The Fisher River Cree Nation has put in a request to the provincial government to expand the current Fisher Bay Park Reserve to include the area east of the Jackhead Road and the area currently known as the Moose Creek Provincial Forest.
The current park reserve, located on the southwest basin of Lake Winnipeg, was established in 1999 and is protected from industrial development—such as logging and mining—until 2010. The current area covers 89,000 hectares but will swell to 160,000 hectares under the proposed expansion.
“We did an assessment with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the community over the last couple of years,” Fisher River Chief David Crate explained. “A study was done of the area identifying species of animals, birds and plants. With the outcome of that study came the recommendation to expand the boundaries and take on more area.”
CPAWS has chapters across Canada and has successfully assisted in securing thousands of untamed acres into parkland over the years.
Conservation Minister Stan Struthers suggested last month that he is open to discussion about expanding the existing park reserve. He said he he would bring recommendations forward to cabinet regarding approval to secure permanent protection for the area.
“Many of our people still use the land and we have to protect those types of traditional activities,” says Crate.
The Fisher River Cree Nation has been working on a cottage lot and campground development project in the area. Chief Crate thinks that an expanded provincial park reserve would not only protect the natural beauty of the area but secure traditional hunting and gathering grounds for the people of Fisher River.
In June, Crate signed a memorandum of understanding with government for the development of cottage lots in the proposed area.
“The cottages will not be on reserve land,” the chief said. “At Fisher River, we have purchased land over the years for development and have approximately 600 acres that are expected to undergo development.”
The band is currently in discussion with the province on infrastructure and designing eco-friendly cottages that will leave a minimal impact on the natural surroundings.
“Over the winter, our development plans will be complete and by spring, we should be able to develop infrastructure (roads),” Crate said. “The expanded park reserve is an ideal fit for our cottage development as we could then develop walking trails and create a greater environmental awareness.”
Crate expects the spinoff will benefit local contractors and the areas businesses which will then put the First Nation people in a less dependent state.
“I feel strongly we must preserve the area for future generations, not just for our Cree Nation but for everyone,” he concludes.