Conducting stewardship and monitoring activities is critical to the ongoing protection of conservation lands. For organizations that oversee large expanses of land in remote areas, alternatives to in-person site visits help them meet monitoring requirements and track the long-term impact of their work.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the lead federal department for a wide range of environmental issues, has a long track record of supporting private land conservation. Through their Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP), ECCC and its partners invested more than $1B between 2007 and 2019, protecting over 500,000 hectares of lands in southern Canada. Funding from the NACP, and the Natural Heritage Conservation Program that replaced it, goes to conservation partners throughout the country, who use the funding to acquire land or conservation easements to establish new protected and conserved areas.
As part of its ongoing mission, ECCC wanted to explore innovative ways to monitor and proactively survey the lands they support to ensure conservation commitments are upheld over the long term.
Under the NACP, lands secured by conservation groups must contribute directly to enhanced ecological integrity and connectivity of Canada’s network of protected and conserved areas, protection and recovery of species at risk, and prevention of future habitat impacts. Maintaining these qualities in perpetuity, is important to both conservation groups and ECCC; and implementing ongoing stewardship of the lands secured under NACP is key to the overall success of the program.
Like other conservation organizations, NACP partners must periodically monitor their properties, as required by the Canadian Land Trust Standards and Practices. While this responsibility lies with the land conservation groups, ECCC is committed to ensuring that the ecological integrity of land secured with the government’s investment remains intact.
ECCC engaged Upstream Tech to conduct monitoring on their behalf, leveraging our expertise in remote sensing to bring efficiencies and knowledge to the project. Our monitoring services include expert imagery analysis, annotation, and report generation along with tasking and skilled project management service. To help ECCC evaluate the NACP, we monitored 50 randomly selected properties from the time of initial conservation to today and noted any major changes to the sites. We looked for both human impacts, like new roads, infrastructure, or vegetation removal, and natural changes like shifts in the hydrology or vegetation cover on the site.
We delivered reports for each site outlining any changes that were noted, as well as a summary report sharing our overall findings. This information will help ECCC determine the NACP’s impact in conserving the ecological values of the properties, and will help them assess the need for further monitoring activities.
As part of our work, we also provided ECCC staff with access to Lens so they could explore its utility for the many varied facets of their work beyond this project. Since our initial partnership, we have had ECCC staff sign up for Lens so they can plan and monitor their projects. We are so pleased about the continuation of this relationship and excited to support the important work of ECCC, whether it be through our Monitoring Services or through access to the Lens platform directly.
Do you have a similar question about the long-term efficacy of your work, or simply not enough time to get all your monitoring done? Reach out - we’d be happy to provide a quote to leverage our internal expertise for your projects.