Protection of Forested Wetlands – EHJV 2011-2012

12-7Photo: Chaudière-Appalaches
Credit: Fondation de la faune du Quebec 

Goals and Objectives

The forest-wildlife program and the integrated sub-watershed management program fall within the Foundation’s guidelines and priorities, in follow up to its strategic planning for 2009-2012. These programs both support an approach of integrated management of wildlife and forest resources on private lands. The wetlands component of the forest-wildlife program will permit the maintenance and increase in wildlife productivity and biodiversity in forested wetlands by supporting the increasingly firm engagement of landowners and by developing partnerships with organizations dedicated to the enhancement of these environments.

Concerning the monitoring of the wetlands and the 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 goal that he/she will be devoted to 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 a journey towards a higher level of (wetlands) protection by offering various possibilities and other existing conservation options.

Protection and enhancement of wetlands by voluntary conservation will benefit, in the short and medium term, the involvement of landowners in the protection and conservation of their wetlands. Working in integrated management and at a sub-watershed scale will allow a real mobilization of the environmental stakeholders on a realistic scale.

Activities

In order to conserve forested wetlands which are considered to be habitats of great value for waterfowl and biodiversity, the Quebec Wildlife Foundation, thanks to the contribution of Wildlife Habitat Canada, has implemented a program of financial support aimed at forested stakeholders and environmental organizations. These groups can receive an amount (up to a maximum of 60% of the total cost of their project) to support 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 waterfowl and 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 area (Bird Conservation Region 13). To be eligible, each project must cover at least 10 wetlands totaling a minimum area of 50 hectares. The projects are submitted in the month of October each year and may be spread over 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, an evaluation of the waterfowl nesting potential, 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 intention (voluntary conservation agreement) to sign, with everything integrated into a complete and unique notebook for each landowner.

For activity 2 – 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 verify the current state of the wetland, identify the landowner’s specific needs, and implement follow-up recommendations for continuing the protection of the land. Several monitoring tools are available to promotional organizations in the form of a tool kit provided by the Quebec Wildlife Foundation. In fact, the anticipated short and medium term activities to carry out the monitoring are different in nature, such as: a return visit to the (landowner’s) 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 in validating the exceptional character of the wetlands and the presence of intact wildlife and plants; the sending of personalized postcards to keep the landowner and the conservation organization who approached him/her in contact; the sending of an annual news bulletin on the state of the protected site; providing capsules of information in existing local newspapers; the training of certain landowners; as well as the possibility of creating a network of wetlands.

The monitoring of the wetlands and the 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 inventoried. The landowners who were met again have all remained aware (of the program) and some of them are even more strongly committed by signing conservation easements. In addition, two nature reserves on private land are currently being recognized.

Concerning the protection and enhancement of wetlands in the integrated sub-watershed management program, now that the inventory work was completed last year, (the next step is) putting in place concrete actions by meeting private woodlot owners and making them aware of the voluntary conservation of their wetlands. To achieve this, training will be held to transfer the knowledge of the promoters regarding various forest-wildlife initiatives which includes the integration of concrete actions aimed at the protection of wetlands.

Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

In 2011-2012, we will initiate approximately 9 new projects (we estimate 5 projects dealing with activity 1, 4 projects dealing with activity 2, and continuing the development of 7 integrated sub-watershed management projects). These projects should make it possible to protect more than 595 additional hectares of waterfowl habitats and to carry out the monitoring of more than 720 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.

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, one notes directly 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 Short-eared Owl, Gold-winged Warbler, Bald Eagle, Wood Turtle, Pickerel Frog, etc. are also likely to be found on the protected sites or were already inventoried during past years. The monitoring activity will make it possible to support the landowners’ interest in the protection of wetlands and to validate if the inventoried species are still present today.

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, as well as an evaluation of the potential for nesting waterfowl. In addition, the handing out of an awareness tool, such as a landowner’s notebook, 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.

As the subject of a voluntary conservation agreement, the wetlands will be recognized with respect 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). Therefore, the degree of protection of certain wetlands could be accentuated by the signing of conservation agreements that involve greater commitment and are based on a longer term (easement, donation, lease, natural reserve on private land, etc).

The results of the protection of the wetlands with the passing of the years (nearly 1,000 signed agreements and beyond 5,600 protected hectares during the past 11 years) have made it possible to establish a network of protected wetlands in order to share and disseminate information among all of the partners and stakeholders. This network has a ripple effect on the private landowners who are interested in voluntary conservation in Quebec. Among other things, the monitoring activity contributes to the establishment of this network.

With regard to the protection and enhancement of wetlands in the integrated management program, the impacts will be directly linked to the mobilization of the landowners amongst themselves and a stronger feeling of membership since the projects will be carried out at a small scale and thus easily agreed to by all of the wetland stakeholders. In the medium term, the conservation of wetlands will be considered (much) more in Quebec and the stakeholders will be better equipped to protect these rich ecosystems.

Project Location

The project covers several sites in the entire St. Lawrence valley (lowlands) area in three main 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 category B ecoregions.

The project is located entirely in the St. Lawrence watershed. More specifically, the main targeted regions are the Appalachian Mountains (Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains, Saint-Lawrence Lowlands, Estrie, Center-of-Quebec) and the Saint-Lawrence Plains (Laurentians, Montérégie, the National Capital) (see map of the projects in the appendix). Other areas along the St. Lawrence watershed could also be targeted during the year.

The landscape on which the projects will be carried out is essentially forested. The wetlands to be protected will be located in various municipalities in Quebec.

The project is situated particularly 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. Bird Conservation Regions 12 and 14 will be also reached. In addition, certain sites targeted for the protection of forested wetlands are consistent with some priority wetland areas according to Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC’s) regional plans. This is the case, among other things, in the region of the Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact André Martin, President-Director General, Quebec Wildlife Foundation, Quebec, QC.