Strategic Conservation Planning
Lower Saint John River Watershed Strategic Conservation Plan
The Nature Trust of New Brunswick identified the need for a planned approach to land conservation, and wrote an initial province-wide conservation plan in 2008. This conservation plan identified six key areas that required an increased conservation effort, and were not being targeted by any other conservation organizations. These areas were the Blue Bell ecodistrict, the Lower Saint John River, the Moncton/Sackville area, the Nicholas Denys ecodistrict, the southwestern coast of the province, and the St. Croix River watershed.
To follow up on this initial conservation plan, two of these priority areas, plus one other area, have been chosen for a more in-depth analysis to identify key conservation areas at a property scale. The Blue Bell ecodistrict area was expanded to include the Canadian portion of the Upper and Middle Saint John River. This region was then analysed by Aleksi Tuomi at the University of New Brunswick to identify the most important habitat for listed and at-risk species. The Miramichi watershed was similarly analysed by Will Lebans, also at UNB. These analyses focused on a GIS-based approached to priority habitat identification, and be completed shortly.
The Lower Saint John River watershed has been chosen as the site for a multi-partner in-depth analysis, acting as a pilot project for this type of analysis in New Brunswick. The information collected and used in this project will provide the basis for proactive, rather than reactive, land acquisition, while also unifying the conservation objectives of governmental and NGO groups working to preserve the Lower Saint John River watershed. Additionally, the analytical methodology generated for this project will used as a pilot project for these types of conservation plans, with the ultimate goal of applying this type of analysis to the entire province.
The study area for this project encompasses the entire watershed of the lower Saint John River, stretching from the Mactaquac Dam, downstream to the city of Saint John, where the river empties into the Bay of Fundy. Using a large area for this project will result in a final product that is relevant to as many groups working in the lower Saint John River as possible. The study area includes Grand Lake, and its associated wetlands, as well as intact forest blocks, agricultural land and riparian zones. The analysis will not directly target aquatic species, but will include land that drains into lakes and streams in the watershed.
The conservation plan will be generated primarily through the use of GIS analysis, combining data from a variety of scientifically-vetted sources. The goal of the analysis is to identify the most important areas for private land conservation in the watershed, allowing the Nature Trust to target properties located within these key areas. The analysis will be driven by the identification of habitat for species at risk (both provincially and federally listed) and other key species identified by relevant provincial experts. This identified habitat will then be ranked by patch size, habitat quality, observed species-at-risk data, and proximity to other key habitat areas. This analysis will be done by treating the study area as a blank slate, ignoring anthropogenic effects such as land development, land quality and potential for successful conservation. This blank slate analysis will result in a final product that can be used by multiple interest groups.
This conservation plan is being designed and refined through collaboration with a number of partners. These include the provincial New Brunswick government, particularly the Department of Natural Resources, the Federal government, specifically Canadian Wildlife Service, as well as Bird Studies Canada, the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, the University of New Brunswick, and environmental NGOs working in the area.
Once the conservation plan has been complete it will be shared with the public through a series of consultations. These information sessions will be targeted toward municipalities, conservation groups, and interested community members in locations identified as being of high conservation priority.