Know the North guest blog #3 - Start the Conservation Conversation!


CPAWS Manitoba is a proud supporting partner of Know the North, a group of eight paddlers undertaking a 50 day canoe trip that will take them through Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Manitoba. As educators, their aim is to bring their experiences home in order to inspire the next generation of Canadians to become active participants in preserving our natural environments. Over the coming months, we will be publishing guest blog posts from the team as they prepare for and reflect on this incredible adventure.

Whenever I head up into the far north it feels like I have gone back in time. For the most part the remote Canadian wilderness is the same now as it was a thousand years ago - eskers and drumlin fields dominate the landscape, and forests of black spruce and tamarack provide cover for the creatures that call this region home. It’s easy to think it will stay this way forever. Sadly, in a world of resource scarcity and profit rule, the survival of our pristine wilderness will depend on the continued work of dedicated individuals advocating for its protection.  One such organization working here in Manitoba is the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

Living in Winnipeg for most of the year it is easy to turn a blind eye to what is going on elsewhere. It’s easier to be apathetic than stand up and fight for causes that don’t have a voice of their own. This is why it is so important to explore our northern regions and educate ourselves on the challenges facing remote northern environments. The trips I’ve done in Manitoba have shown me first-hand the impacts of large-scale development projects. I’ve paddled by the clear-cuts where old-growth forests used to exist. I’ve seen the huge swaths of trees laid to the ground in order to make way for power lines. I’ve had to use a bandana to filter the particulate from water before it is fit for consumption. I’ve spoken to individuals living in northern communities who tell me that their traditional way of life is not feasible due to the environmental impact of hydroelectric dams. And I know that I’ve only seen a fraction of what’s going on.

So what can we do about it? As members of Know The North, we believe that education and advocacy are essential for preserving our remote Canadian wilderness. Our aim is to bring back home what we see and learn on our expidition in order to educate the next generation of Canadians to become active participants in preserving our natural environments.

This is also why we have teamed up with CPAWS Manitoba. Since 1991, the Manitoba Chapter of CPAWS has been a champion advocate for our wilderness, and a leading voice in provincial conservation efforts.  Currently, the Manitoba Chapter of CPAWS is working toward a process that would see protections for the Seal River watershed in Manitoba’s far north; one that is undertaken in full partnership with Indigenous communities and the province. Not only is the Seal River the last of Manitoba’s great rivers to remain undammed, but the landscape within the watershed bears few signs at all of human impact.

This lack of industrial development has allowed the region’s ecological diversity to flourish. It means the harbour seals can still travel over 200 km upriver from Hudson Bay, and beluga whales can still use the river as a safe place to birth their young (see CPAWS’ fantastic piece by Joshua Pearlman regarding the Beluga Habitat Sustainability Plan recently released by the province, and the need for a holistic approach to species and environmental protection here). It means the subarctic forest can still provide habitats for a variety of species such as black bear, moose, wolf, fox, wolverine, beaver, otter, eagle, osprey, and other northern birds. It means that the estimated 400,000 animals of the Qaminuriak caribou herd can winter here and continue to contribute to the ecosystem and provide for the members of Inuit and Dene communities in northern Manitoba and Nunavut. Paddling within the Seal River watershed this summer will no doubt be a unique, unforgettable, and humbling experience for all of us on Know the North.

For more information on CPAWS Manitoba’s Seal River campaign, head to their site over here.

By raising public awareness and support through our expedition and new partnership, we aim to forward the cause of protection in the Seal River watershed from the threat of industrial development projects. In what is a fragile environment, it is not hard to fathom the huge impacts that mineral exploration or power generating systems would cause.  We take great pride in standing with CPAWS-MB as they celebrate 25 years of conservation in Manitoba, and are excited to contribute in our small way to their valuable efforts.

-Paul Schram

Republished from knowthenorth.com