Have you ever hiked in Baxter State Park? If yes, were you taken back by some very distinct regulations of Baxter?… They are there to serve the primary purpose of the Park: protect Baxter’s nature.
However, there is more about Baxter. Preservation is the first step. The Park’s father, Percival P. Baxter, also wanted to turn the Park into a place where humans and nature can live and benefit from each other.
How can Baxter State Park harmonize natural life and human interest? If this question sparks your curiosity, keep your eyes on this article to find out the answer.
Scientific Forest Management
If you are hiking in Baxter and are familiar with all the strict regulations to preserve wildlife, you will get shocked at the scene of tree cutting and harvesting inside Baxter.
But don’t let what you see in just a few seconds trick you into judging Baxter negatively.
This scene is a part of the scientific forest management program. From the first day, Mr. Baxter realized that it was essential to balance people’s demands and forest preservation.
Scientific Forest Management Area
At the beginning of the Park’s establishment, inside the Park, a Scientific Forest Management Area (SFMA) was created.
Forests in the SFMA have continuously provided people in Maine with food, fuel, and wood in a scientific and controlling way. It ensures that human activities won’t affect wildlife in Baxter through careful planning and execution.
In return, as people want to secure their earnings from these forests, they will learn to “make use of” nature without ruining it. Together with scientific methods, people’s willingness to protect the wildlife will certainly ensure healthy and sustainable forest preservation.
When you visit Baxter State Park today, you would quickly see the remarkable result of this scientific cutting, reforesting, and forest management. The SFMA inside Baxter has become a quintessential showplace for sustainable forestry practice.
The SFMA has proved the possibility and the benefit of long-term forest management. And so, it has become an inspiration to people in Maine and other states. And luckily, the next generation of Maine will continue to benefit from this gift.
Location of SFMA in Baxter
If you are planning a trip to Baxter to enjoy its pure wilderness and get worried after reading about the SFMA, don’t be!… The primary purpose of Baxter is still forest and wildlife preservation.
For this reason, only 14% (about 120 km2) of the Park was converted into SFMA. This area locates in Township 6, Ranges 9 & 10, and the northwest part of the Park.
If you are interested in forestry, you can hike the SFMA via three trails: Freezeout, Wadleigh Brook and Frost Pond. That means you know which routes to avoid if you just want your time with Mother Nature.
The terrain condition in SFMA is quite different from other mountainous parts in Baxter. Here, rolling terrain is prevalent. A small part of the SFMA (6%) consists of half of Webster Lak, four average-sized ponds, and Webster stream. Green forest with soft- and hardwood covers the vast rest.
When traversing in the SFMA, you will be amazed at the scenery. Here in the SFMA, human logging activities and natural processes have intermixed peacefully since the 19th century. Under the wonderful Scientific Forest Management program.
You might wonder if the Scientific Forest Management is so beneficial to humans and forests, why not all forests in the world are under this managing style?
It’s not easy and requires a lot of effort constantly for a long time. So, how is Baxter State Park doing with its SFMA?
Management Goals of the SFMA
From the start, Baxter already had a clear vision. It aims at using scientific and sensitive methods to:
- Grow a valuable forest that produces forest products of high quality.
- Improve the health and diversity of the forest landscape.
These two final goals go hand in hand. And under no circumstances the commercial value of the forest is placed higher than the health of nature. On its journey, the Park Authority has been working with Percival Baxterâ€™s Deeds of Trust to run the SFMA effectively.
However, you will notice that changing the shape of forests in a sustainable way takes quite a lot of time. The result of the SFMA might not come into our sight immediately.
Managing forest scientifically requires diligent effort. Diligence isn’t just about working hard. But it’s about working hard in challenge. And the challenge that Baxter is facing with the SFMA is time.
But this shouldn’t be the reason for you to give up hope on Baxter’s vision. Because our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be able to see and receive the benefits of the SFMA the Park is managing right now.
So, at present, the Baxter State Park Authority is walking persistently to its vision by:
- Build a solid foundation for scientific and sensitive forest operations
- Maintain a comprehensive database of forest development
- Promote and educate forestry to people with interest.
Management Methods of the SFMA
Like other parts of Baxter Park, the SFMA is under the control of the Baxter State Park Authority, including the Park Director, Resource Manager, and staff. They are in charge of developing and implementing policies, as well as planning and supervising forest operations.
In fact, they also get help from experts, the SFMA Advisory Committee. These people have assisted the policy development and improvement process with their relevant professional competence.
Forest operations happen around the years. If you hike across the SFMA, you might get a chance to witness scientific cutting and harvesting. Road construction and trail maintenance are also part of the operations.
The management methods of the SFMA in Baxter have been under the scrutiny of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This non-profit organization has promoted forest management with responsibility and sensitivity around the globe.
The FSC has established high standards for forest management. Forestry practices have to satisfy three conditions: responsible to the environment, beneficial to the society while being economical.
Baxter State Park’s SFMA has received the FSC certification. This means that the Park’s management has met the required standards in all three ecological, economic and social areas.
If you want to find out more about the FSC’s certification process, check here: www.fscus.org/faqs/what_is_fsc.php
Besides the FSC, the SFMA of Baxter has also been under the management of the Forest Guild. The Guild is an American organization with similar missions as the FSC.
The Forest Guild also promotes forest practices in ecological, economical, and scientific ways. They will ensure the sustainable and healthy development of the forest ecosystems and human society.
If you already fall in love with Baxter, you will be proud to know that the SFMA of the Park is recognized as a model forest under the Forest Guild. For more information, you can check out the Guild’s site: www.forestguild.org/
Recreation Opportunities in the SFMA
If you plan to visit SFMA of Baxter, you might want to traverse on foot more than using other types of vehicles. Because the roads here are typical forest roads, small and rocky. Also, most of them are only accessible by walking.
Suppose you choose to travel on a vehicle. You can only use the two trunk roads, Brayley Brook Road (11km) and Wadleight Mountain Road (21km). And you will face up more restrictions when it comes to public safety, roads, and resources protection.
When traversing in this area, try to pay attention to the signs. They basically tell you the story about SFMA’s forest management in Baxter. And they also inform you of what’s going on with the management activities right now. Use the information widely to your benefit.
Usually, timber harvest happens around the year, except April. So, expect to meet a log truck while hiking the SFMA trails. You don’t have to worry about your safety as the truck travels at only 32 km per hour. However, if you want to stay away from modern technology, you will want to choose trails outside the SFMA.
Don’t think of SFMA as a dull area for commercial logging. It’s not. In fact, you can take part in a lot of exciting activities here.
Hunting and trapping
If you like hunting and trapping, the SFMA is one of the two areas in Baxter you can do this. Thanks to the scientific forest management in the SFMA, game species have grown in abundance in the area. Many hunters have come from across the country to the SFMA to take part in hunting activities.
There are a few restrictions. You cannot hunt moose or base animals. Apart from that, you can enjoy the thrilling hunting experience in the wild.
Ice fishing and canoeing
If you visit the SFMA, there are two favorite activities you want to write down on your to-do list: ice fishing and canoeing.
In Webster Lake, you can take part in ice fishing activities while enjoying the peaceful scenery. But if you want something to give you a big thrill, head to Webster Stream and try to canoe in the only white water of the Stream.
If you go for the canoeing on Webster Stream, make sure to book in advance by contacting the Park Headquarters.
In 2004, a section of 7,2 km hiking trail was added in the Frost Pond Trail. You can now follow the 48 km trail to hike from Trout Brook Farm to the top of Wadleigh Mountain and reach the streams and wetlands of the SFMA forest.
On this trail, you can easily find camping sites at Little East, Webster Steam, Webster outlet, Hudson Pond, and Frost Pond. Perfect for an overnight visit to SFMA and Baxter.
And again, if you need more information about the Frost Pond Trail, contact the Park Headquarter.
One very important note to keep in mind is that you have to register at the SFMA entrance to visit the SFMA, regardless of the reason for your visit. And in case this is your first visit to Baxter, you will want to check out the general regulations of the Park. They are pretty distinct.
But here is a summary of essential regulations you need to know. First, overnight camping is only possible with a reservation and at campsites. Second, no overnight roadside camping. And finally, no pet.