Forest-Wildlife Program – Protection of Wetlands, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture 2009-10

Forest-Wildlife Program – Protection of Wetlands, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture Final Project Report 2009/2010 (pdf) (In French only)

Goals and Objectives

The forest-wildlife program falls within the guidelines and priorities that the Foundation has given to its strategic planning carried out for 2008-2011. This program supports an integrated management approach of the wildlife and forest resources on private lands. The component “protection of wetlands” of this program will permit maintaining and increasing wildlife productivity and biodiversity in forested wetlands by supporting increasingly firm engagement by landowners and by developing partnerships with organizations dedicated to the enhancement of these environments.

Concerning activity #2 (of the program) – “monitoring the wetlands and loyalty of the landowners” – the objectives are first, to note if the (voluntary conservation) agreement was respected and also to empower and involve the landowner with the aim that the landowner will protect the wetlands on his/her land, to enable the landowner to have a resource person who can help with managing his/her land well, and to accompany the landowner on the way towards a higher level of wetlands protection by offering various possibilities and other existing conservation options.

Activities

In order to conserve forested wetlands which are considered to be habitats of great value to waterfowl and biodiversity, the Quebec Wildlife Foundation, thanks to the contribution of Wildlife Habitat Canada, has implemented a financial support program aimed at forest stakeholders and environmental organizations. These groups can receive an amount (up to a maximum of 60% of the total cost of their project) to finance the protection of their forested wetlands on private lands. The activities include an on the ground visit in order to characterize the wetland and validate the presence of wildlife and plant species (endangered or not), a meeting with the landowners to make them aware of the importance of protecting these wetlands, and a signed conservation agreement with these landowners (declaration of intention). As well, an evaluation of the potential for waterfowl nesting is completed each year in the Center-of-Quebec (Bird Conservation Region 13) area. To be eligible, each project must cover at least 10 wetlands totalling a minimum area of 50 hectares. The projects are submitted in the month of October each year and they may last for a maximum of 2 years. However, they are subject to a new evaluation each year. Several tools have been developed within the framework of these activities: biophysical map of the wetlands present in each landowner’s area, a list of species present on the site, a guide containing recommendations for the conservation of the wetland, a list of resource persons and government authorities that can be contacted, and a declaration of the intention to sign (a voluntary conservation agreement), with everything integrated into a complete and unique notebook for each landowner.

For activity #2 (of the program) – “monitoring the wetlands and loyalty of the landowners” –  the voluntary conservation agreements must be signed for at least 3 years before returning to the land with the landowner, to check the current state of the wetland, identify the landowner’s specific needs, and implement follow-up recommendations for continuing to protect the land. Several monitoring tools are available to promotional organizations with the help of a tool kit provided by the Quebec Wildlife Foundation (a sample of this was sent to WHC in 2006). The planned short and medium term activities to carry out the monitoring are different in nature, that is: a visit to the site to validate the presence of new wildlife species; a visit to the landowners who have already signed conservation agreements for their wetlands, recognition of the site to validate the exceptional character of the wetlands and the presence of intact fauna and flora, the sending of personalized postcards to maintain contact with the landowner and the conservation organization which approached the program to keep in contact with them, the sending of an annual news bulletin on the state of the protected site, providing capsules of information in existing local newspapers, training of certain landowners, as well as the possibility of creating a network of wetlands.

The monitoring the wetlands and loyalty of the landowners makes it possible to see concrete results of using the approach of protection by voluntary conservation and also to see the validity of the engagement of the landowners that have been made aware (of the program). Already, the results over the past three years have shown that the protected areas remained intact and undisturbed for the most part while new wildlife species, including waterfowl, were identified. The landowners met again and all have all remained aware (of the program) and some of them are committed even more strongly by signing conservation easements. In addition, two nature reserves on private lands are currently being recognized.

Specific Habitat Products/Results to be Supported by WHC’s Contributions

In 2009-2010, we will initiate approximately 10 new projects (we estimate four projects dealing with activity 1 and six projects dealing with activity 2). These projects should make it possible to protect more than 600 additional hectares of waterfowl habitats and carry out the monitoring of more than 300 hectares already protected. The declaration of intention is a mode of voluntary conservation that is used more and more by a good number of stakeholders to protect a great diversity of sensitive forested and agricultural habitats. This project aims to engage 100 private landowners.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

By protecting the wetlands in Bird Conservation Regions 12, 13, and 14, the Quebec Wildlife Foundation contributes to the habitat conservation of several hundred species of birds, including several species of waterfowl. Among these species are arboreal ducks (Wood Duck, Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead), Black Duck, Mallard Duck, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser and the Ring-necked Duck. Several endangered species, such as the Least Bittern, Short-eared Owl, Gold-winged Warbler, Bald Eagle, Wood Turtle, Pickerel Frog, etc. could also be found on the protected sites.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

Private landowners that own wetlands will be the first ones to benefit from the project. They will obtain a biological characterization of their site, an inventory of wildlife and plant species (with particular attention to species of special concern), as well as an assessment of the potential for nesting waterfowl. In addition, they will receive an awareness tool, such as a landowner’s notebook, which will allow them to receive simple and effective recommendations in order to better protect their wetlands. By signing their voluntary conservation agreements, the landowners are conscious of the importance of their wetlands and the wildlife values that these wetlands can offer.

Being the subject of a voluntary conservation agreement, the wetlands will be recognized in addition to the many partners who are involved with the project. In certain cases, the unique status of the area will be proposed to the landowner by other concerned partners (provincial ministries, municipalities, regional county municipality, Nature Conservancy, etc). Thus, the degree of protection of certain wetlands could be accentuated with signed conservation agreements that involve greater commitment and are based on a longer term (easement, donation, lease, natural reserve on private land, etc).

The Quebec Wildlife Foundation currently sees the implementation of a Quebec network of protected wetlands in order to share and distribute information amongst all partners and stakeholders. The network could therefore have an educational effect on private landowners who have an interest in voluntary conservation in Quebec. The activity of monitoring will be used, among other things, to establish this network.

Project Location

The project covers several sites in the entire area of the St. Lawrence valley (lowlands) in three principal ecozones: boreal shield, mixed forest plains, and the Maritimes. It also reaches the priority ecoregion of the St. Lawrence River classified as category A by the (North American Waterfowl Management) Plan and five other ecoregions of category B.

The project is entirely located in the St. Lawrence watershed. More specifically, the targeted areas are especially the Appalachian Mountains (Center-of-Québec, Estrie, Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains), the Saint-Lawrence Plains (Outaouais, Laurentians, Québec) and Saguenay (see map of the projects in the annex).

The landscape on which the projects will be carried out is essentially forested. The wetlands to be protected will be located, among other places, in the cities or municipalities of Québec, Saguenay, Rimouski, Chicoutimi, Baie Saint-Paul, Lac–Beauport, Thetford Mines, Breakeyville, Victoriaville, Sain-Raymond-de-Portneuf, New Richmond, Drummondville, Messines, Saint-Martin, etc.

The project is situated especially in Bird Conservation Region (BCR) 13 along the St. Lawrence Plains, considered as a priority by the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture since the habitats for waterfowl and birds are always threatened there. BCR 12 and 14 will be also involved. In addition, certain sites targeted for the protection of the forested wetlands are consistent with certain priority sectors for wetlands according to Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC’s) regional plans. It’s the case, among other things, in the areas of Center-of-Québec and the Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains where certain wetlands are classified as priority 1 or 2.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Christine Bélanger, Project Coordinator, Quebec Wildlife Foundation, Quebec, Quebec.