Watershed a Gem: Letter to Editor

January 22, 2024
by Ron Thiessen, Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Manitoba Chapter

This letter to the editor was published by the Winnipeg Free Press on Monday, January 22, 2024.

Re: Signing first formal step in creating historic conservation area (Jan. 18)

The joined hands of Indigenous leadership and the governments of Manitoba and Canada to protect nature is conservation done right.

Thursday’s tri-party announcement is a key step towards permanently conserving the Seal River Watershed in northern Manitoba as an Indigenous Protected Area.

This is a monumental moment for nature and reconciliation in Canada.

The Seal River Watershed is one of the last great wild spaces on our planet and it’s right here in Manitoba. We are grateful to the members of the Seal River Watershed Alliance for their leadership in protecting this global treasure. CPAWS Manitoba is honoured to have been a partner in the initiative since the initial discussions to protect the watershed began.

The vast beauty of the Seal River Watershed is awe-inspiring, Every stream and river flows freely, as nature intended it. There are no dams. No mines. No hydro lines. There aren’t even any permanent roads. What you find instead is an incredible abundance of wildlife like caribou, birds and polar bears roaming unhindered across boreal forest, wetlands and tundra.

This is what most of the world looked like at the turn of the last century when industrial development was rare, electric lighting was for city folk, and just 15 per cent of the world’s land area was used for agriculture.

At 50,000 square kilometres, the Seal River Watershed constitutes eight per cent of Manitoba. Protecting this area will help Manitoba achieve its goal of expanding protected areas from 11 per cent of the province today to 30 per cent by 2030. This target established by our new provincial government is a critical step toward achieving a healthy balance of conservation and sustainable development.

The initiative has drawn significant public support both within Manitoba and across Canada. A resounding 83 per cent of Manitobans support the Alliance’s efforts to conserve the Seal River Watershed, according to a Probe Research Poll.

Dozens of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area initiatives are presently underway across Manitoba and Canada. I salute their leadership and encourage all Canadians to embrace their efforts to ensure a healthy future for people and wildlife.

Ron Thiessen
Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Manitoba Chapter

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