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BayScaping helps you grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue

You can have an immediate, positive impact on the health of our coastal waters if you stop using fertilizers and pesticides. Our BayScaping program works with Casco Bay communities to keep lawn chemicals from polluting the Bay.

Pesticides are getting into Casco Bay

Stormwater testing by Friends of Casco Bay found that rain picks up pesticides as it runs off into Casco Bay. Our goal was simply to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides in the runoff. Lab analysis of the jars of rainwater we collected, between 2001 and 2009, identified 10 different pesticides at 13 coastal communities from South Portland to Brunswick.

We have detected pesticides in stormwater running into Casco Bay.

Our lawn fertilizers are over-fertilizing the Bay.

We also tested for and found excess nitrogen and phosphorous, key components of fertilizer, all around the Bay. These nutrients can pollute drinking water wells, and when washed downstream can cause algal blooms, degrade marine water quality, and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

We created our BayScaping Program as a public education campaign to stop pollution from lawn care practices. BayScaping reaches out to homeowners to encourage them to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

BayScaping Socials

BayScaper Sign in Garden
If you use lawn care practices that eliminate the need for pesticides and fertilizers, please call our office at (207) 799-8574 to find out how to get a BayScaper sign.

Peer pressure can be an incredibly effective motivator. Perhaps no one wants to be the only family on the block with dandelions on their lawn. Our neighbors to the North, in Canada, have turned that concern upside down. Recognizing the harm that lawn chemicals cause to people, pets, and the environment, Canadians created a culture change among their neighbors. In many provinces, neighbors now look down on neighbors who have perfect, weed-free yards, suspicious they could be sneaking banned pesticides onto their lawn in the dead of night.

We are trying to create the same cultural shift here. A staple of our BayScaping outreach has been neighborhood socials, which connect neighbors with the notion that lawn care practices can affect the water quality of Casco Bay. We have found that providing evidence of pesticide runoff from a particular neighborhood is one of the most compelling ways to inspire behavioral change of those who live in that community.

Meeting with people in their homes, churches, libraries, and town halls is intended to get them to take action as a community to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers. We suggest practical, Bay-friendly lawn care practices for mowing, watering, weed control, and more. Now, the not-quite-perfect lawn can be acceptable—and maybe even envied.

We offer free BayScaping yard signs that proclaim to your neighbors that this lawn is a chemical-free zone! Call our office at (207) 799-8574 to request one.

Working at the local, state, and national levels

Despite two decades of outreach, many Maine homeowners still use pesticides and fertilizers. We became involved in “grassroots efforts” with local communities that are developing ordinances to restrict or ban lawn chemicals. Our data on pesticides and nitrogen runoff have been requested by communities such as South Portland, Portland, Harpswell, and Falmouth.

Maine is one of only seven states and the District of Columbia that allow local governments—using home rule—to restrict the use of pesticides.

Friends of Casco Bay’s data and BayScaping information helped South Portland enact an ordinance in 2016 that restricts the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served on a 2018 citizen’s task force that led to the passage of a similar ordinance in Portland.

In 2019, Cathy was recruited to serve on a Working Group to draft an ordinance to regulate fertilizers in the City of South Portland. We will continue to sound the alarm about the need for communities to adopt restrictions on the use of lawn care products.

Two dozen Maine communities have passed ordinances controlling or banning the
use of pesticides. A list of ordinances in Maine communities can be found at

Additional resources:

What is Friends of Casco Bay doing to reduce use of lawn chemicals?


  • We offer BayScaping socials to help neighbors work together to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use. Whenever possible, we tag team with an experienced gardener, who can answer practical lawn care questions, such as how to deal with grubs and crabgrass.
  • We share our BayScaping message at our community outreach tabling events, as well as through our social media, emails, newsletters, and interviews.


  • We work with municipalities and community groups as they explore restrictions on the use of lawn care chemicals.
  • We follow bills in the Maine Legislature that reference lawn chemicals and enlist citizen support to weigh in on bills of concern.

What you can do to reduce use of lawn chemicals

Get advice and use these resources to help you:

Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

*A study at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that exposure to lawn pesticides, specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies, raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma by as much as 70%.

A study at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University concluded certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer, including common herbicides containing 2,4-D, MCPP, and/or Dicamba (all pesticides that Friends of Casco Bay detected in stormwater flowing into Casco Bay).

More on BayScaping:

Dreaming of a green yard…and a blue Bay

February 13, 2020

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Three decades of success – the impact of Friends of Casco Bay

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​ Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a crucial role in our ability to monitor the environmental health of Casco Bay, engage community members to be good stewards, and protect our coastal waters… Read more