Maine North Woods

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The North Maine Woods is the northern geographic area of the state of Maine in the United States. The thinly populated region is overseen by a combination of private individual and private industrial owners and state government agencies, and is divided into 155 unincorporated townships within the NMW management area.[1]

The region covers more than 3.5 million acres (14,000 km²) of forest land bordered by Canada to the west and north and by the early 20th century transportation corridors of the Canadian Pacific International Railway of Maine to the south and the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Ashland branch to the east. It includes western Aroostook and northern Somerset, Penobscot, and Piscataquis counties.[2] Much of the woods is currently owned by the timber corporations, including Seven Islands Land Company, Plum Creek, Maibec, Orion Timberlands and Irving timber corporations. Ownership changes hands quite frequently and is often difficult to determine.

Its main products are timber for pulp and lumber, as well as hunting and outdoor recreation .

Included within its boundaries are two wild rivers of the Northeastern United States: the St. John and the Allagash. The North Maine Woods completely surrounds the Allagash Wilderness Waterway State Park.

Wildlife[edit]

The North Maine Woods are part of the New England-Acadian forests ecoregion.[3] They are predominantly forestland consisting of mixed northern hardwoods and conifers, much of it artificially planted after harvesting by the various landowners. The major tree species are balsam fir, black spruce, and northern white cedar with smaller numbers of white spruce, yellow birch, paper birch, quaking aspen, eastern white pine, speckled alder, eastern hemlock, and black ash.[4] The area is also home to white-tailed deer, moose, black bears, bobcat, coyotes, red fox, fisher, otter, mink, marten, weasel, beavers, porcupine, muskrat, red squirrel, and snowshoe hare.[5] Common birds include olive-sided flycatcher, white-throated sparrow, wood duck, common yellowthroat, spotted sandpiper, red-eyed vireo, American robin, Great Northern Loon, belted kingfisher, bufflehead, least flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, wood thrush, common merganser, black-capped chickadee, gray jay, ruffed grouse, and spruce grouse.[6] There are official hunting seasons for the grouse, deer and bears, with a state-run lottery system for awarding moose-hunting licences. Char including squaretail, togue, and isolated populations of blueback trout are the best known fish of the rivers and lakes. Black fly, mosquito, deer fly, and midge populations can be significant from late spring through early autumn. The Maine North Woods are also home to the endangered Canada lynx, bald eagle and the Furbish lousewort, a rare plant that is found only in the St. John River Valley. Animals which have disappeared from the woods during European settlement include caribou and gray wolf.

Folklore[edit]

Early 19th century logging of the North Maine woods employed native Maliseet, English settlers from the Atlantic coast, French Canadians from the Saint Lawrence River valley, and some unskilled laborers recruited from large eastern cities. Unique mythology evolved in the remote logging camps from hazing new employees or attempts by competing groups to dominate the resource extraction labor market. Two birds held special significance. The relatively tame gray jays would follow loggers through the woods in the hope of stealing unwatched food, but were not harmed because they were believed to be the spirits of deceased woodsmen. Some French Canadians would quit work if a white owl was seen flying from a tree they were felling, for they believed it was a ghost who would haunt them unless they left that part of the woods.

Mythical creatures of the north woods:[7]

  • Razor-shins was an immortal humanoid with sharp shin bones and a thirst for liquor in the prohibition state of Maine. New employees were encouraged to leave a jug of Bangor whisky outside of the camp door on the night of the full moon. If razor-shins emptied the jug by morning, he might use his razor-sharp shinbones to fell a tree for the new man. But there were tales of new employees caught in the woods by razor-shins and scalped or otherwise mutilated after failing to offer the customary tribute.
  • Will-am-alones were squirrel-like creatures said to roll poisonous lichen into small balls and drop them onto the eyelids or into the ears of sleeping men. The lichen balls were reputed to cause headaches and visual hallucinations the following day. The effects seemed most evident among men who had consumed illegal liquor.
  • Windigo (or "Indian devil") was described as a huge, shadowy humanoid with a voice like the moaning of the wind through the pine boughs, but known only by his tracks through the snow. Each footprint was 24 inches (60 cm) long and resembled a snowshoe imprint with a red spot in the center where blood had oozed through a hole in his moccasin. Some feared to cross his tracks and claimed looking upon Windigo would seal their doom.
  • Ding-ball was a cougar whose last tail joint was ball-shaped and bare of hair and flesh. Ding-ball was fond of human flesh and would sing with a human voice to lure the incautious out of their cabins at night where it waited in the darkness to crack their skulls with its tail.

Proposed National Park[edit]

Americans for a Maine Woods National Park, an interest group that includes scientists, educators, environmentalists and celebrities, is pushing to turn as much as 3.2 million acres (13,000 km²), an area larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, into a national park. [8]

The proposed park is controversial among residents within or adjacent to the park's proposed borders. Many of them fear the dislocation of traditional industries and recreational activities as a result of a park's creation. The County Commissions from Aroostook, Piscataquis, and Somerset have voted to oppose efforts to create a park. A local group, the Maine Woods Coalition, was organized to oppose the effort.[9]

As of July 2011, no specific action had been taken by the United States Congress on this matter.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ History of NMW
  2. ^ DeLorme Mapping Company The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (13th edition) (1988) ISBN 0-89933-035-5
  3. ^ Olson, D. M, E. Dinerstein, et al (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth". BioScience 51 (11): 933–938. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0933:TEOTWA]2.0.CO;2. 
  4. ^ Thoreau, Henry David The Maine Woods Apollo edition (1966) Thomas Y. Crowell Company pp.395&396
  5. ^ Burt & Grossenheider(1964)
  6. ^ Thoreau, Henry David The Maine Woods Apollo edition (1966) Thomas Y. Crowell Company pp.414-416
  7. ^ Botkin(1989)pp.169-171
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]

References[edit]

  • Botkin, B.A. (1989). A Treasury of New England Folklore. American Legacy Press. ISBN 0-517-67977-9. 
  • Burt, William H. and Grossenheider, Richard P. (1964). A Field Guide to the Mammals. Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  • FishBase (2006): Salvelinus species. Version of 2006-MAR-14. Retrieved 2008-FEB-01.

External links[edit]