Westman parks get additional protection

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Brandon Sun

Two provincial parks in Westman were given additional protections by the Manitoba government on Tuesday.

In Duck Mountain Provincial Park, northwest of Dauphin and southeast of Swan River, 951 hectares (9.51 square kilometres) of land will no longer be designated as resource management and will now be designated for backcountry land use.

At Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, south of Boissevain and along the border with North Dakota, 5,114 hectares (51.15 square kilometres) of land is likewise being redesignated from recreational development and resource management to backcountry land use.

For Duck Mountain, the reason cited for the move is the protection of rare plant species in the affected area. In Turtle Mountain, the aim is to help the local moose population recover. After Tuesday’s moves, 11.1 per cent of the province’s lands are now set aside for biodiversity conservation.

"Our government is committed to the protection and preservation of lands, parks and local ecosystems in Manitoba’s eco-regions," Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said in a release. "In consultation with local residents, affected stakeholders and Indigenous communities, we are proud to make these changes that will enhance the protection of rare and at-risk species and habitat in our provincial parks."

Guillemard also thanked Tundra Oil & Gas, which voluntarily ceased operations and rehabilitated its lease sites in the affected area at Turtle Mountain in recent years.

However, a Manitoba-based campaigner for nature advocacy group the Wilderness Committee takes issue with the province’s description of the situation at Turtle Mountain.

While he’s glad the whole park is now protected, Eric Reder said the only reason Tundra ceased operations at the park is because it was no longer economically feasible to do so, not out of a sense of charity.

"Tundra couldn’t make a go of any more work financially, and they announced this back in 2018," Reder said. "For (the province) now to say ‘Oh this is a wonderful partnership,’ this isn’t a wonderful partnership. They stopped paying the government money to destroy the park."

He also takes issue with the province "celebrating a fossil fuel company for not destroying public lands inside a park" in one of its news releases, especially after what he says is evidence of fossil fuel-related climate change during the recent storms and flooding in Westman.

As for the Duck Mountain announcement, Reder said it was lacking given that the newly protected area covers less than one per cent of the park’s land.

"It’s kind of a slap in the face because 61 per cent of Duck Mountain Provincial Park is available for clear-cut logging," he said. "It’s one of the only provincial parks left in Canada where there is logging allowed. The other is (Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario). This is really Manitoba’s shame."

He said he doesn’t object to the wetland ecosystem being protected by the announcement, but he would have liked to see more of the park being protected.

To view the original article published by The Brandon Sun, please click here.

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