Gulf of Maine Coastal Program
Northeast Region

Identify and assess habitat

Map of Hog Island
Map of Hog Island. Credit: USFWS

We work with conservation partners to
identify and assess habitat values for:

  • Atlantic salmon and other diadromous (searun) fish,
  • migratory birds (particularly waterbirds), and
  • federally threatened and endangered species.

Biologists/GIS specialists on our staff use computer
mapping and database management skills to:

  • compile existing biological information,
  • create databases and GIS maps that
    identify high priority conservation sites,
  • and help fill information gaps by seeking available
    information from others, conducting habitat surveys
    and developing restoration inventories.

Once habitat information has been compiled, our staff works
with partners interested in habitat protection and restoration to:

  • interpret and share GIS databases and maps,
  • examine the landscape context of potential projects,
  • recommend habitat protection and restoration priorities with greatest value, based
    on habitat value, economic feasibility, community support and other factors, and
  • explore the value of the maps and data in supporting fundraising initiatives and community outreach.

Gulf of Maine Coastal Program has played a lead role in completing five
major habitat assessment and mapping projects that continue to support
successful on-the-ground habitat conservation initiatives.

Gulf of Maine watershed habitat analysis

Map of the gulf of Maine.
Gulf of Maine. Credit: USFWS

This GIS analysis identifies high value habitat throughout the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Maine watershed for 91 species that regularly inhabit the Gulf of Maine watershed and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Federally endangered or threatened species,
  • Migratory birds, diadromous (searun) and
    estuarine fish that are declining nationwide, or
  • Migratory birds, diadromous and estuarine fish that
    have been identified as threatened or endangered by two
    or more of the three states in the Gulf of Maine watershed.

The analysis identifies, ranks and maps high value forested, freshwater wetland and estuarine habitat throughout the watershed. The results of the analysis have been incorporated in the statewide Beginning with Habitat initiative for pro-active community-based planning and habitat protection. Beginning with Habitat also incorporates habitat information from Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Natural Areas Program, and it includes other useful information on wetlands, riparian buffers and unfragmented blocks of habitat.

Perhaps the most powerful on-the-ground application of our Gulf of Maine GIS watershed habitat analysis is its utility in predicting which of the 91 species are expected to be on a selected parcel of land. Land trusts interested in protecting a piece of land that has significant habitat values for some of the 91 species can contact us, provide us with a map or shapefile that clearly delineates the parcel boundaries, and request a “habitat package." The "habitat package" includes:

  • a landcover map, based on interpretation of satellite imagery,
  • a habitat map that ranks biological values of the property
    for forest, freshwater, estuarine and grassland habitats,
  • a table that identifies and quantifies the value of the parcel for each of the 91 species,
  • a habitat analysis fact sheet that briefly describes the analysis, and
  • a letter and information that helps you understand and use the information.

Our "habitat package" can provide you with helpful information in evaluating habitat values on the land, determining which funding sources might be most appropriate, supporting grant proposals and building local support for your project. For projects that appear to have high habitat value, we can also access additional biological data compiled by our office or state conservation agencies. All of the biological data can be invaluable in supporting grant applications for state and federal funding.

For more information:

  • For a “habitat package” and other information on habitat
    protection initiatives, contact Bob Houston (207) 781-8364 x11.
  • Habitat analysis fact sheet (PDF 222 KB): for those interested in a
    one-page project overview and a list of the 91 species included in the analysis.
  • View a slide show to learn about the step-by-step process we used to complete the habitat analysis.
  • For GIS users who want a CD with shapefiles and description of software
    requirements, GIS data and metadata, contact Bob Houston (207) 781-8364 x11.
  • Original technical report: a detailed description of the methodology,
    habitat models and metadata for species included in the analysis.

Maine Atlantic Salmon

Picture of an Atlantic salmon.
Atlantic salmon. Credit: USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program and the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission have conducted several habitat identification and assessment projects to help inform habitat protection and restoration projects that benefit Atlantic salmon recovery.

Maine Atlantic Salmon Habitat Atlas (Third Edition) provides detailed maps of Atlantic salmon spawning and rearing habitat along 16 rivers in Maine.

Maine Fish Passage Barrier Inventory is a new and evolving initiative designed to conduct a comprehensive inventory of bridges and culverts at road-crossings, dams and natural obstructions that may limit fish passage. Partners include Gulf of Maine Coastal Program office, Maine Forest Service, Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, Project SHARE, Atlantic Salmon Federation.

For additional information on our activities related to Atlantic salmon habitat identification, protection and restoration, you can view a slideshow that highlights several of our Atlantic salmon habitat protection and restoration activities, or you can choose from several fact sheets and links.

USFWS Gulf of Maine Coastal Program

Statewide distribution of diadromous fish

Picture of baby (or glass) eels.
Baby (or glass) eels. © Doug Watts

Gulf of Maine Coastal Program played a lead role in this initiative to develop a statewide map documenting the best available information on the current and historic range of all twelve diadromous fish in Maine. The project was completed in 2007 but should still be considered a work in progress since so many more variables could be included in diadromous fish distribution. For this project only existance of a species above or below an obstruction was considered; the actual passage at an obstruction was not considered in detail.

Contact Gulf of Maine Coastal Program staff for more information: contact Bob Houston for data availability and Sandra Lary for guidance on appropriate use of the data for habitat protection and restoration work. Primary partners include Maine Department of Marine Resources and Maine Audubon Society.

Information on the distribution of diadromous fish was generously provided by more than 40 individuals, including staff from federal and state agencies, NGO’s, and  knowledgeable private citizens. Partial funding for the project was provided by Maine Coast Protection Initiative.

Maine coastal seabird, wading bird, and eagle nesting islands

Picture of Outer Green Island with terns overhead.
Outer Green Island with terns overhead.
Credit: USFWS

Working with other partners, Gulf of Maine Coastal Program biologists analyzed existing information on nesting seabirds, wading birds and bald eagles on 4,617 coastal islands and ledges in Maine. 616 of those islands have harbored nesting waterbirds -- today or in the past. Of those, 377 provide nationally significant nesting habitat, and 151 currently lack permanent protection. In addition, only 11 of the 377 islands enjoy active management programs designed to restore and maintain the natural diversity of island-nesting birds.

Over the past decade, this information has been instrumental in catalyzing many successful initiatives to permanently protect and restore important nesting islands by the National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Maine, National Audubon Society, and statewide and local land trusts. The information on nesting islands has also been incorporated in the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan to guide future protection and restoration projects.

Remember that seabird islands are closed to the public during the nesting season, April 1 - August 31, to minimize disturbance to the birds.

More information:

Restoration of Scarborough Marsh

Strategic plan for Restoration and Enhancement of Important
Habitats in Scarborough Marsh and its Watershed
(July 2002)

This 66-page report identified and ranked salt marsh restoration opportunities in Maine’s largest (3,000 acre) salt marsh. This document has served as a guide in prioritizing and implementing multiple salt marsh restoration projects in Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area.Gulf of Maine Coastal Program staff provided significant support in developing this report and in implementing salt marsh restoration projects in Scarborough Marsh.


Last updated: July 3, 2019

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