Capturing local history is often an important goal of land stewardship.
I was going to post on this topic yesterday, but I wanted to sit back and digest some of the points being made. Now, after having thought some more on this subject I have to say that I still have mixed feelings on this thread . . . a very stimulating thread incidentally.
On one hand, one side of me says that the moss should not be disturbed. I like the idea of keeping the area as pristine as possible and believe that the moss covering the rock is just part of the cyclical nature of nature . . . i.e. wooden structures eventually rot and return to the earth, stone foundations eventually are covered in debris, etc. I also think about geocaching and their guidelines which suggests to not leave a trace and disturbing this area would certainly leave a trace . . . exposing the area to me sounds like it would fly in the face of geocaching's guidelines.
On the other hand I agree with posters who say that we do similar acts all of the time . . . anytime we put out a cache and a geo-trail is established inevitably we have disturbed nature, when we move rocks to cover up a cache better we have disturbed nature, when we pile up a bunch of sticks to hide a cache we have disturbed nature, etc. (although arguably not to the point of moving all the moss). I also think about how we humans are always disturbing nature by creating walking trails, snowmobile trails, ATV trails, etc. . . and I weigh this fact against the opportunity to more easily bring people out to a scenic area or a historical area that might be easily forgotten if not for these trails, geocaching, etc.
Like BrDad I wonder when moss became such a revered plant . . . I mean we're not talking about a rare and endangered plant here and with careful removal the moss could be reestablished nearby. Not to get into a philosophical discussion about how some flora and fauna might be "ranked" more important than others . . .
However, as much as I think it would be enjoyable to see such a historical object, I am of the same opinion as VicBiker when he questions how such a place could be allowed to be over-grown. The situation may be different in downeast Maine, but I know around here areas like this would not be allowed to be reclaimed by nature . . . areas such as plane crashes often have trails to them, old mill sites are often frequented . . . even places that are remote such as the Chamberlain Lake Railroad cars have not been forgotten and the Ice Cave (when I last visited it) still had a footpath to it. While trees and plants may grow up in these areas, you can still see these areas . . . while it is possible that such an area as this compass may have been left to become over-grown I am quite surprised as the nature of man is to visit areas such as this and keep such an area exposed . . . people will inevitably trample down small seedlings, others might inadvertently break off a branch as they pass by, still others might purposefully cut back an area to keep nature at bay in some cases. It is possible of course that such an area could have been forgotten and the compass covered up in time however and so I say that it is indeed possible that such a site could be forgotten and lost to time, memory and nature.
I guess for me the one over-whelming concern is that while the history-lover in me would love nothing better than to see one of these compasses personally, the practical side of me would hate to see the area all torn up. In time memory fades . . . and in time even marks made into stone may fade . . . I would hate to attempt to expose this compass only to find out that it is no longer there or is no longer visible or is not where one suspected it to be . . . a risk to be sure.
If this were me I think the first thing I would do is contact the owner/steward of this land and get their opinion . . . you may find out that they too know exactly where this spot is and think it would be a good idea to expose it again, to get folks to check out this scenic and historical area . . . or they might flat out tell you that they would never allow the removal of the moss.
Another possible alternative is to see if any landowners nearby with one of these other compasses might be willing to allow geocachers to see the compass on their property . . . giving others the ability to see an unique part of the downeast heritage.
I come here to praise and admire how articulate firefighterjake is.