I appreciate Mr. Bellamy’s perspectives on reducing our use of fossil fuels, as we need to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint. However, Manitoba’s best opportunity for contributing to the climate challenge in a globally significant way is to ensure sustainable developments in the boreal forest region (which covers 80% of Manitoba) are balanced with large-scale boreal conservation. The boreal stores more carbon in its trees and soils than any other terrestrial ecosystem on earth. The Boreal forests and wetlands in Manitoba alone are estimated to store a minimum of 19 billion tonnes of carbon, which is equivalent to nearly 1,000 years of Manitoba’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Conservation of vast complexes of undisturbed boreal wetlands and forests needs to be top priority because if the carbon they hold is disturbed and released into the atmosphere, it would accelerate climate change. These complexes are also critical as natural flood mitigation infrastructure necessary for adapting to the impacts of a changing climate. This measure would also go a long way to protect the habitats of our wildlife populations, including the threatened woodland caribou and our declining moose populations. Furthermore, boreal conservation in the Lake Winnipeg watershed would ensure the ecosystem can continue to filter excess nutrients that would otherwise enter the lake and exacerbate its plight.
I’m pleased to know our provincial government has committed through its Climate and Green Plan to expanding our provincial parks system and ensuring an adequate level of landscape protection is achieved. Large-scale protection of boreal ecosystems is by far our province’s best and most cost effective step to make a meaningful contribution to global climate challenge efforts. As such, a significant portion of the revenues from the upcoming provincial carbon tax should be used to greatly accelerate the expansion of parks and protected areas within the boreal of Manitoba by properly resourcing the relevant government branches and all involved to do the work.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Manitoba chapter