A proposal to create a 160,000 hectare (ha) protected area west at Fisher Bay on Lake Winnipeg was ignored by Manitoba Conservation, proponents of the Fisher Bay Park Reserve claim.
Instead, the province is presenting a plan for an 89,000-ha reserve west of Fisher Bay, including about 60,000 ha of the bay. The deadline for comments on the proposed protected was May 30.
The reserve was originally presented by Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN) in 1999. As originally proposed, it would have covered much more than the whittled down 160,000 ha. That proposal would wend its way through provincial bureaucracy before the province proposed its own 89,000-ha protected area.
FRCN and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) say the reserve would protect the ecological assets of the area—including plants and wildlife.
Fisher River Chief David Crate is unhappy with the short timeframe for comment. More: “The amount of information that’s being provided to the general public leaves out references to the ecological assessment that was conducted,” he said in a telephone interview from The Pas May 28, where he was attending a meeting of the Association of Manitoba Chiefs.
Chief Crate says the larger area proposed by FRCN takes in the traditional lands of the Cree community. “Our people have used it for more than 130 years,” he said. “We hunted the land, harvested its plants. We have to protect our traditional lands.”
The chief says the larger reserve proposed by FRCN would better provide both for ecological sustainability and employment. The employment would come as the reserve widened its economic development strategy to include more eco-tourism.
COTTAGE DEVELOPMENT EYED
The reserve is already moving ahead on a cottage development on land that has been broken out of the park reserve. “The province said it would be a long process to include this land in the park reserve,” Crate explained.
The first phase of cottage development will include 147 units. “It is moving along,” said Chief Crate. “We signed a memorandum of understanding, and about a year ago started construction of a roadway. It’s going to generate long-term revenue. There’ll also be a number of spin-off jobs. The cottage people will require services. The properties will be served by holding tanks.”
There are 1,700 people living at Fisher River. An additional 1,400 band members live off-reserve.