Good news! LD 1797 that provides changes to Maine’s wading bird and waterfowl habitat protections has finally passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor for his signature!
Last session, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a permit-by-rule for moderate value inland wading bird and waterfowl habitat, a subset of significant wildlife habitat and a protected natural resource under the Natural Resources Protection Act. This fall, the DEP proposed a draft rule and the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) held a hearing and unanimously approved the modified rule that has now passed.
The rule creates a shortened permit process available for certain permitted activities when certain standards have been met. Maine Audubon supports permit-by-rules (PBRs) as a reasonable and sensible alternative to the full permit process, when the standards are set so that the allowed activity “will not significantly affect the environment and generally has less of an impact on the environment than an activity requiring an individual permit” ( Chapter 305). The rule ensures that the habitat will be protected as intended by the original Significant Wildlife Habitat legislation but in a way that is significantly more user-friendly to the applicants.
Wading birds and waterfowl that nest in and around Maine’s lakes and wetlands do so because those habitats offer critically important resources: food throughout the breeding season, places to nest and raise young, and places to rest without disturbance. Moderate-value wetlands have all these characteristics in abundant supply, making many of them among the best places we have to support this important wildlife resource. Maine’s waterfowl and wading birds contribute to our economy by providing a valuable resource for both hunters and birdwatchers, and protecting this economic and natural resource is an important piece of our Natural Resources Protection Act.
The rule offers applicants a more user-friendly permitting process while maintaining core protections for inland wading bird and waterfowl habitat. While we would have liked the rule to be even stronger, we think that the Board of Environmental Protection has done a good job and that the compromise is reasonable. We commend the many on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee for approving the rule including chairs Senator Tom Saviello and Representative Jim Hamper and House minority lead Representative Bob Duchesne.