The Last Sanctuaries of Skowhegan Under Attack
By 2023 MCHT Richard G. Rockefeller Conservation Intern Ayden Grimm
This summer, I’ve had the privilege of interning for the Somerset Woods Trustees and have had the opportunity to work in and experience the beauty and serenity of many of their preserves throughout Skowhegan and Madison, Maine.
These preserves represent the last parcels of land in this region of Maine that are capable of supporting native flora and fauna that otherwise wouldn’t exist here. The Somerset Woods properties boast native plants and animals from rare Asters and nearly extinct native grasses to enormous stands of brown and white Ash trees, as well as a biodiversity of native wildflowers that are key to the life cycles of countless vital organisms. These ecosystems support countless native animals, from the spotted salamanders and wood frogs that reside in vernal pools to organisms like Moose and Black Bears who have been known to romp around and forage in many of our properties.
The unfortunate and daunting problem, though, that all land trusts in Maine are now facing, is an unstoppable, unfathomably overwhelming wave of invasive species moving up the state. Walls of Bittersweet is overtaking everything in its path. The trees that once grew below its thick vines’ now dead and indistinguishable from one another. Stands of Buckthorn growing taller than many trees. Meadows infested with bedstraw and garlic mustard creating enormous monocultures incapable of supporting native wildlife. River banks and flood plains surrounded by looming bushes of Honeysuckle, no native plants to be seen. This is a terrifying reality.
While Somerset Woods is the oldest land trust in Maine, dating all the way back to 1927, it is also one of the sm allest, with just one employee, Jennifer Brockway, who works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. Jennifer and a dedicated board of trustees as well as volunteer caretakers, are responsible for keeping these sanctuaries ecologically and aesthetically immaculate. Not only are most of these sublime properties located in or near Downtown Skowhegan or Madison, but they are also incredibly accessible and have been crafted to appeal to individuals from the most avid hikers and backpackers to families looking to go for an afternoon walk.
Not what could potentially happen in the future, but what is happening right now. This isn’t an educational piece of writing but a call to action. This is an appeal to anyone who loves the natural world and doesn’t want to lose the wonder and biodiversity of the woods or the congregations of butterflies and bees that sip from our beautiful wildflowers when they bloom.
This blog post is a last-ditch effort to reach the countless individuals who don’t know of this situation and to ask for help. There is only one way to stop these invasive species from spreading, and it starts with volunteering and learning. It can be as simple as removing or reporting the invasives you see. To make a real difference, though, reach out to Somerset Woods Trustees or your own local land trust and offer your help, even just spend a few hours pulling invasives. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to ensure we don’t lose the biodiversity that makes our natural world so magical.
More Stories from the Coast
Nature has its ways of announcing transition. Winterberries and woolly bears for one are great indicators that fall has arrived. And as fall transitions to winter, MCHT nature bum Kirk Gentalen is excited to encounter the occasional frozen (hibernating) woolly bear and persistent winterberries holding onto their red—the only splash of color in a barren grey winter landscape—for months to come!
By 2023 MCHT Richard G. Rockefeller Conservation Intern Sadie Woodruff My name is Sadie Woodruff, and I am a rising sophomore at Wesleyan University, studying environmental science and biology. I graduated from Camden Hills in 2022 and have lived in Camden for the last eight years. I applied to many internships for this summer, not…
A writer and her young daughter explore a city park near their home.
Angela Twitchell, Land Trust Program Director, shares insights from her tenure as the Executive Director of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.
In a changing climate, protecting connected woods and waters becomes increasingly important to help plants and animals survive.