Spruce budworm may wipe out remaining deer yards

“This slow moving hurricane is on its way and will be here for a while.”

That’s the ominous prediction of Dan Wagner of the Cooperative Forestry Unit at the University of Maine, reported in the Bangor Daily News. The Unit was actually organized in 1975 during the last spruce budworm epidemic.

spruce budwormI monitored the massive spraying that tried to stop the spread and damage of the Spruce Budworm in the 1970s, on behalf of Congressman David Emery. In fact, I was in the north woods when one of the bombers, used to spray the forests, crashed into Eagle Lake. I flew over the plane to see it. They had to take it apart to get it out of the lake and forest.

The subsequent death of a lot of fir trees, and the massive cutting to harvest those trees before they died, and the roads that were built to accomplish that, all took a toll on the North Woods habitat and the critters that depend on it.

While we wring our hands over our inability to require private landowners to protect critical deer wintering areas, we ignore the threated devastation of existing deer yards by the next epidemic of Spruce Budworm.

The Budworm has already spread throughout Quebec and is now being found in Maine. And this time, according to my sources in the forest products industry, there will be no massive spraying to delay and defeat the budworm.

Dan Wagner told the Bangor Daily News that, “Infestations typically last 10 to 15 years, so the response must be sustained.”

I attended a Maine Industrial Forestry Forum on February 6 at Bangor’s Sea Dog, sponsored by the Forest Resources Association. The beer was great, the chance to visit with old friends even better, but the news was bleak and especially discouraging for sportsmen.

Barry Burgason, one of the state’s top foresters, told me that Red Maple has spread into lots of softwood areas. “We’re going to see a trend away from mature softwood,” he said – certainly not good news for deer that depend on those mature softwood stands for winter cover. “If we want to keep deer shelter,” said Barry, “it will take active management.”

That would, of course, include an aggressive effort to stop the spruce budworm from killing mature softwood stands. We know that large landowners are not planning to do this. And neither is the state, even on our public lands.

You can express your opinion on this issue in a question I’ve posted in the Sportsmen Say Survey section of my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com. Do it now!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.