BATH — At the beginning of June, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, in partnership with a professional forester and logging company, completed the final steps of a timber harvest at Sewall Woods Preserve.

KELT is incorporating the harvest into a “demonstration forest” project to showcase sustainable forestry practices and its benefits to the larger community. KELT has been working diligently to get the trails back into shape for visitors to see and learn about the big, beneficial changes to the preserve. Staff and volunteers have spent the last couple of weeks stewarding the trails and they are now open for use by hikers, bikers, dog walkers, and folks just looking to get out into nature.

KELT intends for the harvest at Sewall Woods to serve as a resource for other woodlot owners in the region. “We’ve already had private landowners and organizations ask us about how we set up our harvest,” said Stewardship Coordinator Cheri Brunault, “It’s great to have this recent experience to now help others start or improve their own forest management process.”

The project was by no means simple, being the first forestry project KELT has undertaken as an organization. In donating a large portion of the preserve’s property to KELT, William Sewall wished for the land to continue serving as a working forest, and completing this harvest demonstrates KELT’s commitment to honor its legacy gifts.

Jack Witham, a KELT founder and board member, helped negotiate the land donation that has become this well used preserve. He said, “The management plan and this harvest go beyond simply taking wood off the land. This will serve as a timber stand improvement to produce better quality trees, while creating a greater diversity of wildlife habitats and still have recreational and public access benefits.”

In addition to a more open woodland landscape, visitors will notice other changes to the woods. Several “patch cut” clearings were made to create the young growth and shrub habitat preferred by certain species of songbirds and mammals. In other areas, space will be made for mast trees (species like oaks that produce nuts, seeds, and fruit that are a valuable food source for wildlife) to grow larger and increase production. KELT has led several educational workshops before and during the harvest, and plans to offer another tour later this year for those interested in the project.

For help with this project, KELT is seeking volunteers for tasks such as trail repair, restoration seeding, and bird monitoring. To volunteer, contact Charlotte Thompson at [email protected] or 442-8400.

For general information, visit kennebecestuary.org.