Manitoba Waterfowl Breeding Habitat Project

Project by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.

Location: Shoal Lake, Minnedosa, Virden, Brandon, Killarney, MB.

For more information on this project, please contact Stephen Carlyle, Program Development Manager, Winnipeg, MB.

Purpose

The Manitoba Waterfowl Breeding Habitat Project specifically addresses waterfowl breeding habitat needs within North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) Target Landscapes found in the Manitoba portion of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR). With more than 50% of North America’s waterfowl populations breeding in the Canadian PPR, this vast landscape is crucial to waterfowl populations across the continent. Located in south-western Manitoba, the PPR of Manitoba is a highly productive landscape for waterfowl but is challenged by high levels of wetland drainage, resulting in loss or degradation of breeding habitat. Further, this area is largely located within the Prairie-Parkland transition zone, which has been shown to support increased levels of waterfowl predators. Addressing this two-pronged threat, the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation (MHHC) is continuing its work to attain perpetual protection of waterfowl breeding habitat through conservation easements and the enhancement of these habitats – and breeding success – through the maintenance of artificial nesting structures (Hen Houses).

In total, this project will affect 2,793 acres of wetland and associated upland habitat. About 2,000 acres of wetland habitat will be enhanced through the maintenance of Hen Houses. Based on research in Manitoba, an average of 2.35 mallards are fledged annually from each Hen House. Therefore, there is potential to produce as many as 4,700 mallards within the one year life of this project, simply through the maintenance of these structures. Adding to this benefit, MHHC will perpetually protect 693 acres of waterfowl breeding habitat and provide term protection on an additional 100 acres

Long-term conservation impacts and benefits

The core long-term impact of this project is the maintenance of waterfowl populations across North America through the preservation and enhancement of wetland and associated upland habitat in key waterfowl production areas of Manitoba. The majority of wetland preservation completed under this proposal will be in perpetuity and therefore ensure the continued waterfowl carrying capacity of Manitoba’s Prairie Pothole Region.

New tools, methodologies, landscape practices or protocols

This project will target areas within the newly refined NAWMP Target Landscapes in Manitoba. These landscapes have been created based on updated waterfowl production models from Ducks Unlimited Canada and the PHJV Science Committee. These new models have recalculated pair densities based on new research into species-specific waterfowl breeding behaviour and additional nesting studies. Additionally, in Manitoba the NAWMP partners established a review committee to examine the waterfowl-focussed Target Landscapes and adjusted the boundaries to include proximate areas that are known to be of high value to marsh birds. Through this action, the Manitoba NAMWP Target Landscapes now reflect areas of high importance for both waterfowl and other marsh birds. This project will focus its delivery within these newly defined landscapes so as to maximize benefits to a range of bird species.

Stewardship

This project will provide voluntary stewardship opportunities for private landowners of Manitoba. These include:

  1. Conservation Easements

Registered on the land title, conservation easements prevent detrimental impacts to habitats included in the agreement through the restriction of land use. These restrictions include prohibitions on wetland drainage and cultivation. The easement may be paid or donated but the consideration is made only to the initial landowner. Cash payments are based on 30 – 40% of the land’s assessed value. In the case of donations, a receipt is issued based on a certified appraisal. Subsequent landowners must adhere to the restrictions of the easement.

  1. Conservation Contracts

MHHC implements voluntary conservation contracts when landowners are unwilling or not comfortable entering into a perpetual conservation easement. These are used as a tool to place term protection (i.e. 10-year) on valuable wetland habitat that is at risk of loss. They also serve as an introductory program from which MHHC will convert some conservation contacts to conservation easements. Contracts are typically paid agreements but payments are lower than those of a conservation easement.

  1. Hen Houses

Hen Houses are tube-shaped artificial nesting structures that provide a safer nesting location for waterfowl – primarily mallards. These structures provide overhead cover from avian predators and are positioned two to three feet above the wetland’s surface. This placement greatly reduces predation from ground- or water-based predators. Installations of Hen Houses are done under voluntary agreements with a ten year term. Annual maintenance of the structures is required over the winter to ensure appropriate nesting materials are in place for the spring breeding season.