vegetation-thinning and prescribed fire. Part of the strategy is to give local firefighters comprehensive hands-on training in prescribed burning, fireline leadership, crew management and ignition/suppression tactics.

Waterboro Barrens is one of the finest examples of pitch pine and oak-scrub ecosystems in the world. It historically was accustomed to minor fires every three to five years. A number of rare invertebrate, animal and plant species live within its unique mosaic of wetland and upland habitats.

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