Wildlife Action Plan

View a copy of Maine's Wildlife Action Plan

NEW: 2015 Wildlife Action Plan Revision

What is a Wildlife Action Plan?

Congress asked each state to develop a Wildlife Action Plan [WAP, also known technically as a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy] to be eligible for participating in the State Wildlife Grant Program (PDF) – a federal grant program to help state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies address the unmet needs of fish and wildlife and associated habitats, especially species in greatest need of conservation. Wildlife Action Plans examine the health of wildlife and prescribe actions to conserve wildlife and vital habitat before they become more rare and more costly to protect.

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Maine Overview

Maine is a land rich in contrasts between the boreal and temperate, freshwater and saltwater, upland and wetland, and alpine and lowlands. The state has enormous natural variety and owes its biological wealth to its 17.5 million acres of vast forests, rugged mountains, more than 5,600 lakes and ponds, 5,000,000 acres of wetlands, 31,800 mi of rivers and streams, 4,100 mi of bold coastline, and 4,613 coastal islands and ledges. Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation, but also contains some of the most significant grassland and agricultural lands in the Northeast.

This mosaic of diverse physical settings supports a wide diversity of wildlife that can be equaled in few other states. Maine has the largest population of bald eagles in the Northeast. The state's islands support one of the most diverse nesting seabird populations on the East coast, including habitat for rare species such as the Roseate and Arctic Tern, Atlantic Puffin, and Razorbill Auk. Maine's relatively clean, free-flowing rivers sustain some of the best remaining populations of rare freshwater mussels and dragonflies in the East; host globally rare endemics, such as the Tomah mayfly and Roaring Brook mayfly and support the recently listed Atlantic salmon in seven downeast rivers. Maine's mountains and forested habitats contribute significantly to the global breeding habitat for neotropical migrants such as Bicknell's Thrush and Blackthroated-blue Warbler. The state has some of the best examples of pitch pine-scrub oak forest remaining in New England, hosting a suite of globally rare plants and invertebrates.

Maine is almost as large as all other New England states combined, yet the acreage of public lands is minimal. In fact, 95% of the land in the state is privately owned, thus private landowners are integral to the conservation of our wildlife heritage and natural resources.

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Wildlife Action Plan Snapshot

Photo Credit: Phillip deMaynadier

Maine's Wildlife Action Plan addresses the state's full array of wildlife and their habitats including vertebrates and invertebrates in aquatic (freshwater, estuarine, and marine) and terrestrial habitats. The plan targets species in greatest need of conservation while keeping "common species common" and covers the entire state, from the dramatic coastline to the heights of Mt. Katahdin. Maine's WAP is intended to supplement, not duplicate, existing fish and wildlife programs and builds on a species planning effort ongoing in Maine since 1968; a landscape approach to habitat conservation, Beginning with Habitat, initiated in 2000; and a long history of public involvement and collaboration among conservation partners.

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Species of Greatest Conservation Need

Maine's Wildlife Action Plan identifies 213 Species of Greatest Conservation Need [SGCN] within 6 species' groups.

Maine's Species of Greatest Conservation Need

     Amphibians [1]
     Reptiles [6]
     Beetles [1]
     Butterflies [15]
     Caddisflies [1]
     Damselflies & Dragonflies [19]
     Freshwater Mussels [3]
     Mayflies [11]
     Moths [13]
     Snails [8]
     Stoneflies [1]
Inland Fish
Mammals (Non-marine)
     Diadromous Fish [5]
     Whales [5]
     Turtles [3]

Currently, the list of SGCN is limited to wildlife species and does not include plants. However, future editions of the WAP will explore inclusion of plants that are important to wildlife SGCN or are indicators of high quality natural communities, in addition to those that are in need of conservation for other reasons, as they are also essential elements of the ecosystems supporting Maine's wildlife.

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Mays

Wildlife Action Plan Key Habitats

Maine's Wildlife Action Plan identifies 21 key habitats for conservation purposes.



Marine Open Water Watered marine areas.
Estuaries and Bays Subtidal estuarine channels and tidal aquatic beds.
Rocky Coastline and Islands Areas adjacent to water where ledge, gravel, rock, boulders, bedrock, or stones predominate.
Unconsolidated Shore (beaches and mudflats) Dunes, flats, beaches with vegetation, sand, mud, or gravel.
Estuarine Emergent Saltmarsh Estuarine/intertidal waters with emergent, herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation.



Freshwater Lakes and Ponds Permanently flooded fresh waterbodies without emergent vegetation.
Emergent Marsh and Wet Meadows Fresh, shallow wetlands and waterbodies with emergent, herbaceous (non-woody) vegetation and wet meadows dominated by grasses and sedges.
Forested Wetland Fresh, shallow wetlands and waterbodies with tall woody vegetation or dead, standing trees.
Shrub-scrub Wetland Fresh, shallow wetlands and waterbodies with short woody vegetation.
Peatlands Vegetation dominated by mosses, ericaceous shrubs, or sedges.
Rivers and Streams Fresh, flowing water.

UPLAND Habitat


Deciduous and Mixed Forest Forests with >75% canopy closure composed of deciduous or mixed coniferous and deciduous trees.
Coniferous Forest Forest with >75% canopy closured composed of at least 75% coniferous trees.
Dry Woodlands and Barrens Pitch pine / scrub oak woodlands and barrens
Mountaintop Forest (including krummholz) Forested areas above 3,000 ft g.
Alpine Mountain zones between the treeline.
Shrub / Early Successional and Regenerating Forest Areas dominated by woody shrubs and/or harvested before 1991 with seedling to sapling-sized trees; forestland where >50% of the overstory has been removed.
Grassland, Agricultural, Old Field Abandoned agricultural fields, blueberry barrens, crop fields, bare ground, grasslands (hay fields, pastures, lawns, golf courses).
Urban / Suburban Areas where percent cover by buildings, roads, and other impervious surfaces is greater than vegetative cover.
Cliff Face and Rocky Outcrops (including talus) Exposed bedrock, talus, bare mountain tops, gravel pits.
Caves and Mines Documented bat hibernacula.

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Focus Areas of Statewide Ecological Significance

(Maine's Conservation Priorities)

Setting priorities for strategic conservation of Maine's plants and animals is a primary function of Maine's Wildlife Action Plan. To date, more than 140 Focus Areas of Statewide Ecological Significance (Focus Areas) have been designated in key landscapes throughout each of Maine's ecoregions. Focus Areas are designated where unusually rich concentrations of at-risk species and habitats co-occur on the landscape. These areas, identified by biologists from the Maine Natural Areas Program [MNAP] and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [MDIFW], support rare plants, animals, and natural communities; high quality common natural communities; significant wildlife habitats; and their intersections with large blocks of undeveloped habitat. Focus Area boundaries are drawn based on the species and natural communities that occur within them and the supporting landscape conditions that contribute to the long-term viability of the species, habitats, and community types.

It is hoped that the mapping of a Focus Area will help to build regional awareness and draw attention to the exceptional natural landscape conditions that result in a convergence of multiple resource occurrences. The resulting appreciation of these truly special places can then provide momentum to municipalities, land trusts, and regional initiatives focused on strategic approaches to conservation.

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Working Together to Develop Maine's WAP

Photo Credit: Jennifer Vashon

As is the case in most undertakings of this magnitude, Maine's Wildlife Action Plan could not have been completed without the assistance of many devoted individuals who infused their expertise and passion into this effort. The WAP brought together a coalition of more than 70 state and federal agencies, tribes, conservation organizations, and other partners - scientists, managers, hunters, anglers, conservationists, landowners, academics, guides, community leaders, and many others - with an interest in working together for Maine's wildlife. All worked to challenge assumptions, provide constructive criticism, and encourage the Department to complete what many believed to be an historical effort on behalf of fish and wildlife conservation in Maine. These collaborative efforts provide the foundation on which Maine's Wildlife Action Plan was built and will oversee program development and implementation, review progress, reevaluate priorities, foster partnerships, build cross-state alliances, and leverage funding.Back to top

An Adaptive Document to Respond to a Changing Landscape

Maine's Wildlife Action Plan partners are currently working to update Maine's plan to reflect anticipated ecological stresses resulting from a changing climate. Our first step has been to complete a vulnerability assessment of Maine's 213 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, Maine's rare plant species, and plant and animal species not currently considered rare, but likely to be impacted based on life histories. Our next step will be to conduct a similar vulnerability assessment of Maine's key habitats and natural communities. The outcomes of this work will inform future changes to Wildlife Action Plan priorities and strategies.

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