Beginning with Habitat


Using The Maps

Effectively protecting your town's quality of place, rural resource industries, and traditional outdoor recreational opportunities all require that you begin your planning with habitat. The Beginning with Habitat (BwH) maps can serve as the starting point to plan your town's conservation blueprint.

Building a Landscape (Using Maps 1-3)

Remember that to ensure a rich complement of plant and animal species in your town you need to find ways to protect and interconnect wetland and riparian areas, high value habitats, and large habitat blocks. If you are successful in conserving lands in all 3 habitat groups, you will be providing habitat for up to 80-95% of the native wildlife species in your town and at the same time conserving your community's quality of place including protecting water quality, outdoor recreational resources and rural industries.

There are many ways your town can use the plant and wildlife habitat data on these maps. You can use it for land use planning; for outreach and education; in local regulations; to inform and direct land protection initiatives; and to develop joint conservation strategies in neighboring towns.

Water Resources and Riparian Habitats: Conserve wetlands and land around lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and the coast. Up to 80% of Maine's terrestrial vertebrate wildlife species use riparian areas sometime during their life cycle. Maine's required Shoreland Zoning Minimum Guidelines are intended as a mandatory starting point for your town to begin protecting water quality, fisheries, and marine resources. Use Map 1 Water Resources and Riparian Habitats to better assess the extent of interconnected water resources in your town.

Water Resources and Riparian Habitat Map

High Value Plant and Wildlife Habitat: Conserve and direct development away from the most important and sensitive habitats. Use Map 2 High Value Plant and Animal Habitats as a starting point to identifying the most important and sensitive habitats. These features persist on the landscape due in part to choices made by private landowners. Do the necessary incentives exist in your land use ordinance to encourage landowners, should they decide to develop, to formally protect these features?

Undeveloped Habitat Blocks: Without the appropriate tools in place (incentives and development standards) these areas will potentially be the next victims of sprawl. Work with area landowners to identify approaches that could maintain rural resource industries and limit future development threat. Could a transfer of development fee program, or similar tool, help to pay landowners for not developing? Use Map 3 Undeveloped Habitat Blocks to assess the large blocks of undeveloped habitat in your community and shared with neighboring communities.

Please Note: At the top of each map, in bright red ink, are the words "These maps are for planning purposes only." This means that some data lack the rigorous field delineation and analysis necessary for site specific zoning -- MDIFW cautions against adopting these maps directly for use in local land-use ordinances without further local refinement. In addition, municipalities should consult with the Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) and/or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) before making permit decisions based upon Map 2: High Value Plant and Animal Habitat. This information is regularly updated and species status changes as new data is acquired.

A general list of local strategies that should help you conserve open space in your community for plants, wildlife, and people has been provided. These strategies have been collected from towns that have already begun this work, from town planners, and from the State Planning Office. Also, the BwH Toolbox provides additional detailed examples of how Maine towns have addressed common conservation issues. Good luck and please contact us for additional help and guidance if you get stuck.

The most important step in designing a successful conservation vision for your town is involvement of landowners and other stakeholders in every stage of the planning process.


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