St. John River Rare Flora
If you have ever canoed down the St. John River between St. Francis and Perth Andover, you have, no doubt, been impressed by the valley’s ever-changing mosaic of floodplain meadows, rocky outcrops, gravel strands and steep banks. These diverse shoreline provide the habitat for a long list of rare plants including the elusive and world-famous Furbish’s Lousewort.
The Lousewort seems to appreciate the charms of the Upper St. John River and is found nowhere else in the world! Since 2001, The Nature Trust has been working to better understand where the Lousewort and other rare plants are found and what threatens their survival.
In 2001 and 2002, the Nature Trust, in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, carried out the first comprehensive and systematic rare plant survey of the upper St. John River – from its northern limits in New Brunswick (St. Francis River) to Perth Andover 170 kms downstream. After two years of scouring the shoreline, project botanists had located 68 plant species of conservation significance, (including the endangered Furbish’s Lousewort) and many occurrences of rare plant communities.
The Nature Trust contacted landowners housing the rare plant communities on their properties to encourage and support stewardship practices. As a result, 15 botanically significant sites are now under voluntary private landowner stewardship agreements.
In 2004, The Nature Trust set out to document the character and volume of landuse threats to shoreline plant species between Grand Falls and Perth Andover. The Trust found that, while a good deal of the shoreline remains in exemplary quality, land use activities such as roads, trails, gravel pits, fields and lawns have compromised the ecological integrity of 42% of the shoreline.
Without proper consideration, development activities can cause great damage to rare plants. Luckily, conserving shoreline habitat is not difficult. Common-sense measures, like keeping traffic to designated trails, maintaining tree buffers along the water and not dumping garbage or fill over the bank, go a long way in ensuring that these unique plants are enjoyed by future generations.
The Nature Trust continues to work on the middle and upper St John River through the Conservation Planning project in partnership with Brigitte Leblon and Armand Larocque of UNB.
The Nature Trust gratefully acknowledges the support of the following sponsors for their support with this work: Shell Environmental Fund, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, The George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, The New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, The New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, The McCain Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and Environment Canada, the Environmental Damages Fund, and the Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk.