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Reality Check

RC-08: Is Manitoba's East Side Protected?

Date Posted: May 28, 2011

On August 9, 2000, the Manitoba government announced it would initiate broad area planning on 25 million hectares of mostly intact and pristine boreal forest, lakes and rivers on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. The east side of Lake of Winnipeg region is around 30 million hectares and provides home ranges for moose, woodland caribou, wolverine, and significant habitat for migrating birds.

To date there are no highways, mills, or high voltage power lands in most of the region. Winter roads, and planes are the current transportation options for most communities. Manitoba continues certain development plans, including: mineral exploration, new cottage developments, and an all weather road network. During the 1990s these communities received electricity services. Forestry operations for the mill in Pine Falls, at the base of the region, stopped when the mill closed in 2009.

Ten years of support from the Manitoba government for community driven lands plans have resulted in one lands plan posted for public comment, and others being close to public review. There are sixteen First Nations in this huge region, and most of the population is First Nation.

Local First Nations, Manitoba, and Ontario propose creating a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Pimachiowin Aki. The proposed site would encompass 4 million hectares of contiguous boreal forests and waterways on both sides of the Manitoba-Ontario border. The UNESCO nomination is to be filed in fall, 2011.

The only lands presently protected within the Manitoba portion of this region are: lands and zones in Atikaki Wilderness Park, Nopoming, and Whiteshell parks; the Manitogan river corridor, Observation Point wildlife management area, and the Poplar/Nanowin Rivers park reserve, which has interim protection in place until 2014.

Manitoba needs to fulfill its commitments for protected lands in our forest regions - before any further development decisions are made, especially on the east side of the province. To accomplish this, consultation standards and relevant lands planning programs need to be in place for the communities. The principles in the 1998 First Nations Protected Areas MOU will need to be renewed, to support First Nation communities who identify protected areas. Land in the proposed World Heritage Site require provincial protection.

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