In Maine’s new vernal pool plan, conservation and communities win

The future just became a bit brighter for Maine’s amphibians and fairy shrimp under a new plan that encourages protection of vernal pools.

The Vernal Pool Special Area Management Plan fine-tunes existing state regulation to a local level. It will serve as a voluntary mitigation tool that helps towns control their vernal pool resources, provide incentives for rural landowners to conserve their vernal pools and help developers with a streamlined environmental compliance process.

The plan, which was six years in development, was initiated by Aram Calhoun, a University of Maine professor of wetland ecology, and her colleagues at federal and state regulatory agencies. The Vernal Pool Special Area Management Plan was approved as an alternative pool mitigation tool by the New England District Corps of Engineers and Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection on Sept. 6, 2016.

From the beginning, Calhoun collaborated with stakeholders, regulating agencies and other scientists to ensure the plan would align with the biophysical and social needs of Maine’s future.

“Conservation doesn’t get done without the people part of it. The reason this process was successful is that we worked with social scientists and diverse interests: this would not have happened without the colleagues from School of Economics and local real estate and development interests,” Calhoun said.

The towns of Orono and Topsham are in the process of implementing the plan, which Calhoun hopes will showcase how it works to other communities.

The plan, published in late September, is already garnering attention. Calhoun and her associates were invited to showcase the plan as an innovative strategy for conservation at the GrowSmart Maine Summit on Oct. 19 in Waterville, and Environmental Protection Agency granted funding for a part-time person to help communities adopt the new guide.

To learn more about the ecosystem services Maine’s vernal pools provide, and the team that brought the plan to fruition, visit

Contact: Erin Miller, 207.581.3204