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Reality Check

RC-09: Are Manitoba Heritage Marshes Protected?

Date Posted: May 28, 2011

Wetlands and marshes are essential elements in their larger ecosystem and natural regions. Species that use our wetlands and marshes also provide services to humans. One of the best ways to preserve wildlife, protect water quality, and protect against climate change impacts is to keep our wetlands and marshes healthy and functioning.

Manitoba's Heritage Marsh Program was set up in 1985 to designate, conserve, manage, and develop some of the province's most significant marshes. The level of allocated funding has not increased from $120,000 since at least 2002-2003. Heritage Marshes in Manitoba may be designated under the Wildlife Act, or as Ecological Reserves, or not be designated. Certain of the Heritage Marshes in Manitoba are protected from development impacts, by legal regulation.

According to Manitoba Conservation's 2009-10 Annual Report: "Eight Heritage Marshes are formally recognized (Saskeram, Summerberry, Delta, Oak Hammock, Rat River, Grants Lake, Proven Lake, and Lidcliff), and an additional 19 have been identified as candidate marshes." The 2001-2002 Manitoba Conservation Annual Report listed nine formally recognized Heritage Marshes, and 17 candidate marshes. Manitoba Wildlands was unable to find any public information listing the location, size, and other details of the candidate marshes.

Manitoba can move quickly by making all Heritage Marshes, and candidate Heritage Marshes protected areas. Then more wetlands and marshes can be identified for protection. Systems and types of wetlands need to be represented in the province's system of protected areas, ideally connecting them in their natural region for species movement.

To date our Heritage Marsh system in Manitoba is not fully public. Valuation of the services provided by marshes and wetlands is often noted in text, but not supported with data.

Wetland loss in settled areas of Canada is estimated at up to 70 per cent of wetlands lost or degraded, due to drainage for commercial purposes. A study of the Broughton Creek Watershed in Western Manitoba confirms that between 1968 and 2005, 70% of the wetlands in that watershed had been degraded or lost due to drainage for commercial purposes. Wetlands and marshes retain water and nutrients, slow movement of water in spring, and protect against erosion; they also help to lessen impacts from flooding.

Manitoba needs to restore, renew, and protect more marshes, including expanding our Heritage Marsh system.

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