Conserving NL's Special Places

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to many important and sensitive wildlife habitats. The iconic puffin, the fish that swim our rivers, and the shorebirds that visit our coastlines each fall are just some of the things that make our biodiversity special. As a central part of SAM's mission we work to identify, prioritize and conserve the land areas of the province that support important biodiversity and are important to us culturally. We seek, in partnership with our municipal members, to find a balance between preservation of biodiversity values and economic and social development opportunities. We also recognize that there are many ways that these lands can be effectively conserved and so we actively seek to share our findings with other people and groups who share our vision.

Coastal Estuaries and Beaches

Our province's extensive coastline contains wonderful bays, estuaries, and beaches that are often habitats that typically support higher concentrations of wildlife. in 2018, supported by funding from Wildlife Habitat Canada, we started building a mapped inventory by drawing together various current and historical sources of data such as the Sensitive Beaches in NL report from the former Protected Areas Association of NL, the CPAWS NL Special Marine Areas Guide, DFO’s eelgrass mapping research, Ducks Unlimited Canada research and reports, the Atlantic Canada Shorebird Survey, Atlantic Canada’s Natural Heritage Areas, Tingley’s 1992 Inventory of Selected Waterfowl Sites in Newfoundland, public data sources such as eBird, and many more government, NGO, and other data and documents.


Purple sandpipers are a unique and hardy bird that breed in the tundra and winter along our coastlines.

Our tidal wetlands are important for biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and supporting bird populations. 

Freshwater shorelines and our Riparian Buffers

Many of the Municipal Habitat Stewardship Agreements that conserve habitat in municipalities, include pond/stream edges, also known as riparian buffers. This habitat on the edge is very much alive, and has been identified by biologists as important habitat for a diverse number of wildlife species.

There are many reasons to keep our living freshwater shorelines intact, many of which benefit homeowners and property.

  • Can help to stop the effects of erosion

  • Decrease siltitation into freshwater habitat

  • More natural vegetation supports better air quality

  • Helps native pollinator and invertebrate populations

  • Acts as a wind break against snow and blowing winds

  • Nursery for fish and waterfowl

  • Promotes growth of native plant species, which reduces invasives

  • Shields against noise pollution

  • Keeps flood waters from infiltrating property

  • Creates a natural privacy screen

  • Shoreline plants can help remove heavy metals from our water

  • Increased biodiversity

  • Shoreline plants can help to filter and clean our water

  • Stores carbon and mitigates climate change


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How can you help? Keep it wild!
Please leave trees and plants in place around our shorelines. Keep at least 15 meters of natural vegetation around all of our ponds, streams and wetlands in our province. This 15 m buffer is required by our Lands Act.


Much of our history surrounds identifying, mapping and conserving important wetlands across the province, in particular those found within municipal boundaries. We have created extensive map inventories of these significant wetlands and contributed our knowledge to support provincial land management policy.

But what is a wetland? and how can we identify these special places in our communities? 

Wetlands are just that, wet land! They are areas of land that are either permanently or seasonally covered by water. The wetlands in our province are diverse and can be divided into 5 different classifications: Bog, Fen, Marsh, Pond (Shallow Open Water), and Swamp. Click on the below pictures to see if you can identify our common wetland types.



Bogs are a special kind of wetland known as a Peatland. Peat is made up of slowly decaying plant material, including sphagnum moss. This materials holds carbon from being released into our atmosphere. Peatlands cover only 3% of the worlds land area but they hold 30% of the terrestrial carbon! Bogs received their water exclusively from rainfall and snow melt.  They support a wide variety of plants, animals and insects.In NL many people refer to bogs as
a "Mesh" or "Marsh"


Fens are also peatlands, and are made up of many of the same decaying vegetation as bogs. Fens can have a higher diversity of plant life because they will have a source of fresh water associated with them, like a pond, stream or ground water. To be classified as a bog or fen, the peat need to be 40 cm deep. It takes about 1000 years to have 1.5 m of peat. Many of the peatlands in NL were formed over 15,000 years.    


These wetlands can often be found in the transition between ponds and shorelines. These wetlands are the most ecologically diverse and are excellent at controlling flooding. They are also important habitat for waterfowl, beavers, moose and muskrat. Marshes are different from ponds because they will have emergent vegetation like cattails and bulrushes covering more than 25% of the open water. 

Open Water

Open water wetlands can be shallow open water, ponds or mudflats. These wetlands will have a water depth of less than 2 m, making them too deep for emergent vegetation to establish, although you may find bullhead lilies along the edges of nutrient rich ponds. Usually this type of wetland will have permanent water that will fluctuate from season to season. Water sources for ponds can be precipitation, run-off, groundwater and streams.


Swamps are a common, but diverse group of wetlands. They are often found between the transition of a upland forest and other wetland areas. They contain raised areas of hummocks and also pools of water and are either treed or shrubby. Swamps are able to slow water flow during floods and protect shorelines from erosion and sedimentation. They also provide habitat for many types of wildlife including waterfowl, songbirds, and large mammals. 

Habitat Resources

Atlantic Salmon Rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador

Wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is an important species for the people of Atlantic Canada for a variety of reasons including social, cultural, recreational, economic, recreational, and food security reasons, as well as being an indicator of environmental quality. Conserving this resource for current and future use is therefore a priority – and it cannot be achieved without the cooperation and stewardship of local communities.

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Unfortunately, wild Atlantic salmon populations are declining throughout their range, from an estimated abundance of 0.8-1.7 million fish (aged at one sea winter) to an estimated 04.-07 million fish from 1995 onwards. Declining stocks have prompted various government responses, including (though not limited to) the closure of commercial fisheries in Eastern Canada, reduction of daily and seasonal bag limits, and the introduction of mandatory catch and release programs of large salmon in the recreational fisheries of insular Newfoundland.  Protecting good salmon habitat is essential to ensure the continued survival of the species, so that the resource can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Fishing and angling has long been a source of food security, industry, and recreation in Newfoundland and Labrador. SAM does not seek to restrict the use and enjoyment of this resource – rather, the intention is to help promote legal sustainable use, and seek to conserve (and restore where needed) critical habitats, often riparian buffers surrounding salmon rivers. Supported by funding from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund, we have begun efforts to identify important rivers and spawning areas, particularly those found within municipal planning boundaries. We are now seeking to work with municipalities to conserve some of this habitat for current and future generations.