Application of the Lower Saint John River Habitat Conservation Strategy through Landowner Outreach Program, 2015-16

Final Report: Application of the Lower Saint John River Habitat Conservation Strategy through Landowner Outreach Program, 2015-16

Goals and Objectives

A Habitat Conservation Strategy (HCS) was developed by The Nature Trust of New Brunswick (NTNB) and its partners which identified areas supporting high biological diversity. The purpose of this project is to work within the identified areas and apply a newly developed landowner outreach program. This project will build on established partnerships and develop new partnerships with private landowners in order to conserve high conservation-value habitat on private land in the Lower St. John River.

The goals of this project are:

  • To educate landowners
  • To reduce threats to species and habitats
  • To increase the amount of conserved land in the Lower St. John River region

Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

This project aims the following results:

  1. Develop a permanent program which will include monitoring schedules and non-financial incentives designed to encourage landowners to practice positive stewardship of their land. This program will be implemented in the LSJR and will provide landowners with simple yet interactive tools for monitoring. Some options include a SAR monitoring calendar and access to education about sensitive habitats and SAR. NTNB will establish voluntary stewardship agreements with interested landowners and will hold scheduled follow-up meetings and will maintain correspondence with these landowners. The results of this project will be a permanently established program for private land conservation in the LSJR.
  2. NTNB will educate private landowners about the habitats and species on their land, and provide land stewardship information. This project will result in positive land stewardship, an increase in the amount of land under conservation management, and a reduction in threats to habitats and species. This will be achieved by developing partnerships and stewardship agreements with landowners, and providing them with education materials and increasing their stewardship awareness.
  3. Habitat protection guided by the identification of priority habitats, at least 100 acres of land with priority habitat on the LSJR will be secured with conservation easements or land purchase/donation.

At least 3 appraisals of properties with priority habitats will be completed as well as legal work on 3 properties. NTNB will pursue voluntary stewardship agreements with all landowners who participate in the Landowner Stewardship Program – these agreements will outline agreed-upon beneficial management practices for the species and habitats present.

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

This project works towards conservation through positive stewardship and an increase in the amount of conserved land containing wetlands, habitat necessary for breeding, staging and wintering of waterfowl, and habitat necessary for migration. The Aukpaque ecodistrict contains a significant amount of freshwater wetland, peatland and alluvial islands that provide significant habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls and ospreys. It is also the most important breeding area of the black tern in the Maritime Provinces. The Grand Lake ecodistrict contains an extensive area of freshwater wetland that provides crucial habitat for breeding ducks and migratory waterfowl (EHJV, 2007). Grand Lake and Aukpaque ecodistricts are recognized as one of the most important bird habitats in the Maritimes, providing necessary habitat for breeding and staging of American Black Duck, American Wigeon, Wood Duck, Mallard and Common Goldeneye. Kingston ecodistrict also contains wetland habitat hosting established populations of Greater Scaup, Wilson’s Phalarope, Common Tern and Gulls.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

This project will directly benefit the EHJV prioritized ecosystems through the protection of high conservation value habitat in its largest watershed. The Lower St. John River watershed is a recognized hotspot for biodiversity, and an especially important region for resident, breeding, and migratory birds as well as a diversity of rare plant and animal species. The region also hosts a variety of unique habitats, such as remnant stands of Acadian mixed forest, large intact wetland complexes, and rich river floodplains. These habitats and species are increasingly under threat from development and industrial resource extraction throughout the region. This project will lead to an increase in the amount of land under conservation management by creating and implementing a permanent Landowner Stewardship Program in key areas of the region.

Together with the Advisory Committee (Environment Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Environment, Department of Agriculture, watershed groups, various municipalities and others) they will review this project and agree upon projected outcomes. It is anticipated to meet every four months to report to the committee and identify potential gaps that need to be addressed during the whole process. Governments and conservation organizations will be better positioned for future planning purposes in conservation, enhancement and restoration initiatives.

Project Location

  1. Province/Territory:

New Brunswick

iii.            Municipality / county / town / city:

The area of this project covers land in ten counties, but is located primarily in York, Sunbury, Queens and Kings Counties. The area is defined by the watershed of the lower Saint John River, downstream from Mactaquac dam, including Grand Lake, stretching south to the City of Saint John. The area covers approximately 1.5 million hectares of land.

Located within this area are many municipalities, several of which have already expressed an interest in this strategic conservation project. The municipalities found fully or partially within the area: Stanley, Fredericton, New Maryland, Oromocto, Tracy, Fredericton Junction, Gagetown, Minto, Chipman, Cambridge-Narrows, Sussex, Sussex Corner, Norton, Hampton, Quispamsis, Rothesay, Grand Bay-Westfield, and Saint John.

  1. Landscape type:

The Lower Saint John River, as identified under the Canadian Ecological Land Classification, runs through Saint John River Valley, Southern New Brunswick Uplands, Maritime Lowlands, eventually draining to Fundy Coast. The river crosses the Maritime Plain from Mactaquac to Hampstead, and the relative flatness of this topographic region has resulted in the formation of large lakes and wetlands, which are important floodplains for the river. The river passes out of the flat Maritime Plain into a region of the New Brunswick Highlands, which extend downstream to the Bay of Fundy (Kidd et al, 2011).

The predominant over-burden in the Saint John River Basin is glacial moraine sediment, which is generally poorly sorted, leading to the formation of poorly drained areas and wetlands. Tributaries to the river lead to the formation of contemporary alluvial sediments (Kidd et al, 2011).

The area’s highlights include the gently sloping basin of Grand Lake, and other lakes with streams and rivers feeding them to the dramatic Kennebecasis River with perched hills, cliffs faces and swift streams, to magnificent Saint John River. The watershed contains lowlands, provincially significant wetlands, alluvial islands, and forests.

  1. Other relevant information about the location:

The St. John River watershed is one of the most significant watersheds in the Province of New Brunswick. It is important for wildlife and plants and has a variety of habitats: riparian floodplains, alluvial islands, hardwood uplands, lakes, streams, bogs and fens. It provides an expansive corridor and is a significant nesting and stopover area for migrating birds. The lower portion of the river is home to more than 260 bird species with 40 of those being wetland obligate species (NB EHJV, 2007). Three provincially significant birds nest in the area- Yellow Rail, Greater Scaup and Wilson’s Phalarope. Over 30 million people live within a day’s drive, thereby providing a significant threat to the area (see map of the study area).

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Renata Woodward, Executive Director, The Nature Trust of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB.