Website for heritage bid chalks up cash, visitors

Sophia RabilauskasA website launched a month ago to raise funds toward a United Nations world heritage site designation on the east side of the province has collected almost $25,000 and seen nearly 5,000 visits.

Sue Barkman, director of development and community relations for the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said the progress to date means the campaign will likely reach its goal of $20 million over the next three years.

The Winnipeg-based policy research institute is helping to run the Land that Gives Life campaign for the five First Nations behind the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project: Poplar River, Bloodvein, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Pikangikum. The Manitoba and Ontario governments also support it.

Barkman said the website landthatgiveslife.com is also intended to build a database of people throughout the world who support the United Nations world heritage site bid, which will be formally submitted later this year.

“We’re starting off with no database and we’ve got three years to really make this work,” Barkman said. “The way it’s going, I’d say we’ll make it.”

The $20-million fund is needed to show the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that the Pimachiowin Aki project has a viable financial plan.

The Winnipeg Foundation will manage the fund and partially match gifts; for every $9 a person or organization contributes, the foundation will give $1.

The NDP government under former premier Gary Doer decided almost five years ago not to build a new hydro transmission line through the area to preserve its wilderness forests. The line will now be built down a longer and more expensive route on the west side of the province. The Manitoba government committed $10 million to the fund two years ago.

The area under consideration for the world heritage site designation is about the size of Denmark, covering more than 40,000 square kilometres in Manitoba and Ontario.

Barkman said what’s needed now is for more people to visit the website and sign up for the electronic newsletter under the Stay Connected link.

“What we’re looking for is people to step up to the plate and say they want the world heritage site for Manitoba and northwest Ontario,”  she said.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2010 A8