Historically, a woodlot was a parcel of private forest that could be managed to provide a landowner with firewood, building materials, and timber for sale. Owning and managing a working woodlot used to be a necessity of farm life, especially in northern forested regions; it was part of a self-sustaining style of existence, and income for farmers during the winter. Timber harvesting still occurs in modern woodlots, but more commonly these small wooded tracts are maintained for nature lovers and wild animals to enjoy. Woodlots can be small or large, from ten to one thousand acres, and typically include a variety of different kinds of trees, distinguishing them from monoculture plantations. A healthy woodlot is a forest ecosystem. Henry David Thoreau comments in The Maine Woods that in the mid–nineteenth century the tamed woodlots of Massachusetts were a far cry from the wild forests of Maine. In Maine, he writes, “you are never reminded that the wilderness in which you are threading is, after all, some villager’s familiar wood-lot, some widow’s thirds, from which her ancestors have sledded fuel for generations, minutely described in some old deed which is recorded, of which the owner has got a plan, too, and old bound-marks may be found every forty rods, if you will search.”

Gretchen Legler