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In 11 Maine towns, local citizens will help put a little-known but all-important wildlife resource on the map. Vernal pools are small wetlands that appear only temporarily at particular times of year. They are essential breeding, feeding and resting areas for a large number of species, including several rare and endangered species in the Northeast, such as the Blue-Spotted Salamander, Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Ribbon Snake.
This TogetherGreen Innovation Grant will provide Maine citizens with training and tools to map and conserve vernal pools, which are threatened by development and sprawl. The grant to Maine Audubon is part of the first $1.4 million awarded by the TogetherGreen initiative, a national Audubon project with funding from Toyota.
“Rubber Boots Required: Engaging Communities in Vernal Pool Conservation” is the name of the grant-funded project. It will combine citizen science with new digital photo-technology, as well as the expertise of Maine Audubon, University of Maine, local communities and the environmental consulting firm Stantec. Volunteers will be recruited from 11 towns, including Scarborough, Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport, Brunswick,Topsham, Readfield, Wayne, Orono and Windham. They will be trained to use aerial photographs and maps based on GIS technology and to work with landowners to obtain information about vernal pools. Then they will set out to locate and collect data from the vernal pools.
Once the surveying is complete, Maine Audubon will work with communities to analyze data to determine which vernal pools are most in need of protection. Safeguarding significant vernal pools will be incorporated into local land-use planning efforts and through Maine’s state-wide, nationally acclaimed Beginning with Habitat program.
With support from TogetherGreen, Maine Audubon and partners will test new computer technology that will significantly decrease the time and cost of mapping potential vernal pools. Once again breaking new ground in conservation and citizen involvement, Maine Audubon will create a model that can be replicated in other towns and states for the benefit of habitat, species and concerned citizens alike.
For over 13 years, Maine Audubon has been a trailblazer in vernal pool conservation in Maine, developing conservation guides widely used by citizens, developers and foresters as well as leading efforts that helped pass landmark legislation that protects significant vernal pools.
TogetherGreen funds and promotes conservation leadership training and volunteer programs designed to equip and engage diverse groups and individuals to take action today to shape a healthier tomorrow. Information on other grantees, along with opportunities to get involved in conservation efforts, showcase successful initiatives, and honor those who are making a difference, can be found at www.TogetherGreen.org.