Protecting our vital watersheds
Our research demands action to protect our rivers and lakes.
What is a Watershed?
A watershed is simply the area of land that drains water into a river or lake. Watersheds usually contain smaller watersheds, called sub-watersheds, that drain smaller areas of land.
A Watershed’s Vital Organs
In a watershed, everything is connected. The forests and wetlands in a watershed function to filter and clean water as it drains into streams and rivers.
The small temporary and intermittent streams that are the sources of our rivers and lakes are known as headwaters. They are vital to the quality and quantity of water in a watershed. When healthy and protected, headwater streams provide slow and regular inputs of water to the system, as well as organic materials and invertebrates for fish and wildlife downstream.
Many small, temporary, and intermittent headwater streams are not adequately protected from forestry activities like road building and clearcutting. Without watershed-based forest management, water quality can be degraded, water quantity decreased, and vital wildlife habitats destroyed.
New Brunswick’s current approach to forest management means:
- Soil erosion and scouring of stream banks
- Silt and nutrient pollution
- Loss of wildlife habitat
- Disappearance of plants and wildlife
- Lost recreation opportunities
What Needs To be Done
Many major river systems in New Brunswick have their headwaters on public lands. Currently there are few regulations in place to protect water quality and aquatic habitat on public lands from the effects of forest road building and clearcutting. There are no explicit regulations to protect water sources or wildlife habitat in headwaters. The vital organs of New Brunswick’s watersheds need strong forest management regulations that explicitly protect all of the connected components of the watershed.
The citizens of New Brunswick deserve a say in the future of their rivers and lakes. The Conservation Council is working to protect water quality and aquatic habitat on public land.
An Action Plan to Protect our Rivers & Lakes:
- Forest management must use watersheds as the planning unit, so that public forests are managed holistically. Other jurisdictions are exploring watershed-level planning because they understand the important role that forests play in ensuring safe, secure drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems, and reliable quality water supplies.
- No more than 20% of a watershed should be logged in a year. No more than 50% of a watershed should be covered by forest younger than 35 years old, since young forests do not effectively regulate water quality and flow.
- There must be a 15 metre no-travel zone round the intermittent and ephemeral streams that make up the headwaters of a watershed.
- Wherever possible buffer zones on rivers and lakes should extend beyond the floodplain, so that the floodplain soils and vegetation remain undisturbed.
- Logging should be prohibited in the first 15 metres for the 30 metre buffer zones required around all rivers and lakes, not just those which supply drinking water.