Statewide Focus Area Identification

Beginning in 2000, the Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) has worked with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to identify and delineate areas that contain rare plants, animals and natural landscapes of state-wide ecological importance (Focus Areas) for southern and central Maine. Focus Areas do not create new regulatory requirements. Instead, they are a planning tool that identifies more clearly the most important habitats of concern to the resource agencies. Focus Areas have been used by other agencies for local and regional planning through the Beginning with Habitat program, and for targeting and ranking of acquisition priorities by a number of state agencies including the MaineDOT (e.g. MaineDOT recently relied on Focus Area information to develop a cost-effective mitigation plan for a highway project in Saco that streamlined the compensatory mitigation planning and permitting processes). Focus Areas can provide transportation planners with advance notice of areas requiring special consideration during the design process avoiding surprises later on, and provide a starting point for mitigation planning resulting in more efficient projects. However, Focus Areas have not yet been identified statewide, and many of the original designations require updating using newly available information. The objective is to use updated biological data from MDIFW and MNAP and recent remote sensing information (orthophotography, satellite imagery) to identify Focus Areas in organized towns in MaineDOT Regions 3 and 5, covering approximately 7 million acres, and to refine existing Focus Area boundaries for organized towns in the rest of the state. The work will be largely GIS-based.