Beginning with Habitat


Local Strategies for Conservation

1. Local Conservation Planning | 2. Outreach/Public Information | 3. Local Regulations | 4. Land Protection Measures | 5. Regional Coordination

1. Local Conservation Planning

  • Create and/or update your town's comprehensive plan so it properly plans for growth, conservation of fish, wildlife, and plant habitat, and recreation. This Beginning with Habitat notebook includes data, habitat protection strategies, and information on conservation organizations and local land trusts to be incorporated into the comprehensive plan. Work with state agencies, conservation organizations, and land trusts to use available data to create a landscape vision for your town.
  • As you update your comprehensive plan look at existing and proposed growth areas.
  • Many towns are now being forced to develop additional growth areas. Do these areas conflict with the identified resources? Are the growth areas extending into large undeveloped blocks of habitat? Do you have future road or utility plans for these undeveloped blocks? Many times town infrastructure policies contribute to the fragmentation, degradation and/or destruction of habitat.
  • Inventory all public conservation lands in your town and review the management plans for these properties. Include publicly-owned lands that have conservation potential but are not yet designated as such. Work with local planners, land trusts, and state agencies to evaluate the status of habitat protections and recreational opportunities on these lands and to design corridors that allow species to move freely between habitats, e.g., between riparian and upland habitats.
  • Form a town Conservation Commission if one doesn't already exist. The Conservation Commission can play an active role in managing town-owned open space and creating and implementing an Open Space Plan.
  • Create an Open Space Plan for your town. Work with a local land trust to inventory local parcels of land that could, in combination with other private or public lands, be considered large blocks of habitat. Conduct a public meeting with residents to identify additional areas of natural resources or open space concern. Ask residents to identify those areas in town that are most important to them including additional habitat or rare features not currently mapped, geologic features, historical sites, scenic views, important landscapes, farms, and trail systems.
  • Many times these resources overlap or are linked. Develop a list of conservation focus areas for both the land trust and town to concentrate their efforts.
  • If your town has a Capital Improvement Plan, include a land bank account to be added to annually and spent according to a specific set of guidelines for the acquisition of habitat and open space lands. The conservation commission could select lands for purchase with the expenditure dependent upon approval at town meeting.
  • Consider creating trail corridors that serve wildlife and recreation needs.
  • Create a local planning process to evaluate the accumulated amount of shoreline development as it relates to habitat loss. Design a local conservation strategy that offers an alternative to single lot development of shoreline areas. Meet with town recreation officials, local land trusts and conservation organizations and discuss combining the conservation of riparian habitat with recreational access to water resources.
  • Evaluate opportunities to create greenways and corridors between parcels or add additional lands to create large blocks of protected, high value habitat.
  • If a land trust does not already exist for your town, create one or ask a neighboring land trust to expand its service area.

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2. Outreach/Public Information

  • Conduct an information and outreach effort to inform landowners of the value of riparian habitat, high value plant and animal habitats, and large undeveloped habitat blocks.
  • Develop a database of local property owners who host Significant or Essential Habitat. Create local support systems that supply these landowners with information on habitat retention and improvement. Create local reward and incentive programs for these landowners. Potential local (i.e., town-administered) programs include purchase of development rights, a transfer of development rights program, waiving lot size requirements in exchange for habitat protection, and an "open space" tax reduction program in addition the State-administered Current Use Program.
  • Conduct outreach to landowners who might benefit from a "current use" tax status, such as the Open Space or Tree Growth Tax Programs. Suggest they examine estate and tax planning with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust or an attorney in order to conserve large parcels of land they own.
  • Create a local recognition or reward system for landowners who maintain open space through current use programs.
  • Invite local legislators to tour high value habitats in your town and explain the connection between the habitats and your community's way of life. Talk to them about legislation and policies that would make it easier to conserve the habitats and, therefore, the community's way of life.
  • Provide a list of licensed foresters with a working knowledge of how to manage forests for both habitat and timber.
  • Offer a workshop for forest landowners using Biodiversity in the Forests of Maine: Guidelines for Management, published by the Maine Forest Biodiversity Project, and A Forester's Guide to Managing Wildlife Habitats in Maine, published by UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Chapter of The Wildlife Society.
  • Offer space in the town Annual Report for the local land trust to write a summary of past and planned activities.
  • Conduct a joint mailing from the land trust and the town to landowners of important parcels offering conservation options and services.
  • Invite the local land trust to display newsletters and brochures at the town hall, library, and public events.
  • Make the Beginning with Habitat maps and documentation readily available to the public so they can view them easily and become familiar with the information.

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3. Local Regulations

  • After adoption of the comprehensive plan by your town, form an implementation committee to make any necessary revisions to local regulations. Towns can consider making protection of riparian areas and the integrity of large blocks of habitat part of the design principles encouraged or required in subdivision, site plan review, and other local regulations through the use of buffers, habitat curtains around development, and other means. For example, consider adopting very low density (1 unit per 10 to 25 acres) in the most rural parts of town where large blocks of habitat remain intact and stronger standards protections than state minimum guidelines in your town's shoreland zone. Where development of rural lands must occur, consider open space zoning and subdivision provisions in your town's land use ordinance to protect the habitat values of the area and maintain connections between habitats.
  • Require a combination of very low densities and cluster development on properties with high value habitat so development can be steered away from those habitats. Ensure that a local land trust or conservation organization is built into the process early on so they can help structure the organization of the open space.
  • Require provisions in local ordinances for a botanical review by biologists at MNAP when a proposal potentially conflicts with a mapped resource.
  • Require provisions in local ordinances for review of development applications by the appropriate regional office of MDIFW when a proposal potentially conflicts with a mapped resource.
  • Consider developing and adopting an impact fee program with funds allocated at least in part to protecting open space.
  • Promote zoning that allows for multiple use of farmland or woodlots, including activities such as educational or recreational services, food sales, hay and sleigh rides, etc.
  • Within a subdivision ordinance, develop a provision for a fee-in-lieu of land dedication for smaller subdivisions or a subdivision where a land set aside is not appropriate. Dedicate such funds to a land bank or open space fund.
  • Consider how to fulfill the state subdivision criterion which states that "the proposed subdivision will not have an undue adverse effect on the scenic or natural beauty of the area, aesthetics, historic sites, significant wildlife habitat identified by MDIFW or the municipality, or rare and irreplaceable natural areas or any public rights for physical or visual access to the shoreline."

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4. Land Protection Measures

  • Coordinate land trust priorities for land protection with town priorities.
  • If a property with high value habitat is on the market, and especially where the town has not adequately protected it (allowing reasonable use through very low density and open space zoning), the selectboard, planning board, conservation commission, and local conservation groups can work together to consider and potentially pursue acquisition of the property.
  • Encourage landowners with high value habitat on their property to enroll in either the Farmland and Open Space or Tree Growth Tax Programs.
  • Purchase development rights on large undeveloped blocks to manage the land as fish, plant, and wildlife habitat.
  • Purchase conservation easements that stipulate no development and allow public access for recreation, if compatible with the land.
  • Purchase right-of-first-refusal on property that includes important habitat; if acquired, consider a limited development scheme, either for town use or for use in a limited residential development to help cover the cost of acquisition.
  • Explore opportunities to protect habitat via conservation easement or fee ownership. Funds for acquisition can be raised through public appeal, appropriation of town funds, or application to private foundations or public funds. At least three state agencies administer acquisition funds; contact the Department of Conservation about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife about the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, and the State Planning Office about the Land For Maine's Future Program. Contact the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and The Nature Conservancy about private land trust protection efforts. The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (622-5503) has a trust to own and manage high value game habitat. For more information on federal grants for land protection contact the USFWS Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. Contact your local land trust for additional fund raising support.

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5. Regional Coordination

  • Review maps of high value habitat and/or open space plans with local officials from neighboring towns, land trusts, and other conservation organizations.
  • Meet cooperatively with neighboring towns, land trusts, conservation organizations, and your regional planning commission to discuss the conservation of large blocks of habitat across political boundaries.
  • Meet cooperatively with neighboring town planning groups to discuss consistent regulations for shared habitats and waterways.
  • Meet cooperatively with neighboring towns, land trusts, and conservation organizations with mutual watersheds to explore the protection of water quality and develop watershed protection plans across political boundaries.

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