Loss Of Board Chairman, Kerry Hebert

It is with heavy hearts that we at the SCSWCD say goodbye to our friend and board chairman, Kerry Hebert.

Kerry passed away unexpectedly on November 14, 2017.

Kerry volunteered to be on the District board back in 1999. He served as a faithful member for several years and then accepted the position of chairman back in 2002. Throughout the years, Kerry has been a true steward of conservation, both in his own work as a consulting forester and as a representative for the District.

He was a mentor and friend to District staff. As employees, we could not have asked for a better or more supportive supervisor. Though busy with the demands of family life and his own business, Mt. Hunger Forestry, he was always available to listen and advise and ready to pitch in and help when he was needed.

Kerry had a wealth of conservation knowledge and experience which served the board and the District in many endeavors. He truly cared about the land and the people of Somerset County. For so many years, he lead the way for the District to provide assistance to local landowners, helping them work their land using best management practices to sustain and protect our natural resources. He was quick to endorse and facilitate a wide variety of conservation projects undertaken by District staff.

Kerry always brought his all to District activities, and not one meeting went by when we didn’t all share a laugh over one of his humorous stories or comments.

We as District Staff and board members will never forget our friend, mentor and colleague. Kerry will be sadly missed.


Critical Bobolink Fledging Week!

Bobolink nestlings brought to Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Freedom Monday July 3, 2017

These adorable little bobolink nestlings were brought in to Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center  this morning after being found in a field that was being mowed. 




Landowners please take note: This week is a critical week for our bobolink nestlings!  It is very likely that many young bobolinks will be fledging from their ground nests in fields by the end of this week, so for people managing hayfields, if it is possible to leave as yet un-mowed fields standing for the rest of the week, it could make all the difference for bobolink nestling survival! 

Bobolinks are an iconic sight and sound each spring in the fields and meadows of Maine. They are known for their joyous, bubbling song.  Unfortunately, the population of these beautiful and beneficial birds has been in a steady and precipitous decline for decades.  The bobolink appears on the State of the Birds 2014 Watchlist of bird species most in need of conservation action.  Here in Maine, the reason there is habitat for these birds at all is because of our farms and agricultural landscape.  However, to optimize forage quality, most hayfields are cut at least once during the nesting timeframe (June – mid July), which results in total nest failure, a pattern that plays out across the northeast each summer.  This year a wonderful group of farmers across central Maine has been working with The Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District’s  Ag Allies project to delay mowing on some productive bobolink fields from Starks to Damariscotta.  For these farmers to make room in their already complex forage management programs is nothing short of inspirational.  We as a society need to recognize and support these local farmers who are not only providing us with quality food and fiber, but also with conservation and maintenance of critical habitat for our birds and other wildlife.

 Stay tuned for more information on our farmers and landowners that were part of the Ag Allies program this year.  Meantime, you can learn more about the program at our Ag Allies tab of the web page.

It is nesting season! Bobolink Walk and Talk events for June

Photo by Laura Suomi-Lecker, bobolink male

Here are two exciting opportunities to see, hear and learn about one of Maine’s most iconic grassland birds.

Damariscotta – Thursday, June 15th, at 9 A.M.

Come enjoy the birds!  You are invited to take a guided morning walk through a beautiful bobolink habitat that is now being managed for nesting grassland birds at Damariscotta River Association’s (DRA) Great Salt Bay Farm.  Walk will be lead by DRA’s Jesse Ferreria, and Laura Suomi-Lecker, manager of  the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District’s grassland bird Agricultural Allies program on June 15 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM.  Press Release – Nesting Grassland Bird Walk with DRA.

South Thomaston – Friday, June 16th, at 10 A.M.

The public is invited to take a walk through a thriving bobolink habitat recently protected by Georges River Land Trust! Laura Suomi-Lecker, Technical Director for Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Education and Outreach Coordinator for Avian Haven Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, will join the Land Trust on Friday, June 16 at 10 a.m. in South Thomaston to discuss the needs and issues facing grassland birds and best management practices to help them.  Press Release – GLT Grassland Bird Walk




The District is currently taking orders for the spring trout sale. The order form can be found here, 2017 Trout Sale Form, or picked up at our office at 70 East Madison Road in Skowhegan. Orders must be received by Tuesday, May 9th and trout pick up will be Saturday, May 13th. Please call our office at (207) 474-8324 x 3 for additional information.

Managing a Small Parcel for Wood & Wildlife – Workshop

Managing a Small Parcel for Wood and Wildlife, back by popular demand!

Saturday, April 22nd in Temple Maine, from 9 a.m. to noon

 The April event of the Upper Kennebec Valley chapter of the Maine Woodlands will be held at the woodlot of Chuck Hulsey in Temple.  Chuck is a regional wildlife biologist with the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (and a forester) and has been managing this wooded nine-acre home site very intensively for the past 18 years.  His focus has been wildlife, aesthetics, and timber. The property was part of a much larger parcel which was once a field but planted to red pine in 1962.  The previous owner conducted a light thinning in 1982.

Part of the property had a significant amount of hardwood volunteer into the area planted to red pine.  Most is firewood quality, though some is of high quality.  Chuck will cover what to cut for the woodstove, and what should be retained for high quality saw timber in both the near and long term. You’ll learn the difference between a weeding, a thinning, and a regeneration cut.

We will also see and discuss cavity and snag tree management for wildlife, plus the management for future hard mast trees. There will be examples of techniques for propagation of natural cavities and snags, as well as the use of nest boxes. Nearly 60 species of wildlife in Maine need snags or cavity trees.

 BONUS!!! There might be prizes, there was last year!

Directions:     From Farmington—Take Rt. 43 to Temple.  Go just past the Temple Town Office (brown shingles) located on the right, then turn left on the Varnum Pond Road.  The home and property is on the right, 1.9 miles after the turn onto the Varnum Pond Road.  Because there is not enough room to park in the driveway, park on the right side of the road, starting at the driveway.  There are four mailboxes opposite the driveway which are in sequence: green, blue, black, and black.  Number 391 is on the green mailbox.  There will be a SWOAM sign marking the starting point to start parking.  Parking should be on the right side of the road only.  Use the driveway only to turn around. There is also a bus turnout 100 yards on the left before the mailboxes which is useful for turning around.

 From East Wilton—-Take the Temple Road until you reach the Varnum Pond Road.  Turn left onto the Varnum Pond Road.  Go approximately 1.5 miles until you see the four mailboxes on the left—or parked cars on the right.

 From Washington Township— Starting somewhere from Rt. 156, park your vehicle then start hiking due east, four very difficult miles through the woods, then over Varnum Mountain to the western end of the Varnum Pond Road. There is no trail.

 Coffee and doughnuts will be served up the driveway in Chuck’s garage.  This event is open to all and free to all, and no need to pre-register, just show up!  Any questions contact Patty Cormier at 592-2238 or patty.cormier@maine.gov.


Somerset County Local Working Group Meeting

Thursday December 15, 2016 at 1:30pm

Somerset County USDA Service Center

 70 East Madison Road, Skowhegan ME  04976

The meeting will be hosted by the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District. The public is encouraged to attend.

The Local Working Group is composed of those interested in agriculture, private forests, wetlands, and wildlife within Somerset County. The group provides information, assistance, and recommendations to the District Conservationist of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on local natural resource priorities and criteria for matters relating to the implementation and technical aspects of conservation programs funded under the USDA Farm Bill.

On behalf of the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, we hope you will be able to attend this meeting.

 Call (207) 474-8324 ext.3 with questions or for more information

Upcoming Forestry Workshops at the Yankee Woodlot

Yankee Woodlot Workshop Series

The Yankee Woodlot is a state owned Demonstration Forest located in Skowhegan behind the UMaine Cooperative Extension – Somerset Office located at 7 County Drive. From November 2016 through May 2017 a series of forestry workshops will be conducted by the Maine Forest Service, Somerset County Soil & water Conservation District, and the UMaine Cooperative Extension – Somerset Office and sponsored by the local chapter of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. These workshops are centered around a timber harvest occurring on the property and are designed to educate woodland owners (current and future) with their own management activities.

All workshops are free and there is no need to preregister.

Each workshop with a brief description are listed below. For more information please contact either Joe Dembeck (Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District) at email: joseph.dembeck@me.nacdnet.net / phone – 207-474-8324 or Patty Cormier (Maine Forest Service) at email: patty.cormier@maine.gov / phone – 207-592-2238

Workshop #1Tape, Paint and Signs (Pre-Harvest Marking) (November 20th from 9:00am – 12:00pm)

                This workshop will focus on the methods and reasons behind marking of boundary lines, roadways, landings, waterway boundaries, trees to harvest, sites to protect, etc. prior to any harvest activities. We always hear about the importance of planning and communication amongst all parties (landowner, forester, and logger) in any forest management activity and there are many reasons for that.

Workshop #2Harvest Planning (Think Before You Cut) (December 11th from 9:00am – 12:00pm)

This workshop will continue on the planning process with focus on: harvest goal selection, trail & landing planning, selection of logger/harvest equipment, invasive plants (mapping and treatment), resources to protect, and the continued crucial role of communication amongst all parties.

Workshop #3Harvest (The Change Begins) (January 29, 2017 from 10:00am to 1:00pm)

                The trees are falling and wood is being trucked away. Tour the harvest area and learn about what types of wood products are at the landing and to what markets they are destined for.

Workshop #4After the Harvest  (early May 2017)

                Come see what the woodlands look like after the harvest is complete. Though the logging is over, now is the time to start implementing post-harvest management strategies! Discussions will focus on treatment of invasive plant species, regeneration expectations over the next 5, 10, 20+ years, BMPs for roads and landings, wildlife habitat changes, and record keeping.


Parasite Control in Ruminants

Cattle, goats and sheep are a few ruminants commonly seen around pastures in Maine. A ruminant is an animal that has a highly efficient digestive system that extracts nutrients from plants via fermentation prior to digestion. You may notice that these animals often have their head down in the grass doing what they do best… grazing.

Potential parasite infection is an issue that needs regular attention for managing healthy livestock. Often, the approach of parasite control is treatment rather than prevention. In the spring rush, livestock are sometimes put onto pasture with little forethought regarding the presence of parasites within the herd or in the pasture.  Decreased carcass quality, weakened immune system and a lower profit margin are some of the effects of parasites. Studies have shown that parasites negatively affect beef cattle gains up to 48lb during a grazing season.

The brown stomach worm (Ostertagia ostertagi), barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) and bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus axei) are just a few parasitic worms found in Maine cattle, goats and sheep.  Whether these parasites are multi-species or species specific, they are transferred to the host in the same manner. After being deposited in the manure (up to 10,000 eggs a day are spread this way), the eggs or cysts of parasites take 4-6 days to develop into infective larvae. With aid from water (irrigation, rain, dew), the larvae move upwards approximately 4” above the ground surface to the leaves and stems of plants where they wait to be swallowed by a grazing animal.

If your herd/flock is exhibiting signs of a parasitic infection including weight loss, diarrhea, and abdominal pain (although these signs are not always or initially present) then deworming is necessary. Dewormers are used for the treatment and control of internal parasites and there are several types available. Pour on, injectable and orally administered forms of dewormer are available at feed stores or through a veterinarian. The presence of parasites in animals can be confirmed or dismissed by a fecal float test, performed by a veterinarian. However, some producers may choose to administer dewormers profilactically. By repeated use of the same type of dewormer on an entire herd/flock, one is selecting for parasites which are resistant.


Dave Scott, NCAT livestock specialist, has found that a good rule of thumb when approaching parasitic treatment is “20% of the animals carry 80% of the parasites”. A proven way to prevent parasite resistance from developing is by creating “refugia”. Refugia are an isolated population of organisms that remain. For example, if a producer was to treat an entire cattle herd, then only the resistant parasites are left to reproduce and repopulate within the herd. However, if that producer were to treat only the sickest animals and leave the remaining animals untreated, a refugia of parasites which are not resistant will remain. If parasite populations become evident one more, then select only the sickest animals for a second treatment. This will promote a majority population of parasites that are susceptible to dewormer, as opposed to creating a parasite population that is entirely resistant to a specific dewormer.

Another option that can be used with or without dewormer is grazing management. Having a grazing plan in place before the growing season provides a framework from which you can make adjustments as needed. A good rotational grazing plan includes moving animals frequently enough that they are not grazing to a height where parasites are present (4”) and a rest/ recovery period of at least 30 days.  Rest/recovery period is adjusted based on the plant species you are managing for and the parasite cycles you are trying to break. To avoid the larval stage of these parasites, paddock size can be adjusted so that animals are moved every 4 days. When following a good rotational grazing plan, dewormer use is expected to decrease, oftentimes significantly.

Proper grazing management is based on balancing your animals, plants and goals. Here is a real life example of a sheep rancher who had to adjust his grazing plan to meet his goal of parasite reduction: The rancher was trying to reduce worm pressure via rotational grazing in his 230 ewe flock. He came up with a grazing system where the sheep moved back onto a paddock after it had 20 days rest, but he did not see any parasitic reduction. He then looked into the particular parasite affecting his sheep (barber pole worm) and discovered those populations near their maximum at day 20! He then adjusted the rest period to 30-35 days, and has seen a significant reduction in worms. The producer has reduced dewormer use by 84% and increased lamb average daily gain an average of 0.63lb/day. His net profit has increased as a result of increased average daily gain and reduced wormer costs.

Points to Remember:

  • Incorporating grazing management into an operation will provide economic return
  • Maintain grazing heights of 4” or greater
  • Move animals to a new paddock before parasites enter infectious stage
  • Allow parasites to complete their life cycle and die before regrazing
  • Know what you are treating before you select a dewormer
  • Selective use of dewormer will induce less parasitic resistance

In summary, every parasite control scenario is different and must be addressed individually. The effectiveness and economic return of each option varies with the herd, weather, available resources and managers’ goals.

Stop in to the Skowhegan NRCS office and speak with Ron or Nick if you would like to learn about grazing management or look at alternative ways of managing your operation for increased animal, plant and environmental health.

Soil Sampling

This time of year many farmers are thinking about harvest. It’s also a good time to evaluate crop performance versus input costs and consider adjustments you might want to make for next year.  Managing nutrients are one important factor to consider in optimizing plant and soil health.  Although nutrients come in many different forms they can sometimes be over applied and end up degrading water quality and hurting the bottom line of the business.  In other cases insufficient nutrients are available to carry the crop through and as a result diminished crop yields and/or quality also can impact the bottom line of the business.

Soil testing, nutrient management and cover crops are three tools that can help you make the most of your nutrient dollars while improving soil health and setting the stage for the improved crop performance for the next growing season.

Soil Testing… A routine soil test is a tool to help you manage the mineral nutrition of your growing plants. It is a quick and inexpensive way to check the levels of essential soil nutrients. You simply take a sample of your soil and send it to a lab for analysis.  Homeowners, farmers, and others often test soil from their gardens, yards, and fields. The soil tests indicate soil pH and the levels of nutrients that are available for plant growth.  A soil test lets you know whether you need to add more nutrients and how much lime and fertilizer, if any, to add. Test results provide information that can save you money and prevent water pollution.

Nutrient management… Nutrient Management is the science or practice of providing appropriate soil fertility sources to fields for crop and forage production. It consists of managing the amount, source, placement (method of application), and timing of plant nutrients and soil amendments. Nutrient Management is based upon Soils Testing. Soils Test results indicate the current fertility state of a given field. University recommendations based upon these results tell a producer approximately how much of each of the major plant nutrients are needed for optimum plant production.

Cover Crop…Think of cover crops not as the end of this growing season but the start of the next one. Cover crops can effectively reduce erosion, while increasing soil organic matter. However, most pertinent to this discussion is the fact that cover crops can also effectively scavenge any remaining soil nutrients before they are lost by leaching. With the high cost of inputs it becomes more important to find ways to conserve fertilizer and/or reduce the need for commercial fertilizers. Using cover crops enhances nutrient recycling by taking up nutrients that would otherwise leach out of the soil profile and potentially end up in the groundwater and local lakes and streams.

If you need soil test boxes, help in interpreting your soil results or cover crop recommendations please stop by the Somerset County NRCS office and ask to speak to Ron, Nick or Laura.

Local Dairy Farm Conserves Grassland Bird Habitat!

 Gerald and Dean Paine

Gerald and Dean Paine

In a first-time partnership effort, Paine Dairy Farm in Madison collaborated with the Somerset County Soil and Water Conservation District this summer to conserve approximately 30 acres of active hayland as grassland bird habitat.  Paine farm is run by Dean Paine, his wife, Juanita, and two sons Josh and Jacolby.  Dean worked alongside his farther, Gerald Paine, for many years before taking over the operation.  The farm was started by the widowed and gutsy Elsie Dunlap Stoutamyer as a homestead and sheep/lamb operation in 1920.  Elsie’s granddaughter, Virginia, and her new husband Gerald took over the farm in 1955, running it predominantly as a chicken broiler operation.  It was converted to a dairy farm in 1984.  Today the Paine farm encompasses over 200 acres, milks 100 cows and is steward for an additional 300 acres of land in the surrounding community.

In return for an incentive payment to help offset loss in forage quality, Dean consented to delay mowing on a particularly productive parcel of active bobolink habitat at the end of June.  This was a significant conservation effort, and resulted in the fledging of at least 30 bobolink youngsters. Bobolink family groups were up and about by the weekend of July 9th, gliding over the grassland, hunting for insects and making their joyous calls. In addition to hosting bobolinks, the field was likely nesting grounds for savannah and other sparrows.  Incentive funds were provided by the Davis Conservation Foundation for the Somerset County District’s Agricultural Allies program, an outreach and education project intended to encourage safe nesting habitat for grassland birds.

Recently fledged juvenile bobolink

Recently fledged juvenile bobolink

Bobolinks are a historic sight and sound each spring in the fields and meadows of Maine. In addition to being a delight to see and hear, bobolinks and other grassland birds are true agricultural allies to central Maine farmers as these birds consume large quantities of both insect pests and weed seeds each growing season.  Unfortunately, the population of these beneficial birds has been in a steady and precipitous decline since the 1960s, according to the State of the Birds 2014 (www.stateofthebirds.org) report.  The bobolink appears on their Watchlist of bird species most in need of conservation action.  Here in Maine, the reason there is habitat for these birds at all is because of our agricultural landscape.  Unfortunately, however, most hayfields are cut at least once during the nesting timeframe (end of May – mid July), which results in total nestling mortality, a pattern that plays out across the northeast.

Paine’s delay in mowing was the key to survival for this large group of bobolink nestlings.  The willingness of the Paine family to work with the District on this issue was a tangible and significant benefit for the grassland birds of central Maine.

It is not only farmers who can help grassland birds, however.  “Everyone can have a hand in helping these birds”, says Laura Suomi-Lecker, Technical Director for Somerset County SWCD.  “If we as the general public could leave grass areas un-mowed until August 1st, including letting some lawn area ‘go natural’, we could help create non-competitive grasslands for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.”  Reducing manicured lawn in favor of meadow creation not only benefits wildlife, but it saves time, fuel and money for landowners, making it a true win-win situation.

We encourage people to contact the Somerset County SWCD (at 474-8324 x 3; www.somersetswcd.org ) to find out other ways that they can get involved with this critical conservation effort.