Island sanctuaries should become provincial parks
Indigenous communities and conservation groups ask Manitobans to help protect nature, culture, and economic opportunities
For Immediate Release: March 21, 2017
An alliance of two First Nations and two conservation organizations are hoping Manitobans will weigh-in on a proposal to protect eight islands on Lake Winnipegosis from developments. The provincial government is presently asking Manitobans how they feel about establishing the Grand and Goose Islands complex as provincial parks. March 24th is the deadline for public comments.
Indigenous people have an ancestral connection with the islands and Lake Winnipegosis as they have used them for thousands of years. Blessed with lush wetlands and mixed forests, the islands are important breeding grounds for a number of water bird species as well as valuable habitat for moose, fox, and numerous songbirds.
“Indigenous people have stewarded these islands and the lake for countless generations and they remain essential to us for subsistence and for cultural practices”, said Nelson Genaille, Chief of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. “The water, the islands, and the wildlife need to be protected for us now and for those yet to be born.”
Lake Winnipegosis is a significant ecological and economic resource for the region. It supports commercial fishing (about 160 licensed fisherman in 2012), recreational angling, and tourism while providing important ecological services. Runoff from Grand and Goose Islands drain into Lake Winnipegosis and eventually flow into Lake Winnipeg. Protecting these islands from developments will help to ensure they can continue to support the communities of people and wildlife that rely on the health of these lakes.
“Protecting these islands in their pristine state and maintaining the well-being of Lake Winnipegosis will help prevent further disruption to the health of downstream ecosystems including Lake Winnipeg“ said Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Establishing these islands as parks will maintain them as a healthy part of the boreal ecosystem, which is the basis for the fishing and tourism sectors in the region.”
The islands that make up the Grand and Goose Islands park reserves on Lake Winnipegosis have been in interim protection for 16 years. The groups are hoping the province will establish them as provincial parks soon.
"Over the years thousands of Manitobans have asked for protection of these islands," said Eric Reder, Manitoba Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee. "We expect many more people will voice their desire for two more provincial parks by visiting the government's webpage and offering their support."
The groups calling on the province to establish Grand and Goose Island provincial parks are Pine Creek First Nation, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, and the Manitoba chapters of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Wilderness Committee.