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Vernal pool ID program to begin next week

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Vernal pool ID program to begin next week

FREEPORT — As a result of a Town Council decision made in December, Freeport's vernal pool identification project will kick off Monday, Feb. 23, with volunteer training at the Freeport Community Library.
The town is looking for five volunteer coordinators and about 25 volunteers to identify and assess vernal pools, based on the presence of amphibian eggs.
The study is funded by a portion of a $1.4 million national grant from the TogetherGreen initiative, a national project of Audubon and Toyota.
Maine Audubon received $47,000 and has provided Freeport, Scarborough, Chebeague Island, Yarmouth, Brunswick and Topsham with up to $8,000 in services from the Audubon Society and the University of Maine. The money will be used to help volunteers identify vernal pools using existing aerial photographs. Once the pools are identified, property owners will have the option to request a free on-site evaluation of the pools.
Based on state regulations enacted in 2007, vernal pools are protected under the Natural Resource Protection Act. A classification of a significant vernal pool habitat would include the pool itself and the area within a 250-foot radius around the high-water mark of the pool.
Vernal pools that are deemed significant by the state could potentially devalue land by restricting its use and development, but would also inform landowners of the changes to their property. A significant vernal pool classification would require additional permitting to develop, but does not negate development.
UMaine Associate Professor Aram Calhoun and the Maine Audubon Society will coordinate the identification project. Town Planner Donna Larson will work with Calhoun to recruit volunteers and prepare vernal pool maps.
The training on Monday will begin at 5 p.m. and will include an overview of the project, a lesson on vernal pool ecology and how to identify amphibians and egg masses. Vernal pools are deemed significant when there is a habitat of egg masses for salamanders, fairy shrimp or wood frogs.
Volunteers and coordinators must commit to the two-year study, and would asked to participate in two field visits in April and May of each year.
Volunteer coordinators must attend all training meetings and be responsible for assisting five volunteers in field visits. Coordinators must also serve as on-call resources for five volunteers and make pool visits with them.
Ideally, coordinators will have a background or experience with field biology and can be high school teachers, retired biologists, natural historians, members of the Maine Audubon, local land trust or conservation commission.
Volunteers will be asked to attend the two trainings and visit three- to- five potential vernal pools. They will be asked to read a map and navigate using an aerial photo in the woods without a trail. In total, the volunteers must commit to 15 to 20 hours per year.
Monday's meeting will take place at the Freeport Community Library from 5-7 p.m. and a light dinner will be provided. To participate, contact Larson at 865-4743 or dlarson@freeportamaine.com.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110, or aanderson@theforecaster.net.