Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Photo of Great Blue Heron
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada. Ring-billed Gull.

Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located 10 km northwest of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, within the Val Marie Community Pasture. The Val Marie Reservoir, also known as Newton Lake, is an impoundment on the Frenchman River behind a Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration dam completed in 1937. Val Marie Reservoir MBS was one of five sanctuaries established on November 3, 1948, to replace five other sanctuaries that had become unsuitable as migratory water bird refuges because of drought conditions.

The MBS is located in the Mixed Grass ecoregion of Saskatchewan. Water levels in the reservoir often fluctuate because of the heavy demand for irrigating forage crops downstream. By mid-summer, in years of average to below-average precipitation, wide expanses of mud flat are exposed between the rocky, sandy shoreline and the water. There are several small islands and peninsulas in the northwest portion of the reservoir that fluctuate in numbers and size with the changing water levels. Emergent vegetation is largely restricted to the northwest end of the reservoir where the Frenchman River enters the reservoir. Submergent aquatics consist largely of beds of pondweed and water milfoil found throughout the reservoir. Surrounding uplands are almost entirely native grassland, and the western half of the shoreline plus 50 to 200 metres of adjacent uplands are fenced to exclude livestock grazing.

Importance of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Val Marie Reservoir is an important spring and fall staging area for Canada Geese and ducks, particularly during droughts, as it is the only large permanent water body in the area. The reservoir supports several hundred ducks and geese during the breeding and moulting seasons, but only moderate numbers of dabbling duck and Canada Goose broods are produced in most years.

Colonial nesting birds known to nest on the islands are the Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Ring-billed and California Gull, and Common Tern. American White Pelicans, Franklin's Gulls and Black Terns use the area during the summer, but are not known to breed there.

Access and Activities

MBSs are established for the protection and conservation of migratory birds. Activities that could harm migratory birds, their nests or their eggs are prohibited.

MBSs can be and have been established on private, provincial, territorial and federally owned lands. Access to each MBS varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager.

Where MBSs are located on federal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the management and protection of migratory birds, nests, eggs and habitat. Where MBSs are located on provincial land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests, while the chief game officer of the province is responsible for the management of habitat. Where MBSs are located on private or municipal land, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and their nests. Habitat management is the responsibility of the landowner.

Public access to Val Marie Reservoir MBS is at the discretion of the landowner (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). One public road provides access to the eastern side of the reservoir.There are limited municipal road access points. The standard prohibitions under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations apply to this site: hunting migratory birds is prohibited, and no person shall disturb, destroy or take the nest of a migratory bird or have in his or her possession a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird, except under the authority of a permit issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada or unless authorized by the Regulations. Possession of firearms or other hunting appliances is prohibited. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large.

For more information on entry, activities and permits in MBSs, please visit the Management and Activities section of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries website. For more information on protected areas managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada in Quebec, please contact the regional office.

For greater certainty, nothing in this document shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Map of the Area

  • Map of Old Wives Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Long description of the map

Map showing the location of Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary relative to Saskatchewan, Newton Lake and Frenchman River. The map shows the boundaries of the sanctuary, which covers most of Newton Lake. The scale of the map is in tenths of a kilometer.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries. Val Marie Reservoir MBS can also be viewed using Google Maps. Please note that the Google map is a complementary source of information and does not represent the official map or site name.

Summary table

Summary table for Val Marie Reservoir Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Category Information
Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 49°19' N, 107°50' W
Size in hectares (ha) 431 ha
Date created (Gazetted) 1948
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category V - Protected Landscape/Seascape
Additional designations None
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (90%), marsh (9%),
islands (1%)
Key bird species Ducks, Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Common Tern, American White Pelican, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Killdeer
Other species Birds: American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit and Wilson's Phalarope
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region
Landowner Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

Contact Information

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4
Québec, Quebec G1J 0C3
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
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