Volunteers at Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary in Alberta, Photo by NCC

Volunteers at Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary in Alberta, Photo by NCC

All in a day's work

Conservation Volunteers Sue Scales and Barb Trainor hauling some of the buoys collected during the beach clean-up (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers Sue Scales and Barb Trainor hauling some of the buoys collected during the beach clean-up (Photo by NCC)

It is amazing the difference a single day can make. On Saturday, July 22, Conservation Volunteers stepped up to tackle five separate work projects at five different Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) sites across the country. These teams of volunteers were unaware of each other's efforts, yet were collectively working together to advance conservation in Canada from coast to coast.

From the shores of Boughton Island in Prince Edward Island, to the boreal transition zone in central Alberta, this is a snapshot of the tremendous work accomplished by volunteers that day.

Cleaning up the beaches of Boughton Island

Pile of marine debris (Photo by NCC)On the shores of Boughton Island, the third largest island off the coast of PEI, a crew of 16 volunteers spent July 22 cleaning the local beaches of garbage and debris.

Garbage, such as nets and Styrofoam buoys, tends to accumulate along the island’s shoreline. This can have negative effects on wildlife, which can become entangled or ingest it. Thanks to these volunteers, three ‘buoy graveyards’ were completely cleaned up, along with an old tractor tire, some sections of an old railway track, an old boating channel marker and a cat scratching post.

While the final tally isn’t in on exactly how much garbage was removed from the island, Leigh Gustafson, NCC Conservation Intern in PEI, praised the volunteers for their efforts.

"While we aren’t yet sure of the total impact of the day’s efforts, I’m sure the baby piping plovers we spotted are grateful that their home got a much needed cleaning."

Invasive phragmites removed from habitat in the Frontenac Arch, Photo credit NCCEvicting invasive phragmites from the Frontenac Arch

Meanwhile in Ontario, a small team of volunteers was taking on an infestation of phragmites at one of NCC's conservation sites within the Frontenac Arch Natural Area.

Phragmites are an invasive perennial grass that spreads aggressively and outcompetes native species for water and nutrients. They release toxins into the soil, which hinder the growth of surrounding plants. In an effort to preserve the native biodiversity on site, NCC put out the call for volunteers to lend a hand and three people answered.

Equipped with loppers, this small but mighty group spent their Saturday removing an entire 310-metre-square patch of phragmites from the property, effectively reducing its spread.

A volunteer clear the trail at Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary, Photo by NCCBlazing a trail at Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary

Meanwhile, 3,788 kilometres away, in Alberta, a group of 19 volunteers were clearing the hiking trails at Coyote Lake Nature Sanctuary, southwest of Edmonton. The site, one of NCC's new Nature Destinations, provides people with the opportunity to enjoy nature and learn more about local biodiversity.

Trails and marked signage encourage visitors to stick to designated paths and reduce impact on local vegetation and wildlife. Over the course of the day, this team of volunteers cleaned up four and a half kilometres of trail.

Zoë Arnold, NCC's Conservation Volunteers coordinator in Alberta, remarked on the camaraderie among the group in attendance, which happened to include three of her own family members. "NCC's Conservation Volunteers program isn't just about impact, it's about community," she said. "This annual trail maintenance day at Coyote Lake is always a fun event!"

Additional impacts in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan

Volunteer events were also held at Round Bay Nature Reserve in Nova Scotia and at NCC's Messier property in Saskatchewan.

At Round Bay, volunteers spent the day surveying for invasive grasses and endangered piping plover by kayak and canoe, while in Saskatchewan a small team of volunteers tackled a property cleanup.

If you'd like to support a conservation project near you, check out NCC's calendar of Conservation Volunteers events by clicking here. Every year volunteers contribute over 10,000 hours to NCC’s conservation work on the ground, providing over $500,000 of in-kind support.

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