Saving Lake Winnipeg

August 18, 2017

Boreal protection fundamental part of the solution

I remember the moment when my heart felt what my mind already knew: our beloved Lake Winnipeg is in big trouble. This sad feeling was sparked when I overheard a woman, after reading a sign on the beach about the risks involved with swimming in the lake, tell her children she didn’t want them going in the water. They briefly walked along the shore and then left with an unopened picnic basket and unused towels in their arms.

Recovering Lake Winnipeg is going to be a monumental task, and one of Manitoba’s greatest challenges this century. Dr. Eva Pip, who has spent years informing us about the lake, points to agricultural runoff, sewer fields, cottage development, deforestation and the destruction of wetlands as contributors to the problem. They all increase the amount of nutrients in the lake, which, along with warm weather, breed algae.

Our provincial government deserves an accolade for its pledges to get value for our money and to work with Manitobans to reduce the excess nutrients entering Lake Winnipeg. In addition to remedial efforts to address damages inflicted on the lake’s  health, this initiative needs to include a high and expeditious priority on protecting and wisely managing the boreal forests and wetlands that filter excess nutrients from the waters destined for the lake. This cost-effective measure, which would also help fulfill the Conservatives’ commitment to mitigate flood risk, would spare us from increased need for expensive and potentially unsuccessful boreal landscape restoration efforts in the future. If we don’t increase the protection of, and wisely manage, healthy boreal forests and wetlands in the Lake Winnipeg watershed, all other efforts to address the excess nutrient issues will be undermined. If the provincial government significantly ramps up its efforts and we all do what we can to save Lake Winnipeg, the next generation of Manitobans may be able to enjoy splashing safely in our province’s treasured waterbody.

-Ron Thiessen, Executive Director, CPAWS Manitoba

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