Protection of Forested Wetlands – Eastern Habitat Joint Venture 2010-11
Goals and Objectives
The forest-wildlife program and the integrated sub-watershed planning program falls within the Foundation’s guidelines and priorities in follow up to its strategic planning that was carried out for 2008-2011. These programs both support an integrated management approach of the 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 growing 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 appropriate his/her environment, 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.
Meanwhile, the development of the voluntary conservation approach will benefit, in the short and medium term, the involvement of the landowners in the protection and conservation of their wetlands. Working in integrated planning and on a sub-watershed scale will allow a real mobilization of the environmental players on a realistic scale.
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 totaling 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 – 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 to protect the land. Several monitoring tools are available to promotional organizations with the aid of a tool kit provided by the Quebec Wildlife Foundation (a sample of this was sent to Wildlife Habitat Canada in 2006). In fact, the anticipated short and medium term activities to carry out the monitoring are different in nature: a return 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 wildlife and plants, the sending of personalized postcards to maintain contact with the landowner and the conservation organization who contacted the program, 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 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 development of the voluntary conservation approach for wetlands in the integrated sub-watershed planning program, it will be a matter of working with the promoters of the accepted projects in order that they integrate in their actions, various initiatives for the protection of wetlands. For example, it will be possible to plan the inventory and the characterization of the wetlands in each sub-watershed, to establish methods that are specific to wetlands in the planning of the planned forested work and especially, to plan the meeting and instilling awareness in the landowners of private woodlots of the voluntary conservation of their environments (lands). To achieve this, training will take place in order to transfer the promoters’ knowledge of various forest-wildlife initiatives which include the integration of concrete actions aimed at the protection of wetlands. As of the first year, an action plan per sub-watershed will be established in which the voluntary conservation of wetlands will be considered and thematic maps representing the wetlands to be protected will be completed.
Specific Habitat Products/Results to be Supported by WHC’s Contributions
In 2010-2011, we will initiate approximately 10 new projects (we estimate two projects dealing with activity 1, three projects dealing with activity 2, and approximately eight projects dealing with integrated sub-watershed planning). These projects should make it possible to protect more than 300 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.
More than 200 private landowners will be targeted by this project.
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 the past years. The monitoring activity will be rightly used to validate if these species could still be 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 (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). Therefore, the degree of protection of certain wetlands could be accentuated with 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 years (nearly 1,000 signed agreements and beyond 5,000 protected hectares during the past 10 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 the voluntary conservation in Quebec. The monitoring activity contributes, among other things, to the establishment of this network.
With regard to the development of the voluntary conservation approach of the integrated planning program, the impacts will be dependent directly on 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 agreeable by all of the wetland players. In the medium term, the conservation of wetlands will be considered longer in Quebec and the players will be better equipped to protect these rich ecosystems.
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 category B ecoregions.
The project is entirely located in the St. Lawrence watershed. More specifically, the targeted areas are especially the Appalachian Mountains (Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains, Saint-Lawrence Lowlands, Estrie, Center-of-Québec) and the Saint-Lawrence Plains (Outaouais, Laurentians, Montérégie, Québec) (see map of the projects in the appendix).
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, Rimouski, Val-des-Monts, Saint-Martin, Lac-Etchemin, Roxton Falls, New Richmond, Clermont, La Patrie, Saint-Raymond, Lachute, Victoriaville, 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. The Bird Conservation Regions 12 and 14 will be also reached. In addition, certain sites targeted for the protection of the 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 regions of Center-of-Québec and the Chaudière-Appalachian Mountains where certain wetlands are classified as priority 1 or 2.
For more information on this project, please contact André Martin, President-Director General, Quebec Wildlife Foundation, Quebec, QC.