412-63 Albert Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 1G4
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For Release: July 7, 2004

Some Progress For Manitoba's Network Of Protected Areas

Premier Acknowledges There Is Much More To Be Done

Manitoba's annual Protected Areas Grade was released in Winnipeg today by Manitoba Wildlands. This year's Grade, a C-, reflects cautious optimism resulting from actions by the Manitoba government (see attached assessment chart).

"The Government of Manitoba is showing signs of re-engagement with their policies for the establishment of protected areas. However, adequate protection for Manitoba's special places is only in place for 1/3 of the province's natural regions," Gaile Whelan Enns, Manitoba Wildlands Director said. The government must "pick up the pace" of establishing protected areas inside boreal forest regions, and make sure Manitoba Hydro's new commitment to protected areas establishment produces results.

Reasons for optimism include extension of interim protection for the 800,000 ha Poplar/Nanowin Rivers Park Reserve, and establishment of the first new protected area in Manitoba's forest region in three years. Bell and Steeprock Canyons protected area has been a candidate for protection since the start of the Endangered Spaces Campaign by WWF Canada in the early 1990s. Its river canyons are spectacular, with intense biodiversity values.

Another protected areas highlight of 2004 is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Manitoba and Canada to establish a new National Park in Manitoba's Interlake region. In addition, the 4.3 million ha First Nations-led World Heritage Site nomination on Manitoba's East Side is now on Canada's World Heritage Sites list of nominations. The First Nations, whose Accord identifies their lands as part of this World Heritage Site nomination, and Environment Canada, are to be commended for their vision for protection of these boreal forest lands.

Congratulations are due to the Mining companies and prospectors associations in Manitoba for their continued success with the Mining Sector protected areas consultation. The Nature Conservancy of Canada also deserves congratulations for advocating inclusion of its lands, especially 4000 acres of tall grass prairie, as lands in Manitoba's protected areas network.

Unexpected support for Manitoba protected areas this spring came from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. when he visited boreal forest regions in northern Manitoba. Mr. Kennedy noted that "Manitoba is on the right track renewing the protected status of Poplar River First Nation lands. I have visited Poplar River and heard Poplar River's strong desire to see their lands protected for all time."

In contrast to protected areas progress, variety of technical tools for public reviews and decisions for protected areas remain out of date. An updated Manitoba Action Plan for a Network of Protected Areas - the guide to finish Manitoba's protected areas network including clear goals, targets, and timelines - is two years overdue. Consultation maps of all areas under review for protection are also two years overdue. "These products and sets of public information are essential for consultation outcomes. Manitoba Conservation needs to review and confirm its technical and consultation standards regarding protected areas," Ms Whelan Enns indicated.

Premier Doer acknowledged the need for protected areas action at a recent announcement, "Manitoba's protected areas are some of our greatest natural treasures. We have a clear responsibility to maintain their ecological values and to manage these sites for their educational, scientific, cultural and outdoor recreational benefits," said Premier Doer. "Working with the stakeholders and First Nation communities, we are striving to create a network of protected areas that will represent each of Manitoba's natural regions and protect our province's unique features."

The definition of a protected area in Manitoba's Action Plan for a Network of Protected Areas is an area that is "closed by legal means to logging, mining, hydroelectric development or any other activity that significantly affects habitat."

See attached assessment for details of Manitoba Wildlands' 2004 Protected Areas Grade.
For mapping, Manitoba protected areas information, government commitments, previous protected areas grades (chart over ten years), visit:

Gaile Whelan Enns,
Director, Manitoba Wildlands
Office: 204-947-3400
Cell: 204-981-3783 (no voice mail)