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Report calls for urgency in protecting wetlands

"Maintaining a healthy ecosystem is essential to the health and prosperity of Manitoba and, really, the world," Jeff Wells, Boreal Songbird Initiative science and policy director, who co-authored the report, said Sunday.

"We hope the report increases the knowledge of the specialness of the boreal forest to Manitoba, to Canada and to the world."

The report says Manitoba is one of the few jurisdictions where large-scale conservation of those resources is still possible.

"Manitoba is really special among Canadian provinces," Wells said. "Although people think of it as a prairie province, it has one of the largest boreal forest areas in Canada, and one of the most intact boreal forest ecosystems.

"The Manitoba boreal is dense with wetlands -- rivers, lakes, ponds, bogs, marshes, and peatlands -- that support a vast amount of wildlife and provide incredible services to the environment. It's just this massive living system."

Manitoba's boreal realm is about 570,000 sq. km, (140 million acres). It includes more than 8,000 lakes that are at least one sq. km. in size. Lake Winnipeg is the world's 10th largest freshwater lake, and Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis rank in the top 35.

Manitoba's boreal wetlands cover more than 200,000 sq. km.(49 million acres). About 50,000 beluga whales molt and calve at the mouths of the province's boreal rivers. Harbour seals venture 200 kms up the Seal River.

The province is also a breeding ground for 100 million to 300 million birds.

"Sometimes, you don't realize how important these areas are," Ducks Unlimited boreal conservation program head Chris Smith said. "This is an opportunity to think ahead, to integrate future economic development with protection. If we don't profile the importance, people may not consider it. But the current government is in tune with many of these things."

The opportunity to protect the region's aquatic resources won't last forever, the report says. Already, such areas as Lake Winnipeg are suffering from decades of pollution from agricultural runoff.

Smith said he is encouraged by the provincial government's plan to address the needs of Manitoba's wetlands.

 

Photo by Interlake Tourism

JIM BENDER
Writer for the WINNIPEG SUN
May be reached at these two addresses:

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Twitter: @bendersun

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