An Oral History Place Attachment Project: Understanding the Changing Forest Landscape through the Eyes of Maine’s Oldest Citizens
NSRC researchers turned to Maine’s oldest residents to understand changes in the Northern Forest over their lifetimes. Researchers presented the wisdom shared by these senior citizens to local organizations and government agencies to inform sustainable development of resource-based industries, aspects of quality of life in the future, and importance of collecting local and regional oral history.
Researchers focused on the Kennebec Watershed area of Maine because of the historic, cultural, and scenic value of the river, 90 percent forested landscape, lumbering and working forest history, and drastic changes over the past 50 years. Researchers interviewed 22 of the oldest citizens, ranging in age from 75 to 105, in 21 towns. Seventeen residents were born and raised in Maine, and five moved to Maine during their lifetimes. Interviewers collected descriptions of participants’ experiences, changes witnessed in the forest overtime, and the meaning of the forested landscape to them.
For these long-lived residents, attachment to place remained high throughout the life course. With age, dependence on place decreased and place identity (meaning and significance of place) increased, regardless of birth location. Nearly all participants were concerned with sustainability of the forest landscape. Concerns included intensified timber harvesting, declines in wildlife populations, increased parceling and development of forest lands, loss of manufacturing jobs, and positive perceptions of windmills. Longtime residents embrace new technology, logging activity or wind power, but not at the expense of jobs or quality and diversity of the woods.