AUGUSTA (AP) – Mainers who look forward to hearing the peepers after the winter know about vernal pools – shallow depressions in the woods that fill with water and become hatching areas for frogs, salamanders and other amphibians. The peepers’ sounds at night are a harbinger of spring.

On Thursday, Gov. John Baldacci visited a vernal pool at the Pine Tree State Arboretum in Augusta to ceremonially sign legislation that will protect Maine’s vernal pools.

The bill, which became law 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.

On the Net:

Vernal pools ecology: