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Protection of Vernal Pools in Massachusetts

Some of these documents present an interpretation of what are quite complex Massachusetts wetland regulations. These do not necessarily reflect the policy opinions of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection or the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. We offer our opinions based on experience but we are neither legal scholars nor regulators.



Official Guidelines for the Certification of Vernal Pool Habitat. 
The procedures for certifying a vernal pool in Massachusetts were modified on March 1, 2009. These guidelines reflect those changes.

Examples of "evidence" and other information for certification.
These pages on the VPA website provide some details for certification including examples of the life stages of the obligate vernal pool species which are suitable for certification evidence.

Obligate species evidence timeline. 

This timeline indicates when the eggs, larvae, and metamorphs of vernal pool species are usually in vernal pools.

Vernal Pool Certification FAQ. 
We get many questions about Vernal Pool Certification. Here we provide answers to a few of the more frequent questions about certification in relation to regulations. 

Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act Regulations (310 CMR 10.00): annotations of the sections relevant to the protection of vernal pools.
The Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act has several provisions relating to vernal pools, vernal pool habitat, and protection. Matthew Burne has annotated the WPA as it applies to vernal pools. This information is of use to Conservation Commissions in their work. The link is to a 1.6 MB pdf file.

Protecting Vernal Pools: Buffers fact sheet.
Vernal pools are protected under MA wetlands laws, but there is a common mis-perception that they have a 100-foot no-touch zone around them. This fact sheet explains the reality behind that myth.

Protecting Vernal Pools: Non-breeding Habitat.
The upland surrounding vernal pools is almost as important to think about as the pool itself in protecting these important habitats. This fact sheet helps explain why.

NHESP Forestry Conservation Management Practices for Rare Species. This overview page links to guidelines developed by NHESP to assist property owners, land managers, consultants, and conservation commissioners with protecting wood turtles, Blanding's turtles, box turtles, mole salamanders and loons.

MA DEP DWW Policy 85-2: ILSF Definition. 
For regulators and consultants alike, this official DEP policy provides important guidance relevant to jurisdiction determinations and boundary delineation for isolated wetlands, which often function as vernal pools.

MA DEP DWW Policy 90-2: Rare Species Standards and Procedures. 
This official DEP policy provides some important guidance on the Wetlands Protection Act regulations sections that deal with rare species habitat.

Vernal Pools: Regulatory Protection in Massachusetts.
The regulatory protection of vernal pools in Massachusetts is pretty complicated. In this document we've put together an over-view summary of laws that cover vernal pools, and explain jurisdiction, delineation, and performance standards for each. 

Department of Environmental Protection Commonwealth of Massachusetts IN THE MATTER OF THE JAN COMPANIES, INC.
This final decision in a MA Wetlands Protection Act appeal case established an important precedent for protecting a vernal pool when it occurs in a wetland resource area for which there are no performance standards for vernal pools. It establishes that vernal pools can be protected if they occur in any jurisdictional wetland, not just Land Subject to Flooding. 

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