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Natural Resources

WaterfallEnvironmental and natural features should be inventoried and mapped with an emphasis on features that will influence growth and development in the community or that contribute to the overall quality of life for residents. Features that should be considered in this inventory follow.

 

Wetlands
Rivers, Lakes & Streams
Drinking Water Resources
Threatened and Endangered Species
Prime Farmland, Agricultural and Soil Conservation
Coastal Resources
Floodplains
Air Quality
Environmentally Sensitive Areas
Climate/ Meteorological
Mineral Resources

Wetlands

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) jointly define wetlands as those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas. Wetlands are extremely valuable and productive ecosystems. They are home to many threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. They are also the source of many commercially and recreational valuable species of fish, shellfish, and wildlife. Wetlands retain flood waters and protect coastal shorelines from erosion. Wetlands filter runoff and adjacent surface waters to protect the quality of our lakes, bays, streams and rivers. Wetlands also protect many drinking water sources as well as providing recreational areas. Wetland information, mapping are available through numerous public and private agencies and organizations.

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Rivers, Lakes and Streams

Scenic river designation is an important step in the planning process of managing and protecting river related aesthetic, ecological and cultural values. This process combines input from local governments, planning agencies, quasi-public and private organizations and individuals to achieve balanced objectives of resource use and protection. Waterways are evaluated according to indigenous natural resource values, character and extent of man-made development, resource endangerment, and recreational use or potential. River conservation efforts are initiated by numerous organizations both public and private. Scenic river designation listings are available from local, state and federal agencies.

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Drinking Water

Drinking water sources can be from surface water and ground water. Surface water occurs in the form of streams, lakes, ponds, and swamps. Ground water is that water which has percolated from the earth's surface into the subsurface earth materials and has reached the zone where saturation of the subsurface materials occur. Thus, ground water is a veritable ocean of fresh water beneath the surface of the land masses of the earth. Both water sources are used for public and private drinking water sources. Surface and groundwater resources within your community can be gathered from existing state and federal well databases and local/regional planning boards. Surf Your Watershed could be a key source of information.

Water quality criteria list specific levels of water quality which, if reached, are expected to render a body of water suitable for its designated use. The criteria are based on specific levels of pollutants that would make the water harmful if used for drinking, swimming, farming, fish production, or industrial process. State-adopted and EPA-approved ambient standards for water bodies are known as water quality standards. The standards cover the use of the water body and the water quality criteria which must be met to protect the designated use or uses.

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Threatened and Endangered Species

"All living things are part of a complex, delicately balanced network. The removal of a single species can set off a chain reaction affecting many others. The full significance of an extinction is not always readily apparent; and the long-term impacts are difficult to predict"-USFWS pamphlet on Endangered Species. The following criteria, in general, are used in determining whether a species is considered endangered or threatened: Species or subspecies in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range are considered endangered while species or subspecies which are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range are considered threatened. Species or subspecies which are uncommon within a state or region are considered rare. Lists of threatened and endangered plant and animal species are published periodically by the USFWS.

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Prime Farmland, Agricultural and Soil Conservation

Prime farmland is land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oil seed crops, and is also available for these uses (the land could be cropland, pasture land, forest land, or other land, but not urban built-up land or water). It has the soil quality, growing season, and moisture supply needed to economically produce sustained high yields of crops when treated and managed, including water management, according to acceptable farming methods.

In general, prime farmlands have an adequate and dependable water supply from precipitation or irrigation, a favorable temperature and growing season, acceptable acidity or alkalinity, acceptable salt content, and few or no rocks. They are permeable to water and air. Prime farmlands are not excessively erodible or saturated with water for a long period of time, and they either do not flood frequently or are protected from flooding. Due to loss of agricultural lands through development these lands are increasingly being placed in agricultural security areas or easements for long-term protection from development.

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Coastal Resources

Coastal resources are important natural and economic resources that include: shore zone (offshore, near shore, foreshore, back shore), beaches, beach ridges, freshwater wetlands, barrier flats, jetties, salt marshes and tidal flats, inlets, reefs, cliffs, lagoons, bays and estuaries. Additional information on coastal resources and the natural and economic significance can be obtained from numerous public and private agencies and organizations.

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Floodplains

A floodplain area is a relatively flat or low land area which is subject to partial or complete inundation from an adjoining or nearby stream, river or watercourse; and/or any area subject to the unusual and rapid accumulation of surface waters from any source. The floodway is the designated area of a floodplain required to carry and discharge flood waters of a given magnitude. The floodway shall be capable of accommodating a flood of the one hundred (100) year magnitude. A 100-year flood event is the highest event of flooding that, on average, is likely to occur every 100 years, that is, that has a 1.0% chance of occurring each year. Floodplain mapping has been developed for most communities in the United States and is available from federal, state and local agencies or organizations.

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Air Quality

The air quality of a region is representative of the levels of pollution and lengths of exposure above which adverse health and welfare effects may occur. Air quality standards have been developed to gauge level of pollutants not to be exceeded during a specified time period in a defined area. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established by USEPA apply to outside air throughout the United States. State implementation plans (SIP) are USEPA-approved state plans for the establishment, regulation, and enforcement of air pollution standards.

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Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Environmentally sensitive areas include important natural resources such as sensitive topographic features (i.e. steep slopes (>15%)), geologic/geomorphic formations, sinkholes and karst terrain; scenic vistas/overlooks/lookouts; and public and private forest and woodlands. These areas also include wildlife management areas/natural areas designated for the protection of wild animals, within which hunting and fishing are either prohibited or strictly controlled. Identification of environmentally sensitive areas in your community can assist the community protect these important resources.

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Climate/Meteorological

The climate of a region has a direct influence on the type and abundance of natural resources that are found in that region. Production of agriculture products is very dependent on the longevity of the growing season. Wind direction and other meteorological conditions such as heat, humidity, and barometric pressure dictate potential pollutant levels caused by commercial and industrial sources and automobiles. Weather data provides your community with information that may determine how climate impacts (directly or indirectly) activities within your community and region.

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Mineral Resources

Natural resources include the land, air, water, animal and vegetation but also includes mineral resources that provide raw materials which are utilized in developing our familiar human-modified environment. These resources may be nonrenewable, such as metals (aluminum, ores), product development (phosphate, limestone, sandstone), and fuels (coal, gas, oil) or renewable, such as timber and water. Extraction of mineral resources typically requires the development of large areas of land, which also can cause significant environmental impacts to that land and the surrounding environment. Development of processing plants for refining of these resources also requires significant amount of land. Together, significant land area within your community may be devoted to this type of land use.

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