Beginning with Habitat


Primary Map 3:

Undeveloped Habitat Blocks & Habitat Connections and Conserved Lands

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

About Map:Map 3: Undeveloped Habitat Blocks

This map highlights undeveloped natural areas likely to provide core habitat blocks and habitat connections that facilitate species movements between blocks. Undeveloped habitat blocks provide relatively undisturbed habitat conditions required by many of Maine's species. Habitat connections provide necessary opportunities for wildlife to travel between preferred habitat types in search for food, water, and mates. Roads and development fragment habitat blocks and can be barriers to moving wildlife. By maintaining a network of interconnected blocks towns and land trusts can protect a wide variety of Maine's species- both rare and common- to help ensure rich species diversity long into the future. Maintaining a network of these large rural open spaces also protects future opportunities for forestry, agriculture, and outdoor recreation.

Data Components: (Data Sources)

Undeveloped Habitat Blocks-

  • Development Buffer- Represents a 250-500 foot buffer around improved roads and developed areas (based on development intensity)
  • Undeveloped Habitat Block Outlines- Remaining land outside of Development Buffers. Blocks greater than 100 acres are labeled with their estimated acreage.

Habitat Connections- The habitat connections represented here were identified by a predictive computer modeling tool that highlighted specific lands needed to maintain or restore functional wildlife travel corridors between undeveloped habitat blocks greater than 100-acres and between higher value wetlands. The habitat connectors represented are approximate and have not been field verified.

  • Undeveloped Block Connectors: Likely habitat areas linking undeveloped habitat blocks greater than 100 acres.
  • Riparian Connectors: Likely crossing locations for wetland dependent species moving between waterways and wetlands divided by roads  

Note: The width of both habitat connector types indicates traffic volume, and corresponding level of threat of animal mortality.  Wide lines indicate average daily traffic volumes greater than 2000 vehicles. Narrow lines indicate less than 2000 vehicles per day.

  • Highway bridge connectors: Maine Dept. of Transportation bridges along I95 and I295 that span riparian habitat connecting adjacent habitat blocks that are separated by the highway. These are locations where species are likely to take advantage of infrastructure to move between habitat blocks.

Conserved Lands- The State of Maine’s conserved lands database includes lands in federal, state, and non-profit ownership. It does not include many privately owned conservation lands, especially those protected by local land trusts, or town owned conservation lands. For the most accurate and current information about land ownership, consult with the local assessor and/or other local land management agencies. If public access potential to any of the properties displayed here is uncertain, landowners should be contacted to determine if permission is necessary.

Ownership Type

  • Federal: National parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.
  • State: Wildlife Management Areas and other properties managed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, state parks, and parcels managed by the Bureau of Parks & Lands.
  • Municipal: Town parks, athletic fields, community forests, etc.
  • Private Conservation: Properties owned and managed by private organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Trust for Public Land, and local land trusts.
  • Easement: Voluntary legal agreements that allow landowners to realize economic benefit by permanently restricting the amount and type of future development and other uses on all or part of their property as they continue to own and use it.

Aerial Imagery- Aerial imagery is often the best tool available to visualize existing patterns of development and resulting changes in the natural landscape. By depicting undeveloped habitat blocks, habitat connectors, and conserved lands with aerial photos, the map user can more easily identify opportunities to expand the size and ecological effectiveness of local conservation efforts.

Background Information:

Large, undeveloped natural areas with no roads are essential to sustaining Maine's great variety of plants and animals- and to maintaining the unique rural character of the state, its important natural resource-based economy, and our emblematic outdoor activities.

Many towns in Maine still have continuous tracts of undeveloped land larger than 2,000 acres that support working forests and agriculture, and protect water supplies. Local governments and conservation partners have the opportunity to protect these intact natural areas before they become ruined by rapid, unplanned growth. But quick action is needed. Even in rural and remote areas of Maine, a substantial increase of new and newly upgraded (widened and/or paved) roads is fragmenting formerly unbroken forests. Along these roads, poorly sized or maintained culverts sometimes isolate aquatic species populations from one another, blocking them from moving through streams. Construction of new homes is also fragmenting wildlife habitat, both in subdivisions and on single lots with long, dead-end roads.

Natural corridors that connect habitat blocks are essential. Just like you travel between home, work, school, and the grocery store, wildlife species need to travel both long and short distances between breeding sites. Deer, for example, move to special wintering areas during times of heavy snowfall. Brook trout move to cold, deep pools in the heat of midsummer. Some salamander species breed only in vernal pools, but reside underground in upland forests the rest of the year. Even plants need to move between habitats, with the help of bees, bears, or wind to carry pollen and disperse seed to new areas.

When certain species cannot get to where they need to go, their populations eventually decline and then disappear, perhaps forever. Conversely, maintaining or enhancing habitat connections in strategic locations can help wildlife respond better to changes in climate, or to invasions of foreign species, and will help ensure a rich diversity of species across the landscape long into the future.

Strategies for Local Action:

  • Conserve several of the largest remaining blocks possible. In a more developed southern Maine town this may mean blocks 500 acres in size. In more rural communities blocks of several thousand acres could be conserved. In either scenario, efforts to curb fragmentation today will benefit community forestry, agriculture and outdoor recreation tomorrow.
  • Update your town's comprehensive plan to include policies on protecting undeveloped habitat blocks (through easements, lease, tax incentives or open space development). After the update is completed, make sure an implementation committee is formed to make any necessary zoning ordinance changes. Comprehensive plan policies and potential ordinance changes should focus on opportunities to protect existing large blocks and corridors that may connect them as part of overall town growth strategies. See the BwH Toolbox sections on Comprehensive Planning and on Land Use Ordinance Tools for more information.
  • Inventory local parcels of land that could, in combination with other private or public lands, be considered important undeveloped blocks of habitat on a local scale. Acknowledge these lands in the town's comprehensive plan. Where they are distant from local services like sewers and fire stations, include these significant blocks of habitat within designated rural areas, away from which most future development is to be directed.
  • Conduct outreach to landowners who might benefit from a "current use" tax status. Suggest they examine estate and tax planning with a local land trust in order to conserve large parcels of land they own. Information on "current use" tax programs can be found in the BwH Toolbox.
  • Meet cooperatively with neighboring towns, land trusts, and conservation organizations to explore the conservation of large blocks of habitat across political boundaries.
  • Review your standards for the construction of private roads to create building lots. Do these roads extend into large undeveloped blocks of habitat? What are the impacts of these roads and the companion buildings on wildlife habitat? Provide incentives for development design that minimize fragmentation. Consider prohibiting or restricting the length of these private roads so new building lots do not unnecessarily fragment remaining large blocks of habitat. For more information on road standards, see the BwH Toolbox.
  • Explore opportunities to protect large undeveloped habitat blocks 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 (see the Financing Habitat Protection section of the BwH Toolbox for information on funding sources).

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

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