Vernal pools need protection from development

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Dear Sun Spots: I read recently that there is legislation in the process of being implemented for protecting vernal pools in the state of Maine. I have been hearing wood frogs (they sound like ducks) when I walk at dusk and am excited that there may be vernal pools in our area.

I’m concerned that there are a good deal of “for sale” signs on properties in Lewiston-Auburn and surrounding towns that appear to be wetlands of sorts. If these properties are developed, those wetlands will most likely be eradicated. If these wetlands are, indeed, vernal pools, is there any type of protection measure that the state is taking to protect them from development? I know that there is some type of measure that requires developers to replace wetlands, but these replacements do not efficiently replace wetlands. In the case of a vernal pool, a vernal pool can never be replaced. I wonder if you could get the details on protection of the delicate ecosystem, the vernal pool, in the state of Maine. I would like to learn more about the prospect of protecting the delicate obligate species that inhabit vernal pools. Thank you, Sun Spots! – No Name, No Town.

Answer: Gov. John Baldacci recently signed legislation that protects Maine’s vernal pools. The bill, which became law on April 12, helps to ensure that landowners do not disturb significant breeding and hatching areas. State Environmental Protection Commissioner David Littell calls the new law “the most significant new wildlife habitat rules of the past decade.”

The legislation authorizes the state to require that construction activities occur during a time when impacts on protected habitats including vernal pools are minimized. It also says landowners should seek alternative sites for construction projects near freshwater wetlands.

Vernal pools support the ecologies of a diverse number of organisms that depend on temporary waters for reproduction, according to biologists. The pools often run dry in summer.

You and other readers may be interested in learning more about vernal pools ecology and can visit the vernal pools Web site at: http://vernalpools.rtpi.org/ecology/ecology.htm.

According to their Web site, a vernal pool is a temporary or semipermanent body of water, typically filled in the spring by snow melt and spring rain, and holding water for two or three months in the spring and summer. Vernal pools form in contained basin depressions, meaning that while they may have an inlet, they have no permanent outlet forming a downstream connection to other aquatic systems. They are typically small and are usually shallow.

While most are filled with meltwater and spring rains, others may be filled during the fall or with a combination of seasonal surface runoff and intersection with seasonally high groundwater tables. While most vernal pools are found in upland forest, several types have been identified, including floodplain basins, swamp pools and marsh pools.

In addition, perhaps you and other column readers might be interested in the Nature Walk: Exploring Ponds workshop being put on at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. The event takes place from 10 to 11:30 a.m Saturday, June 17. The cost is $6 adult and $3 child members, or $8 adult and $4 child nonmembers. Preregistration is required.

For more information check out their Web site at www.maineaudubon.org, or contact them via e-mail at info@maineaudubon.org, phone 781-2330, ext: 215.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be posted at www.sunjournal.com in the Advice section under Opinion on the left-hand corner of your computer screen. In addition, you can e-mail your inquiries to sunspots@sunjournal.com

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