Nova Scotia Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (NS-EHJV) Wetland Stewardship Program 2012-2013

Final Project Report: Nova Scotia Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (NS-EHJV) Wetland Stewardship Program, 2012-2013

Goals and Objectives

With nearly all of the agricultural landscape in Nova Scotia privately owned, a strong private land stewardship program
responding to human population and resource development pressures and trends is essential to ensure the conservation
and restoration of wetland habitats in this landscape. Nova Scotia farmers and other agricultural support practitioners are
increasingly becoming aware and interested in habitat conservation and biodiversity related issues.

The current priority of the NS-EHJV Wetland Stewardship Program is to facilitate partnerships with agricultural producers
and practitioners to improve the conservation, restoration and enhancement of wetland habitat in the agricultural landscape
through the delivery and promotion of Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation Plans (ABC Plans).

ABC Plans are an important tool that can allow farmers to clearly identify the existing and potential Beneficial Management
Practices (BMP’s) that promote the maintenance or enhancement of biodiversity (including enhancement of waterfowl breeding
habitat) on their farms. ABC Plan’s start with a thorough (1-3 days) on-farm biodiversity assessment that includes: 1) an interview
with the farm operator; 2) identification of existing habitats (including wetlands) and species of conservation concern; and 3) an
evaluation of riparian health and the identification of potential enhancement activities. A detailed ABC Plan is prepared from
information obtained during the on-farm biodiversity assessment. The ABC Plan’s document for the farmers both the positive
conservation practices existing on the farm, and make specific conservation, restoration and enhancement recommendations
for improving wildlife habitat.

The goal of this project is:

1) Address provincial wetland conservation and management needs through the development of conservation and stewardship
objectives and the application of stewardship techniques.

Activities

April 2012-March 2013:  Ensure that existing benefits to breeding, migratory and wintering waterfowl and other wildlife and people will be maintained on privately owned lands by implementing ABC Plans on 20 Farms.

April 2012-March 2013: Improve public understanding of wetland ecosystem services and educate both landowner and responsible land use practices by implementing ABC Plans, making presentations and field events; liaising with government departments, NGO’s, community groups, municipal governments, youth and the general public.

April 2012-March 2013: Undertake physical improvements on privately owned wetlands to benefit wetland associated wildlife species by identifying potential improvements and providing an opportunity to connect producers with NGO’s, community groups and government agencies that can assist with physical improvements.

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

Given that most of Nova Scotia is privately owned, suitable breeding habitat for American woodcock and snipe largely depends upon the actions of private landowners, including farmers managing fields, small woodlots and freshwater marshes associated with their agricultural operation. Public education initiatives are also necessary to inform land-owners of the value of these important habitats for Americanwoodcock and common snipe.

Wetland stewardship and restoration / enhancement are complementary activities undertaken to directly increase duckling survival and the number of breeding pairs settling in the agricultural landscape by improving the abundance and productivity of brood rearing habitat. Currently, brood rearing and pairing wetlands represent 2.1% of the agricultural landscape in NS. The NS-EHJV partners have established a long-term goal to increase the number of these wetlands to 4% of the agricultural landscape.

The NS-EHJV Wetland Stewardship Program will contribute to achieving the waterfowl population goals for Nova Scotia by influencing positive land use practices to support, expand, and maintain critical breeding habitat for NS-EHJV Priority Waterfowl Species (e.g. American black duck, mallard, green-winged teal and ring-necked duck). Through awareness, and the ABC Plans, the NS-EHJV Wetland Stewardship Program will also support habitat conservation for American woodcock and common snipe by influencing positive land use practices that support and maintain breeding habitat for these migratory game bird species

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The stewardship activities outlined in this proposal complement several waterfowl and wetlands conservation initiatives including the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, Black Duck Joint Venture and Atlantic Coast Joint Ventures, as well as other initiatives developing under the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI).

The NS-EHJV Wetland Stewardship Program continues to provide direct biodiversity related support and wildlife habitat information to Nova Scotia’s farm planning practitioners, agricultural extension workers, and farm producers by directly engaging them in the planning and delivery of farm projects.

Project Location

The NS-EHJV Wetland Stewardship Program will focus on farmland located in the Valley and Central Lowlands Ecoregion (primarily Annapolis, Kings, Hants and Colchester Counties) and Northumberland and Bras d’Or Lowlands Ecoregion (primarily Cumberland, Pictou and Antigonish Counties). The landscape type is agriculture, which primarily occurs on privately owned family farms in NS.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Glen J. Parsons, Provincial Biologist, Scotia Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife Division, Kentville, NS.