He had made his way over many miles. Along the broad, flat expanse of frozen river, through an old-growth forest to this south-facing slope. Now the winter sun glistens on the powdery snow that covers this small meadow, as he waits beneath the cover of a young spruce. Moments of intense stillness pass, a hush like a suspension of time found only in true wilderness. Then a snowshoe hare appears, itself in search of a morning meal. In a flash the lynx pounces, and soon nature’s orchestra of whispers is once again all that can be heard.
An adult male Canadian lynx needs a home range of 14,000 acres. But these can’t be just any acres. Connectivity matters. Notoriously shy and elusive, the lynx needs a broad swath of continuous forest in order to survive.
Soon after The Nature Conservancy acquired the St. John River Forest, it learned that the area was home to the first known breeding population of endangered Canada lynx in Maine. The sheer size of the area, and the habitat types found there, make it suitable territory for the shy, beautiful lynx.
Because the area is so large and the Conservancy’s ecological data on the site so extensive, the St. John River Forest offers valuable research opportunities. For example, the Conservancy and the University of Maine have partnered on a Canada lynx and American marten research project in the Forest. One of the key issues confronting industry, government and conservation interests in the North Woods is the future of the federally threatened Canada lynx in Maine. This research will lay the groundwork for industry and conservation interests to work collaboratively around this issue in the future.
The first phase of the project is to develop long-term habitat condition maps for these two bellwether species within the St. John Forest. From there, forest management approaches that support the species’ habitat needs will be developed. Finally, the environmental benefits and economic impacts of applying these approaches within the Conservancy’s own forestry program and lands will be determined.
“In the same way we demonstrate the viability of an FSC-certified forest,” says Bill Patterson, the Conservancy’s Northern Maine program manager, “we will have the opportunity to test and demonstrate forestry methods that support these critical species.”March 14, 2013