Majority of Manitobans support establishing Indigenous Protected Areas: Probe poll

·3 min read

A new poll has found that many Manitobans support establishing Indigenous Protected Areas to conserve natural areas and to create sustainable jobs.

According to a Probe Research poll, 73% of Manitobans support creating Indigenous Protected Areas to conserve forests, wildlife, water and other special places.

The poll was conducted on behalf of the Seal River Watershed Alliance, a partnership between four First Nations to permanently protect the Seal River Watershed as an Indigenous Protected Area.

In August, approximately 1,033 Manitoba adults were surveyed online while 127 northern residents were surveyed by telephone.

“The poll shows that Manitobans recognize conservation and prosperity go hand in hand. Protected areas like the Seal River Watershed create jobs and sustain lands and waters at the same time,” said Ernie Bussidor, Executive Director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance.

The Sayisi Dene First Nation, O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation, Northlands Denesuline First Nation and Barren Lands First Nation have allied to protect the area’s lands and waters.

The Seal River Watershed is one of the world’s largest intact watersheds, spanning 50,000 square kilometres, double the size of Lake Winnipeg and the boreal lands north of Churchill.

Through Canada’s Nature Fund, Environment and Climate Change Canada have invested $3.2 million to support the Alliance’s proposed Indigenous Protected Area.

About 83% of Manitobans are in support of the Alliance’s effort to conserve the Seal River Watershed.

Seventy-eight per cent of the respondents had chosen to protect the river and encourage tourism when asked the best method to create jobs and grow the economy in the Seal River Watershed.

“What stands out in this poll is that most Manitobans believe conservation and prosperity can go hand-in-hand: and they’re right,” said Valérie Courtois, the director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative.

“We’ve seen the economic benefits of Indigenous-led conservation across the country. Indigenous Protected Areas lead to good-paying jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, and major investment in regional economies. What’s good for Tadoule Lake is good for Churchill and Thompson.”

Around 70% have said that where the protection and management of nature are concerned, local First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples “know what’s best for the area” while 67% said they should “lead the way.”

A further 71% of respondents said they appreciated the way Indigenous Protected Areas can help advance reconciliation in Manitoba as well as show respect for Indigenous rights and traditional activities.

“The Seal River Watershed is a great candidate for protection—our recent study supports the position that the value of a protected area in the region is vital to waterfowl from both a Manitoba and continental perspective,” said Kevin Smith, manager of the Ducks Unlimited Canada National Boreal Program.

Conserving the Indigenous Protected Areas will help Canada meet its target of protecting 30% of Canada’s lands and waters by 2030, which is part of a global effort to sustain biodiversity.

The poll has shown that there has been a vast amount of support amongst Manitobans for meeting or even surpassing that federal target.

Currently, only 11% of the province is protected in Manitoba, which is a 0.2% increase since 2015.

Two-thirds of Manitobans noted that the Manitoba government should do more to protect lands and waters.

Half believe the province should lead the nation in conservation by protecting more than other provinces.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun