Vernal Pool Certification
|The NHESP strongly recommends that landowner permission be obtained prior to collecting certification documentation. It is the sole responsibility of an individual providing vernal pool certification information to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program to ensure that all of their activities associated with gathering said information comply with law.|
NEW! The Vernal Pool & Rare Species (VPRS) Information System was launched November 5, 2012. The VPRS System is a web-based mapping and data submittal application that provides users with a way to submit rare species observation reports and vernal pool certification forms to NHESP electronically. The VPRS System allows you to complete an entire form (NHESP Plant or Animal Observation Form, Vernal Pool Certification Form) online, including the mapping of the location and the ability to upload photos or other associated documents.
The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program "certifies" the occurrence of vernal pools based on documentation of the pool's use by one or more groups of species that rely on vernal pools. This process relies on volunteers to identify vernal pools, and to collect and submit documentation. The Natural Heritage Program's "Guidelines for the Certification of Vernal Pool Habitat (2009)" describe the requirements for the documentation of biota using a vernal pool, and also has information on the maps that are required in order to obtain certification for a vernal pool. They also have general information regarding the physical characteristics of vernal pools, and some techniques for finding them. Gathering information for certification is an excellent way for people to learn about vernal pools and the animals that use them, and to become involved in the protection of natural resources in Massachusetts.
The Natural Heritage Program has certified about 5024 vernal pools as of January 2009. View a map and table of the number of certified vernal pools by town.
Official certification provides a vernal pool, and up to 100 feet beyond its boundary in some cases, certain protection under several state and federal laws. Originally defined and protected under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act regulations, Certified Vernal Pools now also receive protection under Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code, Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act, the Massachusetts Surface Water Quality Standards which relate to Section 401, and the Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act. These regulations help to eliminate direct impacts to certified vernal pools and to minimize indirect impacts. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for the implementation of these regulations (except for the Forest Cutting Practices Act, administered by the Department of Conservation and Recreation), and has designated specific staff as vernal pool liaisons. (See the Vernal Pools introduction page for more information).