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Maine’s Beginning with Habitat program and transportation partnership


Transportation facilities and adjacent development are the greatest contributors to habitat loss and fragmentation in Maine. Transportation facilities present a linear structure that is either a physical barrier or zone of adverse habitat that has separated former habitat or, in the case of new facilities, a dividing or fragmenting influence on existing habitat. Maine’s Beginning with Habitat (BWH) program and the Maine Department of Transportation have partnered to begin addressing transportation issues related to habitat and wildlife. Beginning with Habitat is a collaborative, public-private partnership whose mission is to compile, integrate, interpret, and deliver the best available information, tools, and incentives to facilitate effective land-use planning and naturalhabitat conservation at local, regional, and state-wide scales. In 2004, BWH won an Environmental Merit Award from EPA and the program is now serving as a model for other states that wish to integrate habitat protection with land-use planning. As Maine’s landscape changes over time, the goal of the program is to sustain habitat that supports healthy populations of Maine’s wildlife and native plants for current and future generations. BWH was developed by a group of stakeholders concerned about the future of Maine’s habitat and wildlife in the face of the increased rate of sprawling development. BWH provides all Maine towns with a collection of GIS maps and accompanying information depicting and describing various habitats of statewide and national significance found in the town. These maps provide communities with information that can help guide conservation of valuable habitats. During the last few years, BWH has met with over 140 towns and land trusts to give individualized presentations on the locations and conservation of high-value plant and animal habitat in their communities. Current areas of synergy include: • Developing Northeast regional relations with New England, the Canadian Maritimes, and Québec • Creating a Maine Habitat and Transportation Working Group that has developed a six-point plan to integrate and act on habitat and transportation goals for the mutual benefit of Maine’s transportatio networks and habitat • Using BWH data for transportation scoping early in projects • Using BWH Focus Areas of statewide ecological significance for transportation-project compensatory-mitigation planning • Linking transportation and open space components of municipal land-use plans In addition, an effort is underway to secure funding to develop a habitat-connectivity analysis for enhancement of BWH data and transportation planning. This analysis will use BWH data as well as other data to identify habitat connectivity areas in order to direct strategies to maintain and restore connections. The partners of this cooperative program include: • Maine Audubon • Maine Coast Heritage Trust • Maine Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit • Maine Department Environmental Protection • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife • Maine Department of Transportation • Maine Forest Service • Maine Natural Areas Program • Maine State Planning Office • Maine’s 13 regional planning commissions • Nature Conservancy • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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