The Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Transforms Habitat
For the first 20 years, all of the restoration work was done in our spare time, and with our own funds. But as the scope of the restoration projects got larger, we didn’t have the time and money to take on the highest-priority projects—those that would make the biggest overall difference in habitat improvement.
Our most ambitious previous project had been to create shallow water habitat to provide a home for plants and animals that cannot thrive in the deep water of the flooded quarry hole. With a permit in hand from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and guidance from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, some obsolete heavy equipment was purchased and we removed 10,000 tons of mining debris to create a 1.5 acre pond. The pond was built in varying depths, provided three islands, and was planted with various shoreline and aquatic vegetation to maximize its habitat value. Vernal pools were constructed nearby to increase the range of species that could make their homes in the former debris fields. It was a great success in increasing biodiversity, lending credence to the expression “if you build it they will come.”
The second major wetland restoration project was more ambitious—by an order of magnitude—and proportionally more expensive. Simply put, we couldn’t afford to do what needed to be done. So we applied for matching funds
Maine has been pioneering a new approach to mitigating the environmental impact of development. In past years, developers had to compensate for habitat loss right at the site of the disturbance, which led to such low-impact efforts such as building frog ponds near the runways at the Owls Head Airport. Today, developers pay into a fund that is spent where there will be the greatest environmental benefit. The Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program is administered by The Nature Conservancy, of Brunswick, Maine, on behalf of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District.
Under this program, the Maine Coastal Habitat Foundation in St. George received a grant for $107,937 to remove the granite tailings that are choking a coastal wetland and blocking a stream that empties into Wheeler Bay. The grant allowed us to continue its long-term project of turning a former wasteland into a productive wetland/aquatic habitat at the Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Below are photo’s taken from the same location, before and after restoration of wetlands
Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.