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WHIP Projects Assist AGRI

At Owen’s Marsh Restoration Project in Somerset County, Maine, the focus is on healing. As part of American Greenlands Restoration, Inc. (AGRI), the site exemplifies the non-profit organization’s mission: Healing Our World One Forest, One Creature, One Person at a Time.

John Sferazo, AGRI founder, is the force behind an ongoing restoration effort. An iron worker from Long Island, NY, John was a first responder following the 9/11 disaster at the World Trade Center. Inspired by the courage displayed by thousands of emergency responders, law enforcement individuals, and volunteers, as well as military service personnel and their families, AGRI was set up to restore and assist those who suffer both mentally and physically as a result of their service.

Consisting of approximately 775 acres, a portion of the Owen’s Marsh Restoration Project was once an asphalt plant, the forest had poor harvesting practices, and sand and gravel were mined on a portion of the property. Now a nature and game preserve, the land provides a retreat for first responders and disabled vets, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you were to tour the site it would offer an opportunity to learn how specific conservation practices benefit wildlife. Forest stand improvement, planting conservation cover, bird nesting boxes, successional mowing, and cover crops are of particular interest, which were contracted and implemented in FY 2010 through the NRCS Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. Total cost of these projects was approximately $15,000.

According to Kevin White, NRCS District Conservationist in Somerset County, “The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program was a perfect fit to assist AGRI with their conservation goals. It’s very gratifying to be part of this project.”

In FY 2011, through funding from the WHIP New England/New York Forestry Initiative, habitat for the American woodcock will be created, which are identified as a species of concern. Projects will include creating open spaces where woodcock will be able to roost, nest, feed and rear their young. This early successional habitat will mature and will be used for different activities by the woodcock. Eighty acres are scheduled to be converted to open areas. Additionally, eroded woods roads will be graded and seeded for stabilization and their edges planted to Red oak. The grassed-in roads will also be used by the woodcock for roosting and mating habitat. Estimated costs for these projects total $100,000.

Early successional habitat is not only used by woodcock, but by more than fifty other species of wildlife.

Other partners working with AGRI include: Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Somerset County SWCD, Unity College, American Chestnut Foundation, Renegade Wheel Chairs, and Digital Spirit Media.