Conservation Volunteer Chantal planting marram grass at St. Peter's Harbour, PEI (Photo by Sean Landsman)

Conservation Volunteer Chantal planting marram grass at St. Peter's Harbour, PEI (Photo by Sean Landsman)

Seeing the difference: How long-term stewardship benefits landscapes

2017 Boughton Island beach cleanup (Photo by NCC)

2017 Boughton Island beach cleanup (Photo by NCC)

Ongoing land stewardship is a core part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) mission, and something we couldn’t do without the support of volunteers. Since 2006, 18,790 volunteers have taken part in NCC’s Conservation Volunteers (CV) program, supporting more than 1,500 projects on NCC conservation sites from coast to coast.

In many cases, repeat visits to conservation sites are needed to ensure that their health is maintained or enhanced over the long term. Ongoing support is needed for restoration work, invasive species management and biodiversity monitoring.

NCC’s CV program invites people of all ages to get out in nature to help protect natural habitats and the species that live there. The program aims to connect people with nature in a meaningful way by involving them in hands-on conservation at sites protected by NCC.

Here at NCC, we’re always looking at the big picture We consider how every action, whether it’s acquiring new land or enlisting volunteers to help clean up a shoreline, contributes to the larger conservation puzzle. Last year alone, 2,899 volunteers helped NCC complete 204 projects and address stewardship goals based on our property management plans.

“Stewardship sounds like a complex word, but it’s essentially about long-term care. Conservation doesn’t stop when a site is given a conservation designation; that’s when the work really begins. To have the support of volunteers in this mission is a game-changer,” says Kailey Setter, national manager, conservation engagement, at NCC. “Whether it’s restoring old fields back to forests or preventing the degradation of places with high ecological value, volunteers play a key role in protecting and caring for nature in Canada.”

Recently restored field on Pelee Island, covered in grey-headed coneflower (Photo by NCC)

Recently restored field on Pelee Island, covered in grey-headed coneflower (Photo by NCC)

One ongoing project that has benefited from the support of volunteers is the restoration of conservation sites on Pelee Island in Ontario. With the help of volunteers, we’ve been working for more than eight years to transform former agricultural fields to wetlands and meadows on the Island. Volunteers have collected and replanted seeds and native plants already growing on the island to revitalize the area and bring back local biodiversity. In recent years, NCC staff have even documented some species at risk that have been using the restored habitat.

Weedy Wednesday volunteers (Photo by NCC)

Weedy Wednesday volunteers (Photo by NCC)

On the opposite end of the country, volunteers have been supporting the work at Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve on Vancouver Island. This site has the distinction of having hosted the most volunteer events in NCC's history. Every week, a loyal group of volunteers comes out for “Weedy Wednesdays.”  The crew tackles a wide range of restoration activities, such as removing invasive plants like Scotch broom and blackberry, collecting seeds from native wildflowers, propagating new plants in the native plant nursery and helping train new volunteers. Volunteers have been involved in tending the preserve for more than 17 years — and it shows. The work carried out by our volunteers during these events has made a significant contribution to the restoration of important Garry oak habitat.

Sandy Point Beach Sweep 2016, NL (Photo by Aiden Mahoney)

Sandy Point Beach Sweep 2016, NL (Photo by Aiden Mahoney)

In Newfoundland, NCC hosts an annual beach cleanup at Sandy Point, an island on the west coast of the province. In four years of cleaning the same area on the island, staff have seen a steadily decreasing amount of garbage and marine debris accumulate on the shore. In 2013, volunteers cleared away 560 kilograms of garbage, while in 2016 only 113 kilograms pounds were collected.

“We were talking to a forestry officer who was on Sandy Point and saw several squid that had washed ashore,” says Laurel Bernard, director of stewardship for NCC’s Atlantic Region. “He wanted to collect the squid, and said that there are usually buckets or bags that have washed ashore that he could use to transport them. He joked that this time, because of NCC’s cleanup efforts, there wasn’t any plastic to be found!”

Land and water stewardship across Canada is an ongoing mission, and there are always ways you can get involved. Restoration projects, invasive species management and beach cleanups are only a few of the many ways volunteers can support NCC’s conservation efforts. Join us in caring for Canada’s natural landscapes and help extend our conservation impact!

Check out our calendar of Conservation Volunteers events, and sign up to support a local project!

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