Adapting People and Nature to Maine's Changing Climate

Created: 4/29/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


Maine has just begun the process of building adaptation into its climate change framework. The state has been involved in mitigation activities since 2004 and the Legislature directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop adaptation recommendations in 2009. The recommendations span the built, natural, coastal, and social environments and have been passed on to the State Legislature as of February 2010.


In 2003, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was charged by the State Legislature with developing a mitigation plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; this effort resulted in the 2004 Maine Climate Action Plan. In 2009, the University of Maine released the climate impact assessment, Maine’s Climate Future, which projected increased sea level rise, ocean acidification, air and water temperatures, and storm events for the state. Based on this assessment, the Legislature again requested that DEP take action on climate change, this time by developing adaptation options for the state.


Modeling much of their process on the preparations taken by Washington State (see Developing a Washington State Climate Change Impacts Response Strategy), the DEP created a coordinating committee, composed of representatives from the private and public sector, which then subdivided into four working groups centered around Maine’s built, coastal, natural, and social environments. These groups were tasked with developing recommendations for adaptation action. Each group met between three to four times in 2009 to discuss viable options for adapting Maine to projected climate change impacts. The recommendations provided by the working groups were collated into the People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate: Charting Maine’s Course report, which was approved by the coordinating committee in January 2010 and presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Natural Resources of the 124th Maine Legislature in February 2010. The working groups based their efforts upon the following themes (taken from the aforementioned report):

  • Climate change affects everyone.
  • Adaptation planning must involve everyone.
  • Adaptation will require an ongoing effort.
  • Natural systems should be kept resilient to likely changes.
  • Adaptation includes reducing existing stresses on natural and human systems.
  • Some positive changes will occur.
  • Maine must prepare for both incremental and acute impacts.
  • Maine should avoid unfairly passing the financial burden of inaction to future generations.
  • Existing policies and programs should be used to address climate change.
  • Some communities may be more vulnerable than others.
  • Maine must maintain its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recommendations from this report focus around the need for: adaptation planning; data, monitoring, and assessment; information and awareness; and planning and coordination:

  • Adaptation Planning: Develop a Maine Climate Change Adaptation Plan that includes a cost-benefit analysis of implementation versus inaction.
  • Data, Monitoring, and Assessment: Identify specific targets that need to be monitored (i.e. ocean acidification, post-storm flow patterns) and use existing monitoring programs to address these gaps. The priority targets for monitoring should be the most vulnerable regions to climate impacts, including beaches, salt marshes, cold water streams, wetlands, barrier beaches, and shellfish harvest areas. The report acknowledges the gaps in Maine’s current data and monitoring portfolio, including the lack of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data and useful inundation models and sea level rise scenarios for the entire coastline.
  • Information and Awareness: State agencies should provide climate change information to both the public and private sector businesses. The specific example provided is that DEP should develop outreach materials on how sea level rise will affect publically-owned wastewater treatment facilities in the state and the actions that can be taken by these facilities to prepare. In addition, the report recommends that a state climate information and coordination office be created to link resources to stakeholders.
  • Planning and Coordination: The report recommends that local and state governments and stakeholders groups work closely together to ensure a unified approach to adaptation in order to increase the chances of successful implementation. The report also offered specific coastal and wildlife recommendations:
    • Create a state policy on coastal areas that may migrate landward due to climate change and potentially using the means of zoning, conservation, and/or land acquisition;
    • Control non-point pollution through infrastructure improvements of wastewater and stormwater facilities;
    • Include climate change impacts on wildlife and their habitat in decision making and land use planning; and
    • Invest in restoration of habitat to build resilience and improve connectivity.

Outcomes and Conclusions

By legislative mandate, DEP provided the People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate: Charting Maine’s Course report and recommendations within to the 124th State Legislature in February 2010. This planning effort is in the beginning stages but with strong legislative and public support, the DEP expects that adaptation will be incorporated into Maine’s regulatory framework.


Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 4/29/10.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Adapting People and Nature to Maine's Changing Climate [Case study on a project of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:’s-changing-climate (Last updated April 2010)

Project Contact(s)

The Department engages in a wide range of activities. It makes recommendations to the Legislature regarding measures to prevent, minimize and eliminate environmental pollution; issues licenses; initiates enforcement actions; and provides information and technical assistance. The DEP serves as the main link to the federal government on environmental issues and administers some federal programs. Working with the general public, legislators and state and municipal agencies, department staff implement environmental laws and programs.


Scale of Project
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Flow patterns
Ocean acidification
Oxygen concentrations (hypoxia)
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Stormwater systems: retrofitting and improvements
Water supply: retrofitting and improvements
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptation plans
Effort Stage
In progress

Related Resources

Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Disaster Risk Management
Education / Outreach
Land Use Planning
Landscape Architecture
Water Resources
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