Manitoba First Nations Support International Resolution to Protect More than Half of the Boreal

December 17, 2009

Two Manitoba First Nations are stating their support for a resolution to protect more than 50% of Canada’s Boreal Region in a network of protected areas that allow for species to migrate and adapt to climate change. Last month, over 1500 scientists, conservationists, and concerned citizens from 51 countries around the globe passed the resolution in Merida, Mexico at the World Wilderness Congress. The resolution, proposed by the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), calls for achieving this goal through First Nations community-based land-use planning including eco-system based resource management across the remaining landscape.

“People from all over the world are joining the growing movement to safeguard the Boreal Region,” stated Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba. “Manitoba has the grand opportunity to become a Canadian leader by announcing a process that works with First Nations and all Manitobans to protect our part of this global treasure.”

The Boreal stores more than 208 billion tons of carbon – which if released would be equivalent to 26 years’ worth of global fossil fuel emissions at 2006 levels. But when the Boreal is developed or logged, its ability to absorb and store carbon is lost or reduced, which degrades its ability to help moderate our climate.

“As the world’s largest storehouse of carbon, the Boreal is helping us all in the fight against climate change by keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere,” said Thiessen.

Fisher River Cree Nation supports the resolution and is working with CPAWS to establish a provincial park around the south basin of Lake Winnipeg.

“As well as the global significance of keeping the Boreal healthy, it’s important locally to maintain traditional activities such as fishing, hunting, and gathering along with emerging eco and cultural tourism opportunities,” said Fisher River’s Chief David Crate.

CPAWS also points to the east side of Lake Winnipeg where First Nations are striving to establish a World Heritage Site. Poplar River First Nation, a partner in the initiative, has completed their land-use plan which includes permanently protecting 8000 square kilometers of their traditional territory from industrial developments.

Sophia Rabliauskas, member of Poplar River and spokesperson for the World Heritage Site initiative, values the land and recognizes the fundamental need to protect the Boreal Region.

“Our elders recognize the spiritual significance and traditional values of the land. The land gives wisdom and knowledge and heals us” said Sophia. “Our vision is to protect the land and water for future generations and that’s why we support this resolution.”

CPAWS is asking the province to make protection of more than half of Manitoba’s Boreal Region a key objective in the Manitoba Boreal Peatlands Stewardship Strategy, a commitment recently announced by Premier Selinger.

The Boreal Region drapes over the northern shoulders of the globe like a green veil.  Canada’s Boreal has the largest blocks of intact forests remaining on Earth and is the homelands for hundreds of Aboriginal communities. It helps shield us from the dangerous impacts of climate change and is the Earth’s largest source of fresh water.

The Boreal is a spectacular mosaic of forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and bogs.  It supports a diversity of tree species such as pine, spruce, poplar, and birch, and teems with wildlife such as lynx, black bear, moose, fox, owls, eagles, and a variety of ducks and songbirds – and we all know about the eminent polar bear. Many of Manitoba’s polar bears spend the summer in the Boreal Region.

The resolution was passed at the Wild9 World Wilderness Congress held in Merida, Mexico from Nov. 6 – 13th.  The Resolution can be found at

For more information:

Ron Thiessen, CPAWS Manitoba Executive Director – (204) 453 6346, (204) 794 4971,  [email protected],

Chief David Crate, Fisher River Cree Nation – (204) 781 8016, (204) 645 2171,  [email protected]

Sophia Rabliauskas, Poplar River First Nation – (204) 997 7114, (204) 244 2654,  -30-

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