Sustainable Approaches to Managing Small-Scale Ecosystems: A Case Study of Vernal Pool Protection in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States of America

  •  Chad McGuire    


This paper reviews the current management scheme used by Massachusetts to protect vernal pools, which represent small-scale ecosystems, and analyzes its relative strengths and weaknesses from an overall sustainability standpoint by looking at the frameworks developed for management.  The frameworks are analyzed to determine if the objectives of vernal pool protection are being met.  The initial impression is the outcomes are not meeting the objective of overall vernal pool protection, because there are failures in the drivers (mainly the certification requirement), which limits the number of verbal pools actually protected.  An expansion of the current Massachusetts program is suggested to allow for proper consideration of all vernal pools resources regardless of their physical location, proximity to priority habitat, or their legal status at the time of review.  Such an expansion would allow for the quantifiable ecosystem services provided by vernal pools to be more readily protected. However, such an expansion also raises important legal questions regarding the extent to which private property can be regulated in the United States.  Although this question is not analyzed within the context of this paper, it may limit the application of certain solutions proposed.

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