Protect boreal forest: paddler

August 2, 2006

JAY Morrison paddled 3,000 kilometres through heat and storms to deliver a paddle to the Manitoba legislature yesterday.

The 57-year-old member of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAW) put his canoe-kayak hybrid in the Gulf Of St. Lawrence on April 9, and arrived in Winnipeg—somewhat tanned—yesterday to remind the Conservation Minister Stan Struthers to protect 82,000 square kilometres of boreal forest (an area larger than Nova Scotia) east of Lake Winnipeg.

Morrison, and Ron Thiessen, CPAW’s executive director, gave the minister a small paddle with the inscription, “Protect Manitoba’s Big Wild—East Side Lake Winnipeg.” CPAW wants to get the area protected by the government to give them a better chance of getting the area registered as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations—joining the ranks of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The benefits include tourism dollars and protection for the area by an international body.

The minister has been “working diligently” for years with First Nations bands on developing a plan to protect the area.

“(The paddle) was a good reminder and the more reminders we get, the better. Having said that, elders on the east side always remind us of our commitment to including First Nations in decision making,” Struthers said.

This was the only stop in Morrison’s trek to the Arctic Ocean where he presented a politician with a gift, but along the way he’s spread his forest-saving message through the media. (CPAW has protected over 400,000 square kilometers of wilderness since 1963.) He was going to finish his trip this year, but events on Lake Superior made him change his mind.

The retired management consultant once considered himself a “hyper-rational” person. As a hobby, he now teaches whitewater paddling and to pass the time in his boat he ponders life (he gave up trying to remember the lyrics to Stan Roger’s “Northwest Passage”).

“I’m a man of leisure….and I’m a full-time adventurer,” he said in front of his 5.5- metre home-made vessel.

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