Manitobans on side with creating more protected lands

·2 min read

Manitobans are strongly in favour of creating more protected, conserved lands in the province, and supportive of Indigenous-led efforts to that end, according to a recent poll.

The Probe Research survey was commissioned by the Seal River Watershed Alliance, a group of Dene, Cree and Inuit communities working to protect northern Manitoba’s Seal River watershed.

The watershed — one of the world’s largest remaining intact, roughly the same area in size as Nova Scotia — is habitat for at-risk creatures including polar bears, short-eared owls and the olive-sided flycatcher. This year, the federal government put more than $3 million towards making the area an Indigenous Protected Area.

The polling found 88 per cent of the 1,160 people surveyed felt more land in the province should be protected from further forestry, mining and hydroelectric development.

Only eight per cent of respondents said they believed the provincial government was doing a “very good job” of protecting natural and wildlife areas; 34 per cent said they were doing a “good job;” 37 per cent rated the performance as “so-so.”

Fourteen per cent of respondents said the provincial government was doing a “poor” or “very poor” job.

Currently, about 12 per cent of lands and waters in Manitoba are protected. Ottawa is aiming to protect 30 per cent of Canadian lands and oceans by 2030.

Of poll respondents, 84 per cent said more land should be protected in the province — with 43 per cent believing the federal government had good targets and 41 per cent saying more land than that needed to be protected.

Broadly, Manitoba respondents were interested in seeing local people and/or Indigenous communities take a lead in conservation projects. Twenty-two per cent said Indigenous communities should be the leaders of such projects, while 64 per cent said they should play a partnership role alongside provincial and federal government efforts.

“It’s inspiring to see such strong support from Manitobans for Indigenous conservation,” said Ernie Bussidor, executive director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance.

“We want to protect our lands and waters so our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to drink clean water, breathe fresh air and care for the animals the way their ancestors have since time immemorial.”

While most respondents had yet to hear of the creation of an Indigenous Protected Area under the leadership of the Seal River Watershed Alliance, 73 per cent of respondents were supportive of Indigenous Protected Areas, in general, being used to protect forest, waters and wildlife.

Probe Research surveyed 1,033 Manitobans using a 13-minute online survey in August. To ensure enough northern residents were included in the sample, 127 were added after being reached by phone.

The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.88 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press