October 26, 2010

Three Manitoba First Nations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg have taken steps to permanently protect their traditional lands and ensure that any new development be conducted with their collaboration, Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie announced today.

The three First Nations are Poplar River, Pauingassi and Bloodvein River.  Each First Nation has requested planning area designations within their respective traditional land-use areas under the East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Act.  The three First Nations are represented on the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin Council of Chiefs which was established to ensure the First Nations within the east side are involved in decisions that will affect their communities and traditional territories.

“I commend east side First Nation communities for all their work as they develop plans for their traditional lands and to protect forests, lakes and rivers that have significant cultural and environmental value,” said Blaikie.  “We are pleased to partner with communities in implementing their vision to ensure that protection and development activities are consistent with management plans they are developing.”

As well, Poplar River First Nation has formally submitted the Asatiwisipe Aki Management Plan to the Manitoba government for approval. The proposed plan, which would protect traditional lands, will be made available for public review and comment in the upcoming months.

The first of its kind in Canada, the legislation provides First Nations the option to provide interim and permanent legal protection of traditional lands on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.  It ensures any new development in a traditional land-use area be conducted in collaboration with First Nations and be consistent with the land-use plan.

East Side planning has been in development since 2000 with the input of communities and chiefs who have asked to play a greater role in the management of their traditional areas.  It is expected that other First Nations on the east side will file similar management plans under the act.

“There is only one opportunity to plan and protect the boreal forest in eastern Manitoba and northern Ontario and that time is now,” said Blaikie.  “This is another important step to support the efforts to establish a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation that would be based on both the cultural and ecological significance of the area.”

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