Wednesday, 20 November 2019

SAM Members Mitigating Climate Change Since 1993

At the 2019 SAM Fall meeting in Gander, Mayors, Councillors and municipal staff were called to action by our keynote speaker, Kate BrownKate is a 16-year-old student, who is part of a new youth environmental group who are participating in Friday’s For the Future climate strikes. The strikes are part of a global movement in protest of climate change started by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenage environmental activist. 

Kate spoke passionately about her community, her future and the effect climate change will have on her generation. Most people were impressed that Kate spoke with such conviction, others thought of their own young families and their future in our province. We started thinking about how SAM's conservation efforts fit into the bigger picture of climate change mitigation.

Over 26 years SAM has brought together municipalities and the province in stewardship agreements that conserve almost 50,000 acres. Municipalities that are a part of SAM protect areas of land, usually wetland, within their town boundaries for wildlife habitat. 

Ducks spotted using conserved habitat to breed in Torbay.
Protected habitat and wetlands help to support healthy populations of birds, waterfowl, mammals, plants, and lichen. It also has positive effects for residents including social, physical and mental health benefits, as well as tourism and economic benefits . But let's not forget the conservation of wetlands is one of our most powerful tools in climate change mitigation.

Mitigation is defined as reducing emissions and stabilizing the levels of greenhouse gases we allow into the atmosphere (read more in our past blog "Defining times: The new climate change terminology").  

But how exactly does a Newfoundland bog equal climate change mitigation? Listed below are three of the many reasons SAM's conservation efforts in NL help mitigate climate change.

Protecting peatlands, our natural carbon sinks.The majority of Canada is within the boreal forest biome. This biome is characterized by cool summers, mild winters, and lots of wetlands. About 25% of Canada's boreal forest is covered by wetlands. Our province is no exception, with all classes of wetlands represented (learn more about wetland classification in our blog "Know your wetland types").

This map from 1987 shows Canada's geographic distribution of wetlands. From "Our vanishing wetlands" Canadian Geographic August/September 1987. 
The most common types of wetlands in the province are bogs and fens, otherwise known as peatlands. Made up of peat, a mass of decomposing and decaying organic matter, they have an incredibly slow rate of decomposition.This very slow process allows the carbon that is produced to be stored, instead of released into the atmosphere. (Learn more about peat in our past blog “Perfectly Peaty: how peatlands are an amazing carbon sink").

The world's peatlands cover about 3% of the earth’s surface , but store at least twice as much carbon as earth’s forests. It was estimated that globally peatlands contain at least 550 Gt of carbon, which is double that amount stored in the world’s forests.

Carbon stored in terrestrial habitats Source; 

Peatlands have been proven to be amazing carbon sinks, but if peatlands are disturbed they go from a carbon sink to a carbon source. Disturbance, such as burning, draining, and ATV damage can allow the release of stored carbon into the atmosphere which contribute to greenhouse gases. 

ATV damage to a wetland in Newfoundland. This type of damage releases stored carbon into our atmosphere.
Municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador that are part of SAM have been conserving wetlands and peatlands through stewardship agreements since 1993. 

Municipal leaders in 2005 walking through a
protected conservation area.
Some examples of conserved peatlands within the SAM network include Northwest Bog in Gander, Bakeapple Marsh in Bauline, and Gambo Bog in Gambo

Northwest Bog, Gander, protected since 1993.
Decreasing the effects of flooding. 
Another consequence of climate change is increased flood risk (learn more about how wetlands protect communities from flooding see “Hold Back the Gates: Wetlands mitigate flooding"). 

Wetlands are a natural solution to flooding: by acting like a sponge, they can hold excess water.  According to a study done by Hallock et al in 2015 a 1-acre wetland that is 30 cm deep can hold 1.2 million liters of water. Once fully saturated, wetlands release the water slowly allowing water levels in the rest of the watershed to adjust, which helps to mitigate flood runoff and erosion. 

And wetlands do this for free. Researchers at the University of Waterloo, using computer simulations, found that leaving wetlands intact can reduce the financial costs of flooding by up to 29% in rural settings and up to 38% in urban settings.

Sedges commonly found in wetland estuaries. Picture taken in
the Frenchmans Cove / Garnish Barasway, protected since 2013.
Buffering the coastlines
The extreme weather associated with climate change includes increased hurricanes, tornadoes and tidal waves. Coastal erosion is responsible for roughly $500 million per year in property loss, including damage to structures and loss of land. Vegetated wetlands found along the shores of lakes, rivers and estuaries can act as a buffer protecting shorelines during floods and storms. Wetland plants can absorb energy of surface waters because of the density of the vegetation.

Kate Brown’s passion during her keynote address was felt by everyone in that room and it was a good reminder that SAM has been helping to mitigate climate change since 1993. As a network of municipalities, we will continue to work across the province to conserve new areas and to protect our existing areas through conservation, enhancement, and education.

Learn more about climate change resources available to municipalities by visiting our website at

Resources and further reading:
"Stewardship of wetlands and soils has climate benefits" Natural Resources Defense Council

"Conserving Prarie Pothole Wetlands: Evaluating their effects on carbon sequestration in soils and vegetation" Natural Resources Conservation Service

"Estimating carbon sequestration in wetlands" Ducks Unlimited National Boreal Program

"Plumbing the depths of Canada Peatlands - One of the worlds largest carbon sinks" Ducks Unlimited Canada

"Clarifying the role of coastal and marine systems in climate mitigation" Ecological Society of America
"IUCN Health and Well Being" 

"Economic Benefits of Land Conservation"

Friday, 4 October 2019

SAM Newsletter #24 Fall 2019

Congratulations to the Town of Elliston on signing their Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreement on September 26th, 2019. Pictured (L-R) MHA Craig Pardy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Elvis Loveless, and Elliston Deputy Mayor Geraldine Baker

The Town of Elliston, SAMs 43rd Member

Elliston signed a Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreement on September 26th, 2019, conserving over 1100 acres of wildlife habitat within their municipal boundaries. 
The signing event was hosted at town hall, and had many members of the public present. The agreement was signed by Geraldine Baker, Ellison's Deputy Mayor, and Elvis Loveless, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Land resources. Also in attendance were Elliston Councillors Alfred Chaulk and Harriet Tilley.

The Mayor of Elliston, Derek Martin, made this statement "We are pleased to partner with the Provincial Government in this special initiative that highlights our town's focus on environmental stewardship and the importance we place on increasing environmental sustainability in municipal planning."
The conservation areas protected by the Town of Elliston range from coastal nesting areas for seabirds, to puffin breeding colonies, to important wetlands. 
The stewardship agreement has designated 3 conservation areas, Island Pond, Elliston Point, and Maberly to Little Catalina trail.The areas cover a wide diversity of habitats including coastal, wetland and a puffin breeding colony. There are three eBird hotspots and over 100 bird species that nest, stage and migrate through Elliston, making it important for wildlife habitat. Some of the bird species in Elliston include waterfowl, shorebirds, seabirds, and songbirds. 
SAM stewardship table at the Elliston signing event. Lots of great ideas for stewardship action for the town!
Want to learn more about the other 42 members of SAM? Check out our website for our community profiles, which highlight each member and their conservation areas.

Want to learn more about becoming a member of SAM? Visit 

SAM Network News & Updates

  • SAM Conservation Fund Scholarship Application is ONLINE  the 2020 scholarship deadline is May 1st, 2020. The $1000 scholarship recognizes a student from Newfoundland and Labrador that has a passion for environmental conservation and stewardship work in their community. For more info on how to apply visit our website
  • Apply for Funding!  Looking to get your next environmental stewardship project off the ground in your community? Visit our "Apply for Funding" page and you will find over 50 potential funding grants! Need help? Email for more info.
  • Send us your snaps   SAM Staff are always looking for pictures of our conservation areas for our newsletters, social media, website and educational materials. If you are in your local conservation area, take a good snap, and would like to share it, please send it along  with the location and date to 
Stewardship Spotlight
Come-By-Chance, Silver Anniversary of Stewardship
Come-By-Chance signed its Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreement in 1995 protecting 470 acres. Although the town only has one conservation area, it is very important habitat for many species of wildlife. The conservation area is an estuary, known as the Come-By-Chance Gut. It includes the riparian zone that surrounds the estuary, the islands, as well as a coastal pond west of the Gut, known as Gilbert's Pond. This pond has been identified as a significant breeding and brood raising area for Green-wing Teal and American Black Ducks. 

Within the conservation area, the habitat is diverse and can support many different types of bird species, including shorebirds, songbirds and raptors. More than 70 species of birds have been spotted and the area is an eBird hotspot. It is especially important area for shorebirds, who flock to the area to take advantage of the rich feeding habitat provided by the estuary during inter-tidal periods.

Over the years the Town Council and Staff of Come by Chance have continued to ensure the area remains protected from development while enhancing the Come By Chance Trail to allowing residents to enjoy the area.  
Congratulations Come-By-Chance on 25 years of
Wildlife Habitat Stewardship!
Over 30 people were in attendance for the SAM Fall Meeting 2019, representing 19 municipalities, and 4 partners of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture

Gander hosts the 2019 Fall Meeting

We would like to thank the Town of Gander for hosting the 2019 Fall SAM meeting on September 20 - 21, 2019. Over 30 municipal and partner representatives attended the weekends activities.
Beautiful buffers on Cobb's Pond. Keeping pond edges intact is very important for nesting and breeding birds and waterfowl. They are also high in plant diversity, and can include aquatic, peatland, and upland plant species. 
The weekend started with the Friday night meet and greet on Cobb's Pond. Cobb's Pond is a conservation area set aside by the Town of Gander in 1993. Since then, Gander has grown and new neighborhoods have been developed, but because of the stewardship agreement the pond has remained intact and has become a hub of recreational, cultural and environmental activities for the community.

Gander also has three other conservation areas, Whitmans Pond, Peytons Pond and Northwest Bog. These untouched areas help to support nesting, breeding, and migrating waterfowl and birds. 
Pictured above: Great weather and great company walking the boardwalk around Cobb's Pond. Pictured below (L) - Pat Woodford welcomes SAM Representatives to the Meeting; (R) Returning to the Cobbs Pond Rotary Park building to a beautiful sunset and evening entertainment.
Our evening began with a welcoming address by Gander Councillor Pat Woodford. After the address, SAM representatives strapped on their walking shoes and followed SAM Staff on the Cobb's Pond Boardwalk. The 4 km loop got the conversation started and representatives returned to the Cobb's Pond Rotary Park building for some refreshments and entertainment.

Saturday morning started early with the meeting held in the Gander fire hall. Over 30 people participated in the meeting and everyone was given a chance to update the group on stewardship work being done across the province. We heard about town and beach clean ups, community vegetable gardens in full bloom, and new infrastructure installed to encourage healthy lifestyles and environments.

We also listened to the challenges member municipalities face surrounding managing development, wastewater and sewer infrastructure and garbage management. We are continually encouraged to hear how our members seek to implement environmentally sound decision making in relation to these significant provincial issues.  
Great to see so many communities represented around the table at the SAM Fall Meeting. The meeting was held in the Gander Fire Hall.
Meeting participants also got to hear from the EHJV partners, SAM Staff, and two guest speakers. The first guest speaker was Stephen Chase from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation (ASCF). Applications for 2020 ASCF projects are now available. To learn more about this funding opportunity visit the ASCF website or get in touch with Stephen at .

Participants also heard from Bird Studies Canada (BSC) staff member, Catherine Dale. BSC is a prominent player in other joint ventures across North America, so it was great to hear they are working towards producing a Breeding Bird Atlas for Newfoundland and Labrador. If you want to learn more about Breeding Bird Atlases and how you can get involved in NL you can contact Catherine at 
Ed Blackmore from the Thomas Howe Demonstration Forest pointing out features of the Boreal Forest to SAM Meeting Representatives.
After the meeting the representatives met up for the group outting at the Thomas Howe Demonstration Forest. Our tour was led by long time Thomas Howe steward Edward Blackmore. 
After the outing, representatives returned to the Gander Fire Hall for the Saturday evening Networking Dinner, a BBQ prepared by the Gander firefighters.

The Town of Gander was well represented at the dinner with several Councillors in attendance and the Mayor, Percy Farwell. The town also invited a key note speaker, Kate Brown, a grade 11 student who is part of the Gander Youth Environmental Organization. Kate spoke passionately on climate change and urged the municipal leaders in the room to take action. 

We are proud to say that SAM's member communities share her vision and have taken steps to mitigate climate change impacts. One central example is that many towns habitat stewardship agreements protect valuable coastal wetlands, buffers from coastal sea level rise and increased erosion from storm damage. Further, keeping wetlands intact serves to prevent the significant release of carbon emissions when wetlands are developed or damaged.
Mayor Percy Farwell accepting a thank you gift on behalf of the Town of Gander from SAM for hosting the 2019 SAM Fall Meeting. A big thank you to the staff of the Town of Gander for their assistance during the weekends events.
Thank you to the Town of Gander for hosting a great meeting. We encourage all SAM Representatives to report back to their town councils the outcomes of the weekends meetings and continue to be excellent stewards of wildlife habitat in the province.

For more information about the SAM Meetings visit our website at
Copyright © 2019, Stewardship Association of Municipalities Inc., All rights reserved.

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Monday, 26 August 2019

SAM Newsletter #23 Summer 2019

Stewardship at summer-camp

Many municipalities across the province have summer camps and provincial parks for kids of all ages. For SAM, camps are an excellent opportunity to talk about environmental stewardship with the next generation of NL conservationists. SAM staff were very excited to visit and deliver some stewardship programming to several summer camps this July.  
Summer-camp fun started in St. John's with a visit to the Geocenter Summer Camp. Campers went out on a foggy day and looked for birds and also played stewardship games.
The campers at the Geocenter Summer Camp got outside on a foggy July day to bird watch and play "Name that Duck" with SAM Conservation Biologist Laura King.
Enjoying nature at camp can and should be simple! SAM Staff visited Marine Park in Pouch Cove and led a nature hike around the trails. Using some of the SAM ID guides (available for FREE download on the SAM website) the participants went on a lichen adventure and made a mini collection of some of the common wildflowers found in the park.
Yogi Bear at Marine park got to hang with some of our duck ID decoys while campers explored the trails and collected some common plants using our SAM ID guidesavailable on our website
SAM staff also got to visit the Corduroy Brook Nature Camp in Grand Falls - Windsor. Staff led a nature hike with the campers, and in the evening they joined the local birding group and talked about 'ear-birding'. Corduroy Brook Nature Center is doing a great job of keeping Stewardship at the forefront of the community and recently the Green-Team at Corduroy Brook were featured on the NTV News Hour talking about their own nature and wetland based camp activities. 
SAM Staff finally made their way down to Burgeo this past July just before the start of the Sand and Sea Festival. Staff were able to partner with Sandbanks Provincial Park and lead a nature hike for residents and campers.

The provincial park is known for beautiful beaches, which is ideal habitat for one of the provinces endangered species, the Piping Plover
Enjoying the outdoors comes as second nature to the residents of Burgeo. SAM Conservation Biologist, Elisabeth Belanzaran was  able to lead a walk with some of the campers at Sandbanks Provincial Park this past July.
Adding environmental stewardship to summer camp can be as easy as leading a nature hike with SAM Id cards, doing a clean up or just having some fun playing stewardship games.

If your community has a summer camp and would like to add some stewardship to the summer, send us an email at and visit our website and check out our educational resources

SAM Network News & Updates

  • SAM Fall Meeting - Online Registration is Open Municipal members check your town's email for the official invite to the Fall 2019 SAM Meeting, being hosted by the Town of Gander. The meeting is by invite only, and is open to a representative from each SAM member. For more info check out our website.
  • Send us your snaps!   SAM Staff are always looking for pictures of our conservation areas for our newsletters and social media. If you are in your local conservation area, take a good snap and would like to share it, please send it along  with the location and date to 

The power of the partnership: SAM participates in partnered outreach

The Eastern Habitat Joint Venture (EHJV) partnerships are alive and well in Newfoundland and Labrador! This summer SAM Conservation Biologist Elisabeth (Liz) Belanzaran was able to work with the Nature Conservation of CanadaDucks Unlimited Canada and the Provincial Government on several educational and conservation projects.
The mission of the EHJV is to provide a forum where interested parties work collaboratively to coordinate and deliver effective migratory bird-habitat conservation in eastern Canada. In Newfoundland and Labrador, SAM communities play an important  role in the partnership, helping to conserve physical habitat within municipal boundaries AND supporting the social and economic benefits to society conservation creates. 
The Logos of the EHJV in NL from the SAM meeting presentation. Each SAM Meeting the partners of the EHJV deliver reports on their work in the province. 
This past June SAM Conservation Biologist Elisabeth (Liz) Belanzaran was able to partner with DUC and deliver Wetland Field Trips in SAM's newest community Corner Brook. Seven classes of grade 4 students from around the city participated in the field trips at the beautiful Corner Brook Marsh.

DUC Wetland Field Trips were also delivered in the SAM communities of SpringdaleLewisporteGrand Falls-WindsorIndian Bay, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Bird watching, critter dipping and wetland games OH MY! SAM staff had a great time partnering with DUC staff on the wetland field trips in Corner Brook.
Liz also worked with the Nature Conservancy of Canada on several volunteer events this summer. The first event was the annual Sandy Point cleanup. Sandy Point, located in St. George's Bay,  was once a thriving community on the southwest coast of NL. Many years ago the residents of Sandy Point were resettled, but the community of St. George's still has strong ties to the area. Since 2013, NCC has been leading an annual beach cleanup and have removed almost 3000 pounds of garbage from the island. 
NCC Volunteers ready for the annual Sandy Point clean-up. Thank you Aiden Mahoney for the great images of the NCC Volunteers.
Liz also participated in a reforestation event on NCC property and a birding event in the Codroy Valley. The NCC are committed to managing the conservation needs of their properties in the province. Whenever we can SAM staff like to support this important work and contribute to the success of the program. Many NCC properties are located close to SAM communities, and the conservation of those properties help to support the bio-diversity and health of SAM Conservation Areas. 
Learning to use the tree planter or Dibble during the NCC reforestation event.
Birding workshop with NCC Volunteers in the Codroy Valley this past June.
Much of the NL conservation work being done in wetlands and for migratory birds can be attributed to the partnership of the EHJV. SAM is an important piece to the puzzle that brings together community members, conservation non-profits and government for the common goal of conservation and stewardship! Way to go SAM and here's to powerful partnerships!

Would you like to learn more about the work the EHJV does in the province? Email 

Wildlife Watching: How can SAM communities help 

There is power in numbers when it comes to watching wildlife in our communities. Bird watching or "birding" has been a popular activity since in the late 18th century and the study of birds was first popularized by the British in the Victorian Era. Today people still watch birds, but we can now contribute to global databases used to further research into the movement of animal and bird populations and climate change.
SAM Meeting particpitants bird watching during the 2018 Spring AGM in Stephenville Crossing. This area is great for spring bird watching, just check out the eBird Hotspot
The term citizen science refers to the the public participation in scientific research. It is also known as community science, crowd science, volunteer monitoring, and civil science.

Besides being great for the environment, wildlife watching is fun and can be a great community activity! Check out some of our favorite citizen science apps and activities for our province and get involved!
  • Bird Observations
  • App Available 
  • International database
  • Open year round
eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Not sure where to begin? Check out the eBird hotspots listed on each of the
SAM community profiles.
  • Wildlife observations
  • App Available 
  • International database
  • Open year round
Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. iNaturalist shares your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe.

For the young and the young at heart check out the Seek app powered by iNaturalist
Provincial Government Programs
  • Wildlife Observations
  • Data sheets
  • Year round
The Department of Fisheries and Land resources has several monitoring programs specifically for Newfoundland and Labrador. Click on the list below for more information.
                       1) Dragon and Damselfly monitoring 
3) Incidental sightings
        i) NL Marten
                  ii) Short-eared Owl
        iii) Wolverine
Local facebook groups
  • Wildlife observations
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Year round
There are several local facebook groups that post images and sightings of wildlife in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are a great place to get started in learning about what types of wildlife are present here in the province. Post your images and get help identifying the wildlife in your backyard!

        1) NL Birdwatching Group
           2) Insects of Newfoundland
       4) Newfoundland Wildlife
Bird Studies Canada
  • Bird observations
  • Species specific
  • Canada/North America
  • Spring and summer
By gathering information as a volunteer Citizen Scientist, you can help Bird Studies Canada understand how changes in our landscape are affecting wild bird habitats and populations, and inform decisions about conservation priorities. These programs offer engaging hands-on learning opportunities, create meaningful connections with the natural world, and foster heightened levels of environmental responsibility in new generations of scientists, leaders, and mentors.
                           1) Maritimes Marsh Monitoring Program
   2) Nocturnal Owl Survey
 3) Swifts and Swallows
               4) Canadian Lakes Loon Survey
There are many other wildlife watching or citizen science programs to get involved in provincially, nationally, and internationally.

To find out more check out our newly updated web page "Monitor Wildlife" in our recourses section, or send an email to
Copyright © 2019, Stewardship Association of Municipalities Inc., All rights reserved.

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