This I know to be true… The emergence of beauty comes from immersion, when we step deeper into the woods and waters, where we sense and feel the beauty around us and within us being humanly alive.

Roger Merchant ’63

In 1961, Paul Smith’s College opened a door for me. I wasn’t strong in read or lecture, but I was a climber for an arborist, so the hands-on experiential learning in forestry worked for me. Learning to play guitar in Dorm I and at The Shamrock, that opened me up too. Nowadays people ask what I studied, I tell them, “Majored in Forestry, minored in Rock ’n’ Roll.”

My life has been an interesting journey since Paul Smith’s. After getting my BSF from UMaine in 1965, I managed forestry operations on 100,000 acres of timberland in eastern Maine. Like PSC, I learned a lot out in the field from other foresters and skilled woodsmen, practicing sustainable forestry before sustainable became in-vogue. As a Woodstock graduate, I got caught up in the social-cultural revolution of the time. In 1974, I earned an MSW in Social Work and Community Development from West Virginia University. Over the 70’s I worked in a variety of social work and mental health capacities, working with kids in rural Kentucky. By 1980 I was wrangling out another experiential life-map. How was I to integrate my forestry and community development skills and assets?

I landed a position with UMaine Cooperative Extension in Piscataquis County. Bingo! This was the perfect fit for my base of diverse interests in people, community and environment. Over the next 30 years, I launched county-based programs in woodlot management, environmental education, outdoor leadership and adventure education, small business, community development and nature-based tourism. I found public service to be highly fulfilling. It’s a gift to be able to listen and understand, to work with people on their problems and solutions. I guess you could call me a social forester and educator.

 

Retired since 2013, I’m active with the Maine legislature on public lands issues. I’ve protected two significant stands of old growth forest. As an accomplished nature and rural life photographer in central Maine, I’m currently working on a forest change documentation project. My stock photography base includes nature, wildflowers, forests, waterscapes, wildlife, railroads, rural life and landscapes east and west. You can view some of my work at www.rogermerchant.com. The forest change documentation project is on Facebook: The 1942-2016 Forest.

As always, I’m active with the outdoors, canoeing, backpacking, snowshoeing, camping with my grand-kids, writing songs and doing open-mic. Not bad for a 73 year old; “You make me want to shout – just can’t keep a good man down – rockin’ in the free world kind of guy.”

Looking back, I owe heartfelt thanks to Paul Smith’s College for opening the door and taking a chance on me. Back then in 1961, that open door made some good difference to a much younger guy trying to find his way out into this world.

–Roger Merchant ’63, Forestry

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