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Maine is under increasingly heavy pressure to permit development that may include deep-water ports and associated oil terminal and refining facilities, coastal and inland water-oriented recreational housing, and ski-related resorts. The state is 90 percent forested, sparsely populated, and historically penurious in acquisition of inventory data on natural resources. Wildlands of the Unorganized Towns, comprising 17,000 mi2, are almost entirely privately owned.

Three major statutes control developments within the state: site selection, applied statewide to major developments of 20 acres or more; wildland zoning, applied to the Unorganized Towns; and shoreland zoning, applied to areas 250 ft from lakes, streams, and coastal waters. Physical data are frequently unavailable for preliminary assessments, but geomorphologists can derive much of the necessary information from aerial photographs, geologic maps, topographic maps, and field inspections.

Quaternary events, including late Pleistocene glaciation, partial submergence, subsequent emergence, and dissection by four major river systems have established the landforms of Maine. Significant stratigraphic units are end- and ground-moraine complexes, the composition of which closely reflects bedrock character, ranging from sand with granitic boulders to fine-grained, plastic, bouldery clay; ice-contact features, including eskers, kames, kame terraces, and deltas; outwash, shore and beach deposits, and dune fields; and marine clays. These units, with their distinctive properties and limitations for building construction, roads, and waste disposal, are readily identified by the geomorphologist, whose information then provides the basis for first-level land-use decisions.

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