Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed to change the way it regulates important inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat (IWWH). The initial proposal would have allowed major development, such as residential subdivisions and gas stations, in the critical buffer areas of IWWH through a permit-by-rule (PBR). A PBR is a streamlined process which allows development to proceed without a thorough review from state biologists and wetlands experts.
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 Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) has strengthened the Maine DEP’s proposed rules for IWWH. The BEP unanimously voted to increase the required habitat buffer from 100 feet to 150 feet and to require consultation with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife if proposed activity is to occur during a particularly sensitive time of year.
LD 1797 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 BEP has done a good job and that the compromise is reasonable. LD 1797, has completed the legislative process and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
For more information on the IWWH ruling, please look at the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition fact sheet.