Re: Group complains province failing protected areas (Nov. 9)

November 21, 2006

There’s been no net gain in Manitoba’s protected natural lands and waters since 1999, when the present government came into office.

That’s why it came as no surprise when the Manitoba government received a poor protected areas grade for 2006. To add insult to injury, Manitoba was once a leader in proportion of lands protected from industrial developments, now we lag far behind other provinces such as Alberta and BC.

Manitoba has a world-class conservation opportunity in our vast boreal forests, but it’s time-limited. We are at risk of quickly and carelessly losing valuable ecosystems that took millions of years to create. The time for grand-scale protection of our boreal forests is now – before renewal or expansion of any long-term forestry licenses.

The Manitoba government has a “silver platter” opportunity to protect a huge boreal forest area on the east side of Lake Winnipeg where Poplar River First Nation has requested permanent protection of almost 800,000 ha of intact forested lands – about 20 times the size of Winnipeg. Protecting these boreal lands will also go a long way in fulfilling Manitoba’s legal requirement to protect the habitat of threatened woodland caribou. During this year’s Speech to the Throne, the Manitoba government committed to enacting permanent protection for this spectacular area – let’s hope they make good on their promise.

The boreal forest is a stunningly beautiful green cloak that rests on the northern shoulders of the world and provides well for an array of wildlife. As every Canadian relies on the boreal forest for either food, or a job, or supplies, it’s paramount that we conserve the majority of our boreal in huge, interconnected protected areas. The health of the boreal is of vital importance to all life as its the world’s largest source of fresh water, a huge contributor to earth’s oxygen production, and essential in global climate regulation.

Premier Doer has a little time left before the next provincial election to show Manitobans that he cares about our precious natural heritage. It’s time for him to take bold and immediate action on his words about protecting our environment for people and wildlife.

Ron Thiessen

Executive Director
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Manitoba Chapter

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