Ponds, swamps, and streams are all too often used as dumps. A distressing array of garbage, including old cars, stoves, sofas, and empty cans of toxic chemicals, is regularly hauled out of aquatic habitats by concerned groups and individuals. Illegal dumping poses serious hazards to wildlife.
Concerned citizens of New Brunswick have declared war against garbage in watery habitats. Groups across the province have "adopted" sections of nearby streams. Volunteers regularly patrol their selected spots to clean up garbage. In Ontario, for example, a group of students has worked to clean up urban waterways by removing huge amounts of debris - including four stolen vehicles and a huge tire weighing almost 500 kilograms!
Somewhere in your community there is surely a watery spot that needs your help through a cleanup campaign. Cleaning up the site is one way to help, but why not go further? Your extra efforts will mean long-term gains for wildlife.
- Look for a stream, pond, or marshy spot that looks a bit bedraggled.
- Find out if there's a community cleanup group you can alert. If there isn't, organize one yourself.
- First, ask for permission from the landowner or municipality to carry out your plan. Be sure to get this permission in writing.
- Through local media, you can inform the community about your cleanup plans and recruit volunteers to help.
- Before you begin, consult with a fisheries manager in the government department responsible for natural resources in your province or territory. Ask him or her to visit the site with you. You want to be sure you won't be disturbing fish spawning beds or other sensitive areas. You may also want to request help in organizing a fish habitat improvement scheme.
- Collect litter, which can be fatal to wildlife. Plastic and metal objects, cigarette butts, and Styrofoam debris can suffocate and strangle animals. Broken bottles and open tins can trap small creatures or cut their tongues.
- While working, be careful to disturb the habitat as little as possible. Remember, you're stomping around in some small creature's living room. Walk cautiously along the stream so you don't disrupt grasses and shrubs, which are important because they shade the water, stop banks from eroding, attract bugs, and provide shelter for wildlife.
- Never remove trees, stumps, logs, branches, or rocks without advice from a natural resources expert. Fish and other watery creatures use these objects as hiding places.
- Too many fallen branches can disrupt a stream's flow and make life tough for turtles and fish. It may be helpful to clear some of the debris away, but do so only with advice from an expert.
- While working, wear old clothes, sturdy footwear, and work gloves.
- Late summer and fall are the best times for your cleanup campaign: you won't frighten nesting birds and baby animals.
- Post weatherproof signs in the area with messages like "No Dumping - Wildlife Area".
Patrol your adopted watery spot regularly and keep it clean for wildlife.