In late September, North Haven residents and boaters who were enjoying summer-like weather in the heart of Penobscot Bay suddenly experienced scenes of Calderwood Island going up in flames. Not to worry, everything was under control. Thanks to the watchful eyes and expertise of the Maine Forest Service, with assistance from MCHT staff, the island was undergoing its third successful prescribed burn in four years.
A popular picnic spot, Calderwood Island is a 75-acre MCHT preserve lined with attractive beaches and surrounded by breathtaking views. This once treeless expanse also enjoys a network of trails that in recent decades have been impacted by a dense, growing canopy of juniper.
The prescribed burns have removed the unwanted shrubs and allowed native grasses and flowers to recolonize the island's historic meadows. This more inviting landscape for visitors has also been welcomed by the island's vole population, which in turn has attracted predators including great horned owls.
Maine Forest Service personnel, who have played an integral role overseeing all three of the island's burns, have ensured safe and effective operations throughout. More importantly for the state, these professional firefighters have honed their skills on Calderwood as they prepare to battle future fires in the Maine woods.
An additional burn is planned for 2015, but in the meantime MCHT has also employed the services of three sheep, affectionately named Cracker, Jack, and Barrel. The trio were recently moved to the island and have been feasting on the expanding field. Their grazing habits will hopefully stifle future juniper expansion, keeping the meadow open while minimizing the need for future fires.