Beginning with Habitat


Primary Map 2:

High Value Plant and Animal Habitats

About Map | Data Components | Background Information | Strategies for Local Action

About Map :Map 2: High Value Habitats

This map depicts rare, threatened and endangered species and important and sensitive habitats. Beginning with Habitat (BwH) is a voluntary tool intended to assist landowners, resource managers, planners, and municipalities in identifying and making informed decisions about areas of potential natural resource concern. This data includes the best available information provided through BwH's coalition partners as of the map date and is intended for information purposes only. It should not be interpreted as a comprehensive analysis of plant and animal occurrences or other local resources, but rather as an initial screen to flag areas where agency consultation may be appropriate. Habitat data sets are updated continuously as more accurate and current data becomes available. However, as many areas have not been completely surveyed, features may be present that are not yet mapped, and the boundaries of some depicted features may need to be revised. Local knowledge is critical in providing accurate data. If errors are noted in the current depiction of resources, please contact our office. Some habitat features depicted on this map are regulated by the State of Maine through the Maine Endangered Species Act (Essential Habitats and threatened and endangered species occurrences) and Natural Resource Protection Act (Significant Wildlife Habitat). We recommend consultation with Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Regional Biologists or Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) Ecologists if activities are proposed within resources areas depicted on this map. Consultation early in the planning process usually helps to resolve regulatory concerns and minimize agency review time.

Data Components: (Data Sources)

Impervious/Developed Areas- Impervious surfaces including buildings and roads.

Atlantic Salmon Spawning, Limited Spawning, and Rearing Habitat- Mapped by the Atlantic Salmon Commission (ASC) and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) from field surveys on selected Penobscot and Kennebec River tributaries and the Dennys, Ducktrap, East Machias, Machias, Pleasant, Narraguagus, and Sheepscot Rivers.

Rare, Threatened, or Endangered Wildlife Data- Includes known rare, endangered, and threatened species occurrences and/or the associated habitats based on species sightings. Consult with an MDIFW Regional Biologist to determine the relative importance and conservation needs of the specific location and supporting habitat. For more information regarding individual species visit MDIFW's website.

The Federal Endangered Species Act requires actions authorized, funded, or carried out by federal agencies be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If your project occurs near an occurrence of Atlantic salmon, bald eagle, roseate tern, piping plover, Canada lynx, New England cottontail, Furbish's lousewort, or small-whorled pagonia contact the Maine Field Office, USFWS, 1168 Main St., Old Town, ME 04468.

Rare or Exemplary Natural Communities- The MNAP has classified and distinguished 98 different natural community types that collectively cover the state's landscape. These include such habitats as floodplain forests, coastal bogs, alpine summits, and many others. Each type is assigned a rarity rank of 1 (rare) through 5 (common). Mapped rare natural communities or ecosystems, or exemplary examples of common natural communities or ecosystems, are based on field surveys and aerial photo interpretation. Consult with an MNAP Ecologist to determine conservation needs of particular communities or ecosystems.

Rare Plant Locations- Known rare, threatened, or endangered plant occurrences are based on field observations. Consult with a MNAP Ecologist to determine conservation needs of particular species. For more information regarding rare plants, the complete list of tracked species and fact sheets for those species can be found on the MNAP website.

Essential Wildlife Habitats - MDIFW maps areas currently or historically providing habitat essential to the conservation of endangered or threatened species as directed by the Maine Endangered Species Act (12 MRSA, Chapter 925, Subchapter 3, Sections 12804 and 12806) and regulations (MDIFW Rules, Chapter 8.05). Identification of Essential Habitat areas is based on species observations and confirmed habitat use. If a project occurs partly or wholly within an Essential Habitat, it must be evaluated by MDIFW before state and/or municipal permits can be approved or project activities can take place.

Currently, MDIFW has established Essential Habitat for only three species: piping plovers, least terns, and roseate terns.

Significant Wildlife Habitats- Includes:

  • Inland Waterfowl/Wading Bird Habitat- Freshwater breeding, migration/staging, and wintering habitats for inland waterfowl or breeding, feeding, loafing, migration, or roosting habitats for inland wading birds.
  • Seabird Nesting Islands- An island, ledge, or portion thereof in tidal waters with documented, nesting seabirds or suitable nesting habitat for endangered seabirds.
  • Shorebird Areas- Coastal staging areas that provide feeding habitat like tidal mud flats or roosting habitat like gravel bars or sand spits for migrating shorebirds.
  • Tidal Waterfowl/Wading Bird Habitat- Breeding, migrating/staging, or wintering areas for coastal waterfowl or breeding, feeding, loafing, migrating, or roosting areas for coastal wading birds. Tidal Waterfowl/Wading Bird habitats include aquatic beds, eelgrass, emergent wetlands, mudflats, seaweed communities, and reefs.
  • Candidate Deer Wintering Area- Forested area possibly used by deer for shelter during periods of deep snow and cold temperatures. Assessing the current value of a deer wintering area requires on-site investigation and verification by IF&W staff. Locations depicted should be considered as approximate only.
  • Significant Vernal Pools- A pool depression used for breeding by amphibians and other indicator species and that portion of the critical terrestrial habitat within 250 ft. of the spring or fall high water mark. A vernal pool must have the following characteristics: natural origin, non-permanent hydro period, lack a permanently flowing inlet or outlet, and lack predatory fish.

Significant Wildlife Habitats are mapped by MDIFW as a product of the Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA). NRPA, administered by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP), is intended to prevent further degradation and loss of significant natural resources in the state, including the above Significant Wildlife Habitats that have been mapped by MDIFW. MDEP has regulatory authority over most Significant Wildlife Habitat types. The regional MDEP office should be consulted when considering a project in these areas.

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Background Information:

Rare plant and animal species, rare and exemplary natural communities, and significant wildlife habitats are special parts of Maine's landscape and are vital to the overall health of our natural areas. Maine is home to at least 352 species of plants and 203 species of animals that are considered rare, threatened, or endangered, as well as 58 rare natural community types (places where certain groups of plants and animals exist together).

Ensuring the long-term survival of this treasured natural heritage is a significant conservation challenge. Threatened and endangered animals are afforded some limited protection under the Maine Endangered Species Act, but most upland (non-wetland) rare plants and rare and exemplary natural communities receive little formal state protection. Beginning with Habitat can help conservation partners identify where any of these important elements may occur, and also assist with conservation strategies, thereby enhancing local protection.

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Strategies For Local Action:

  • Update your town's comprehensive plan so it properly plans for growth, fish, wildlife, and plant habitat conservation, and outdoor recreation opportunities. In the plan, inventory your town's high value habitats, identify gaps in local protections, and develop strategies to improve local protections. Visit the BwH Toolbox for information on using BwH in Comprehensive Planning.
  • Following adoption of an updated comprehensive plan, form an implementation committee to make any necessary changes to the land use ordinances and subdivision regulations to incorporate standards for the protection of identified fish, wildlife, and plant habitats. See the BwH Toolbox for examples.
  • Local ordinances should encourage landowners or applicants to contact MNAP and MDIFW prior to submittal of development applications to determine potential habitat impacts and steer development away from the most sensitive areas.
  • Have BwH maps accessible to your local CEO and Planning Board for review when faced with a development application. Require direct contact with MDIFW Regional Biologists and MNAP Ecologists and request review of the proposed development plan when projects involve high value habitats.
  • Develop a database of local property owners who host Significant or Essential Habitats. Create local support systems that supply these landowners with information on habitat conservation. Create local reward and incentive programs for these landowners and work with them to seek grant assistance for acquisition or protection. See the Financing Habitat Protection section of the BwH Toolbox.
  • Fact sheets have been developed for many of the rare animals, plants, and natural communities in your town. Refer to these fact sheets to become familiar with your town's high value habitats. The fact sheets are included in the Beginning with Habitat binder provided to the town, available at your town office. Plant and animal factsheets are available in the BwH Online Biodiversity Encyclopedia.

To learn more about specific strategies for local action, visit the Beginning with Habitat (BwH) Toolbox or contact BwH.

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