Did you know that the Mahoosuc ecological reserve is one of only a few places in Maine where Cutler’s goldenrod occurs? This delicate yellow flower is endemic to a naturally scarce habitat type. It is also one of many powerful messengers demonstrating why Maine’s ecological reserve system is so vitally important—and should be expanded.
Maine’s ecological reserve system was created by law in 2000 to conserve the state’s rich array of plant and animal life, and to protect good-quality examples of all the habitat types found in Maine. Today, the role of ecological reserves in supporting long-term scientific research and education, preserving biodiversity, and helping mitigate climate change is more critical than ever.
Some say ecological reserves are the closest thing Maine has to wilderness, and we should do what we can to keep them in place and designate more of these public lands. The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands manages 19 ecological reserves that encompass 97,000 acres, including Nahmakanta, Crocker Mountain, and Duck Lake. However, arbitrary limits in the law are preventing the conservation of additional habitats, especially in southern Maine, that currently lack protection. We have a chance to change this in the Maine Legislature this year by urging lawmakers to pass LD 736.
A new set of illustrations by Zoe Keller, commissioned by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), focuses an artist’s light on why this legislation is so important. Their beautiful work highlights seven of Maine’s ecological reserves. They provide a keen and colorful glimpse of the species and landscapes that are being protected and why public lands are so valuable.
These are just a few of the incredible examples of biological diversity that make ecological reserves so essential. In addition to safeguarding extraordinary plants and animals, among other species, they provide tremendous value to Maine people because they offer sites for recreation, help maintain a clean and healthy environment, and absorb climate-changing pollution.
The science backs this up. One-third of land-based species in the U.S. are threatened with extinction, and one-third of Maine species are highly vulnerable to climate change. According to the National Audubon Society, 52% of Maine’s 230 bird species are vulnerable to climate change across seasons. Worldwide, one million species are jeopardized by extinction.
As Maine faces growing threats from development, pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change, we must continue to protect at-risk species and ensure ecosystems remain intact, yet significant gaps in the ecological reserve system remain.
You can support ecological reserves by urging lawmakers to pass LD 736, which would allow the Bureau of Parks and Lands to designate more ecological reserves or expand existing ones by removing arbitrary limits in the law.
To learn more, check out NRCM’s new report: “Maine’s Ecological Reserves: Meeting the Promise of Saving All the Pieces.”
—by Melanie Sturm, NRCM Forests & Wildlife Director