Don't State and Federal laws protect the important habitat in my town?
The State and Federal Endangered Species Acts protect listed threatened or endangered species from actions that could harm them. Other State and Federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act's provisions on altering wetlands, regulate development activities in specific vulnerable habitat types. However, many important habitat types, such as small vernal pools and valuable grasslands, have no form of legal protection. In addition, many species depend on the presence of large blocks of unfragmented habitat to maintain healthy populations. Local planning is vital to the maintenance of these habitats and species.
Which places in my town are the most important?
The Beginning with Habitat maps show a variety of special features that may occur in each town, including rare plants and animals, important habitats, riparian habitats, and large, undeveloped habitat blocks. All of these features are worthy of consideration in the planning process. As a local resident, you will have even more information about the special places you value in your area. The local planning process needs to consider all of these features and decide what is most important to you as a community.
This sounds expensive. What if our town doesn't have the resources to protect habitat?
Good planning doesn't necessarily have to be expensive, and the benefits can be tremendous. Using the best information available when designating growth and rural areas for your town's comprehensive plan is an excellent first step. This information is available free through Beginning with Habitat.
Other inexpensive ways to encourage habitat conservation include education and outreach to landowners, support of local farmers, and better enforcement of existing regulations such as shoreland zoning.
Won't conservation reduce our town's tax revenue? Doesn't development increase the town's tax base?
Development often costs towns more than it increases tax revenue. This depends on the type of development and your town's individual circumstances. In the long run, having more open space in your town is likely to benefit the town economically and financially. Several publications on this topic are available, including "The Economic Arguments for Conservation."
What is my town legally required to do with this information?
Beginning with Habitat is a voluntary, non-regulatory program. It was developed to provide you with the best available data on wildlife and habitat and to assist you with your efforts to plan for habitat. You need to decide as a community what you want to do with this information.
Some of the features shown on the maps may have regulatory implications from State and Federal laws unrelated to Beginning with Habitat. For example, the Beginning with Habitat maps show Essential Habitats that have been mapped by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife under the authority of the Maine Endangered Species Act. Activities in these areas may be regulated under the Act. For more information, contact the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (Maine Essential Wildlife Habitat).
Can we base our zoning map on the Beginning with Habitat Important Habitats map?
The information on the Beginning with Habitat maps comes from a variety of sources. Some of these sources are more recent than others. Some of the information is accurate as a general overview, but not to locate features with an accuracy of feet or yards. As a result, you should not base your zoning maps on Beginning with Habitat data.
There are lady's-slippers in the woods near my house. Why aren't they on your maps?
The Beginning with Habitat maps include the best data available from the State of Maine and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Not every unusual or special plant or habitat is tracked by the State. For example, the Maine Natural Areas Program tracks only those plants listed as Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern in Maine; not all lady's-slipper species are listed. In addition, not every part of the State has been surveyed for rare plants, animals, and natural communities. Maine is a big state. Inventory efforts are ongoing, but some places have not been visited in many years, if at all. For a list of all Threatened, Endangered, or Special Concern plant species, visit MNAP's webpage about Maine's Rare Plants.