North Maine 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 J. D. 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 Saint John and the Allagash. The North Maine Woods completely surrounds the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

History[edit]

Early European settlement of New England and Atlantic Canada was along the Atlantic coast. Some settlers focused on fishing and shipbuilding while others cleared forests for conversion to farmland. Trees from the cleared forests provided lumber for homes, barns, and ships to support the fishing industry and European trade. As the coastal forests were cleared, settlers moved inland along the major rivers from the Hudson River north to the Saint Lawrence River. Early interior settlers spent the short summers growing food and the long winters cutting trees. Logs in excess of those needed to build farming structures could be floated downstream and sold to sawmills.[3] Cities like Bangor, Maine on the Penobscot River and Saint John, New Brunswick on the Saint John River developed at the head of navigation where sawmills converted logs to lumber and shipyards converted lumber to ships.[4]

Prior to invention of railroads, industrial investment in these cities depended upon anticipated forest resources available to be floated down the river. Competition for upper Saint John River watershed forests developed in the 1830s when Bangor interests purchased land containing headwaters lakes and altered Chamberlain Lake to drain into the Penobscot River.[5] This competition was resolved by the Webster–Ashburton Treaty giving Maine control of what became the North Maine Woods.

Wildlife[edit]

The North Maine Woods are part of the New England-Acadian forests ecoregion.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] Common birds include olive-sided flycatcher, white-throated sparrow, wood duck, common yellowthroat, spotted sandpiper, red-eyed vireo, American robin, common loon, belted kingfisher, bufflehead, least flycatcher, yellow-billed cuckoo, wood thrush, common merganser, black-capped chickadee, gray jay, ruffed grouse, and spruce grouse.[9] 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 Saint 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:[10]

  • 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.[11]

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.[12]

As of February 2015, no specific action had been taken by the United States Congress on this matter. It has also been suggested that President Barack Obama use his Antiquities Act authority to designate at least some of the area as a National Monument as a step towards a National Park, which does not require Congressional approval. Maine's congressional delegation, with the exception of Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree who represents southern Maine, has expressed "serious reservations" about such an idea.[13] Governor of Maine Paul LePage has expressed strong opposition to the idea, and has proposed legislation to attempt to block the transfer of land to the federal government for a National Monument.[14] LePage has also ordered the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands to re-establish and maintain access to approximately 2,500 acres of state-owned land within the proposed park. Supporters of a park, while conceding the state has a right to access its land, criticized the move as an effort to interfere with private landowners deciding what to do with their land.[15]

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. ^ Oakleaf, H.B. (1920). Lumber Manufacture in the Douglas Fir Region. Chicago: Commercial Journal Company. p. 8. 
  4. ^ Holbrook, Stewart H. (1961). Yankee Loggers. New York: International Paper Company. pp. 42&43. 
  5. ^ "Telos Dam and Cut (Canal)". Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. State of Maine. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Thoreau, Henry David The Maine Woods Apollo edition (1966) Thomas Y. Crowell Company pp.395&396
  8. ^ Burt & Grossenheider(1964)
  9. ^ Thoreau, Henry David The Maine Woods Apollo edition (1966) Thomas Y. Crowell Company pp.414-416
  10. ^ Botkin(1989)pp.169-171
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Nick Sambides Jr. (February 11, 2016). "Park director responds for Obama on North Woods monument effort". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  14. ^ Michael Shepherd (February 23, 2016). "LePage, Medway Democrat team up against North Woods park". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  15. ^ Michael Shepherd (February 12, 2016). "Citing ‘takeover’ threat, LePage orders access to Quimby land". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 

References[edit]

  • Botkin, B.A. (1989). A Treasury of New England Folklore. American Legacy Press. ISBN 0-517-67977-9. 
  • Burt, William H. & 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]