Episode #1: Into the Woods with Forester Jesse Duplin
Sporting a bright orange vest bulging with a GPS, a compass, flagging, and other tools of his trade, forester Jesse Duplin stops frequently to point out the sights and sounds in the recently conserved Tiger Hill Community Forest at Sebago. Baby birds chirping in a nearby thicket, a nest made in a shallow pond by a fish, and a stand of young pines that sprouted up after the last timber harvest are among the many marvels he delights in pointing out.
Duplin, who lives on a long dirt road adjacent to Sebago Lake with his wife and two young children, has been a consulting forester for 12 years. The 1,400-acre forest, permanently conserved by Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) and The Trust for Public Land, with the help of Sebago Clean Waters, is literally in his backyard. Being the forester for this land is his biggest undertaking since starting his own business, Northwest Forest Management, in 2018. In this role, he works closely with LELT to meet their objectives for long-term management of timber, wildlife, and recreation values on the property.
As we walk down an old logging road admiring the wide variety of trees, Duplin explains the main tenant of sustainable forestry is to ensure the availability of mature trees to harvest in 10- to 20-year cycles. Designated trees are able to get more sunlight when foresters selectively thin about 30 percent of a tree stand. In forester speak, this is known as opening up the crown to release crop trees.
In doing this, Duplin says, “You’re helping to improve timber stand health. You’re making the trees grow faster. If you don’t harvest on your property, things will go stagnant. Actively managing with selective timber harvesting is a good thing. We’re not just out there to cut trees, we’re trying to have a good end product for future generations.”
Helping the trees thrive in the Tiger Hill Community Forest is critical for wildlife. Referring to the mix of hemlock-hardwood and Southern white pine-oak forest types that exist on the property, Duplin says, “These transition forests are some of the best forests for wildlife. It’s very diverse, you have great cover, you have a lot of hard mast sources like acorns and beechnuts, and the hemlocks grow such thick, dense crowns that they work great for keeping the waterways cool and protected.”
Practicing sustainable forestry on this land is also important for the health of the regional economy. Duplin benefits from the work, and so will others in the Sebago community and beyond, once the forest management plan gets underway. For instance, he hires contractors who have invested in costly equipment. “Our economy is just so deeply rooted with the wood products sector,” Duplin says. “I have contractors who have invested in a small $15,000 skidder and a chainsaw up to people who have $5 million worth of equipment piled up, and they’re buying that from equipment dealers, and they have to buy the fuel…not to mention the wood itself—the mills rely on it.”
Duplin’s reasons for keeping these woods healthy go beyond the benefits for wildlife and the economy. As an outdoorsman, he appreciates the continued community access for recreation. “Tiger Hill is a very unique lot—the location and the size. The fact that there’s 1,400 acres, nearly all contiguous, within eyesight, basically, of Sebago Lake, is amazing really. Having Loon Echo purchase it is great. Community members and people from the region will still be able to hunt on it, fish, you name it. It will be open for public use forever, rather than becoming a housing development like a lot of properties in the area.”