TORONTO—The governments of Ontario and Manitoba have agreed on the establishment of an interprovincial wilderness area along the border of the two provinces, but environmental groups say the move doesn’t do enough to protect endangered species.
The region covers more than 9,400 square kilometres of land, including Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Atikaki and Nopiming provincial parks in Manitoba.
Establishing the area is a step toward achieving a successful bid to have 40,000 square kilometres of boreal forest in the two provinces declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
That project, Pimachiowin Aki, is a partnership between the provinces and four First Nations.
Under the memorandum signed yesterday, the provinces agreed to work together to manage the area.
Manitoba also released a management plan for Atikaki Provincial Park and the Blood Heritage River—key components of meeting the requirements to have the region attain world heritage designation.
“Having the plan completed is a valuable part of building the foundation for the nomination,” said Gord Jones, manager of the Pimachiowin Aki project.
Janet Sumner, executive director of the Wildlands League, said having the two provinces manage the land together is “a good thing,” but the move lacks any sort of concrete plan.
“There’s no new protected areas,” Sumner said. “For example, there’s no new initiatives to protect endangered species like woodlands caribou.
“They’re basically saying, ‘We have existing wilderness areas and we’re going to talk to each other as we manage them.’ “
Alberta has similar agreements with Saskatchewan and British Columbia, but the arrangement is a first for Ontario, said Barry Radford of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
Ted Cheskey of Nature Canada said there wasn’t much to get excited about because no new areas are being protected, but added it is “certainly good news that provinces are working together.”
“You can’t have one management regime or one plan on one side or the other,” he said. “There needs to be agreement.”