Protection of Wetland Coastal Habitats of Gaspesie 2010-11


Goals and Objectives

The goal of this project is the protection of coastal and riparian wetlands constituting the habitat of waterfowl and the species which are associated there by means of securing these habitats, direct interventions on the ground and activities of the sensitization (awareness) of waterfowl hunters. This goal could not be achieved without the involvement of multiple partners (hunters, Comité de concertation du barachois de Malbaie (CCBM), Club des Ornithologues de la Gaspésie (COG), city of Percé).

The emphasis of our conservation objectives will be carried out in the priority areas of the natural areas of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie and will consist of:

1.  Increasing the area of protected wetlands located in the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie and ensuring the conservation of it in perpetuity. This objective includes:

a.  the completion of talks and preliminary negotiations with landowners, with the goal of engaging them in the step of the legal securement of important natural areas for waterfowl

2. Promoting the contribution of hunters relative to the conservation of habitats

3. Involving multiple partners in the protection of wetlands.

Activities

The following outlines the main activities that will be undertaken.
Negotiations of the acquisitions (7 properties, 75 hectares)
• Start preliminary negotiations in the area of the barachois of Malbaie with the landowners of the wetlands: two properties at Coin-du-Banc (35 ha); four properties at Bridgeville (35 ha)   
• Start preliminary negotiations with two landowners of wetlands located in the bay of Gaspé (5 ha).
Direct on the ground  conservation interventions
• Data acquisition on the use of the new protected properties and drafting the stewardship plans
• Marking the newly acquired properties
• Establishment of stewardship measures on the protected sites 
• Reinforce/strengthen the Comité de concertation du Barachois de Malbaie (CCBM) at the stewardship level for the conservation of wetlands
Promotion of the contribution of the hunters relative to habitat conservation
• Process of consultations, with the support of the CCBM and the city of Percé, involving the hunters at the level of the problem of access at the barachois of Malbaie, in order to improve the preservation of the habitats of waterfowl species
• Signing agreements with hunters or group of hunters having activities on the protected properties
• Meetings, with the support of the CCBM and the COG, of hunters and other users of the protected areas in order to develop partnerships with them for the management of the protected areas (Location of the hunters’ blinds, distribution of a leaflet of sensitization (awareness) on the protection of wetlands and their avian species)

Specific Habitat Products/Results to be Supported by WHC’s Contributions

Wildlife Habitat Canada will participate financially in the current 2010-2011 fiscal year in the following results:

1.  Negotiations of acquisitions with 7 landowners owning wetlands favourable for waterfowl species inside the priority areas of the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie (+ – 75 hectares).

2.  Direct on the ground conservation interventions: completion of management plans including action plans for the conservation of wetlands; monitoring of ecological integrity on 18 properties constituting potential habitat for waterfowl species (+ – 164 hectares); installation of 20 markers identifying the newly protected areas; strengthening of the Comité de concertation du barachois de Malbaie (CCBM) at the level of stewardship for the conservation of wetlands.

3.  Promotion of the contribution of hunters relative to habitat conservation: process of consultations involving the hunters at the level of the problem of access from the barachois of Malbaie to Percé (Bridgeville area), in order to improve the preservation of the habitats of waterfowl species; signing of 1 agreement with a hunter or group of hunters having activities on the protected properties.

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

The results of this project will make it possible to directly attain the protection of the habitat of waterfowl species. In the area of the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie, four (4) distinct coastal wetlands are divided into a total area of 2,850 hectares. They form the most important migratory stop of the Gaspésien peninsula. They are the estuarine marshes of the Dartmouth and York rivers, and the barachois of the Malbaie River and the Saint-Jean River. The project proposed here will allow the increase in the protected area of these wetlands. The species of waterfowl which will benefit from this project and which are present in this natural area are mainly the black duck and the teals. The Canada goose, Brant goose, Wood Duck, Black Duck, Mallard Duck, Shoveler, Large Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Loon, Canvasback, Redhead, White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Common Eider and Surf Scoter. Added to this list are several species associated with wetlands, recognized as staying there, such as the Short-eared Owl, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, American Bittern, Yellow Rail, Greater Yellowlegs, American Kingfisher and many others. More than 130 species of nesting birds were inventoried in this natural area (COG, 2007). In all, more than 200 species of birds benefit from wetlands in the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie (Tremblay, 2002). Three ZICO are present in this natural area and they are recognized for their national and continental importance because they contain total marine birds sometimes exceeding 1% of their world population. These areas also include 5,410 hectares of wildlife habitats of importance listed by the Department of the Natural Resources and Wildlife, those being the Areas of Concentration of Aquatic Birds (ACOA).

In addition to avian wildlife, one finds in these wetlands a great ichthyologic diversity which includes the striped bass (population in the south of the gulf of the St. Lawrence), American eel, rainbow smelt and Atlantic salmon.

They are clearly exceptionally rich wetlands which require particular and rapid attention in order to ensure the protection of this natural heritage.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The biological diversity of the planet decreases with a speed which impoverishes our quality of life and threatens our future. For nearly 50 years, the NCC protects lands having ecological importance, thus showing its engagement towards the protection of the biodiversity in Canada. The objective of the NCC is to protect long-term ecological qualities on the properties for which we ensure protection.

This project will allow the protection of biological diversity and will also support the wellbeing of present and future generations. This project will also have more direct impacts on the natural areas of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie, precisely on the conservation of wetlands by increasing the protected area of these wetlands and the improvement of them by direct on the ground interventions, the sensitizing of local organizations and the users of the wetlands which are hunters, and the involvement of various partners in voluntary conservation.

To achieve this goal, the NCC aims to collaborate with local communities. This is why, with the assistance of local partners, the NCC carries out the activities of sensitization and private stewardship of the natural areas, having as an objective of encouraging the local population with voluntary conservation. The proposed project is advantageous for several which include the government of Canada and Quebec which encourages the safeguarding of the distinctive ecological features of its territory; the organizations working in the conservation of natural areas; cities touched by this project and organizations working in the field of tourism, an important economic source in the region since nature is one of the primary reasons for the arrival of tourists; the landowners who wish to contribute to the preservation of our natural heritage by the securement of their wetlands; users of the areas of concern which include the hunters who will be able to practise their activity in continuity, when that is appropriate, since this project aims at a better management of the activity of hunting; the local community which will be able to continue to enjoy these natural areas of interest.

During the next five years, the NCC will pursue the goal of increasing the protected area to 725 hectares in this natural area. The combined actions of protection, stewardship and sensitization (awareness) will benefit the waterfowl species and their habitats. To achieve this, the NCC employs qualified personnel working from Gaspésie. Our local partner, the CCBM, also employs 2 people per year on average in order to carry out our joint conservation projects. The economic consequences and these initiatives are well perceived by the Gaspésien population. The financial collaboration of Wildlife Habitat Canada will largely contribute to the protection and management of the exceptional natural heritage of this area.

Project Location

The natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie covers an area of 1,065 square kilometers and belongs to the ecoregion of the northern Appalachians and Acadia. It is defined in the east by the gulf of the St. Lawrence and in the west by the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain chain. The area of the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie extends to the municipalities of Percé to the south and to Gaspé to the north. These two municipalities respectively form part of the regional county municipalities (RCM) of Rocher-Percé and Côte-de-Gaspé. The total population of the area of the natural area is 18,241 inhabitants. The northeastern limit of the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie is marked by the Forillon National Park of Canada, while the southeastern limit is near the Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park. In the southwest, the limit of this natural area is bordered by the Grande-Rivière ecological reserve. The public lands cover 41,063 hectares, that is 38% of the natural area, but no protected area in the public area is part of the natural area.

Regarded as a hot spot of biodiversity in Quebec, this natural area contains priority ecosystems and species, identified within the framework of the ecoregional plan. This region is characterized by the presence of several unique ecosystems whose biodiversity is exceptional. At this place, the mountains of the Appalachians form a mosaic of diversified forest ecosystems which contain both maple and boreal forest. The banks, cliffs, ravines and the tops plunge into the gulf of the St. Lawrence, which exposes the natural areas to particular climatic conditions. The coastal plain shelters the wetlands that are recognized as being the largest, most diversified and most intact in the Gaspésien peninsula. They are fed by fresh water coming from four rivers with Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) of international reputation. While mixing with salt water of the gulf of the St. Lawrence, the fresh water of the rivers creates four brackish lagoon estuaries, covering a territory of 2,850 hectares. Three important zones for the conservation of birds (ZICO), recognized for their national and continental importance, are contained in the natural area, which welcomes the greatest wildlife diversity of the Gaspésien peninsula.

The project will proceed more precisely in two priority areas of the natural area of the coastal habitats of Gaspésie:

Area of the barachois of Malbaie:
The barachois of Malbaie is indisputably the greatest wetland of the Gaspésien peninsula. Its total area is 1,100 hectares and comprises the longest coastal string of the Gaspésien area (5.8 km). The barachois of Malbaie is an ecosystem of predilection for avian wildlife where one especially finds plant arrangements that are favourable to nesting, breeding and food. This barachois indisputably proves to be one of the most important migratory stops of the Gaspésien peninsula (Tremblay, 2002). Part of this territory was already regarded by the Canadian Wildlife Service for the granting of the statute of the national wildlife reserve (Albin Tremblay, comm. pers) and by the MDDEP (Quebec Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks) as a candidate site for the creation of an ecological reserve (CREM, 1978).

Area of the bay of Gaspé:
With an area of 242 km2, the bay of Gaspé includes: the bay and harbour of Gaspé; the cliffs which border these water levels; the points of Sandy Beach and Penouille; two sand peninsulas which separate the bay and harbour of Gaspé; estuaries of the rivers Saint-Jean, Dartmouth et York; three salmon rivers (Limoge, 2001). The estuaries of these three rivers, with a total area of 608 hectares, contain marshes of a very great ecological value and are among the most vast wetland complexes in Gaspésie. The three deltas of these estuaries are composed of more than 33 islands of private or governmental tenure.

In a general way, the NCC allows, when it is appropriate and follows formal agreements, continuous access on the natural protected areas for hunting migratory birds considered to be game. The NCC considers essential the involvement of hunters in the protection and management of the protected natural areas and thus aims this objective of partnership in addition to that of the local organizations and the targeted community. The properties targeted for conservation included in this funding request are frequently used by hunters and the project is aimed at their agreement with formal long term agreements.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Hubert Pelletier-G, Coordinator for Eastern Quebec, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Montreal, QC.