Conservation Planning – Lower St. John River (LSJR)
About the Lower Saint John River (LSJR) region
The study area identified for the LSJR conservation planning project encompasses the entire watershed stretching from the Mactaquac Dam, downstream to the city of Saint John, where the river empties into the Bay of Fundy. It includes Grand Lake, and its associated wetlands, as well as intact forest blocks, agricultural land and riparian zones. The bioregion is a hotspot for biodiversity in New Brunswick as it contains diverse habitats, including rich and productive floodplains, freshwater wetlands, and areas of mature forest which support significant numbers of migratory birds, rare plants, and abundant wildlife.
The partners involved
While the LSJR project began as solely a Nature Trust project, it was quickly realized that other government and NGO groups such as our partners in the New Brunswick Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (NB-EHJV) could also contribute to and benefit from this plan. The NB-EHJV partners include Bird Studies Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service), Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources. Other partners who have contributed to this project include the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, the University of New Brunswick, and other environmental NGOs working in the area.
A conservation plan
With the assistance and guidance from these partners, the planning process has been greatly strengthened over the past four years and the LSJR Habitat Conservation Strategy was developed. This living document helps to identify the rare and at risk species present in the region, the habitats that they require for survival, and the threats to these habitats. GIS analysis has identified areas of highest priority for conservation, including forests, wetland, and/or other habitats with unique characteristics that are large enough to provide refuge for a variety of species. While this analysis is not the only conservation planning tool used, it provides guidance about where to focus efforts on the ground.
On the ground work
In 2014, the information from the LSJR Habitat Conservation Strategy was used to identify several key areas throughout the region to focus conservation and stewardship work: Grand Lake Meadows, the Hampton marsh, the Oromocto River, and in the Sussex region. The report was then used to plan an outreach campaign, targeting landowners within these high priority areas. As opposed to reaching out to landowners primarily for the purpose of land acquisition, the Nature Trust has added another approach to working with landowners to educate them about best practices for conservation and stewardship of wildlife habitat on their land. Species at risk fact sheets were developed as informational material to use when reaching out to landowners who may have some of these target species present on their land.
During the summer of 2014, volunteers and staff met with nearly 50 private landowners in the priority regions to learn about how they manage their land, the species present there and how they could best accommodate these species to ensure they continue to thrive. At present, conservation planning staff is negotiating voluntary stewardship agreements with several landowners who have agreed to participate in the Land Stewardship Program. This permanent program is new to the Nature Trust and will help support and track the progress of private citizens who have made a commitment to stewarding their land for the benefit of the species they share it with.
In addition to this newer approach, the Nature Trust will also use the LSJR Habitat Conservation Strategy to acquire land within this region for permanent conservation.