Feds put $3.2M toward conservation of Seal River watershed in northern Manitoba

The federal government is committing more than $3 million toward an area of protected Indigenous land in northern Manitoba.

The Seal River watershed is one of the world's largest remaining ecologically intact watersheds

Harbour seals in Porteau Cove, B.C., on Oct. 9, 2010. Manitoba's Seal River gets its name from the harbour seals that make their way upriver from the waters of Hudson Bay. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The federal government is committing more than $3 million toward an area of protected Indigenous land in northern Manitoba.

The Seal River Watershed Indigenous Protected Area Initiative aims to protect the entire Seal River watershed,  located in the Taiga Shield of northern Manitoba, from industrial activity to protect wildlife, and so future generations of Cree, Dene and Inuit people can take part in traditional practices such as hunting and fishing.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced that $3.2 million will be taken from the Canada Nature Fund, which supports the protection of Canada's ecosystems, landscapes and biodiversity — including species at risk — to put toward the initiative.

"The Dene, Cree and Inuit peoples have cared for these lands, waters and animals since time immemorial. Every aspect of our cultures, spirituality and identities are rooted in our relationship to the caribou and to the lands which sustain us," Ernie Bussidor, executive director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance and former chief of Sayisi Dene First Nation, said in a news release.

"We envision a pristine watershed where people, animals and fish are healthy, our unique languages and cultures are thriving, and there is hope and abundance for all future generations."

The investment brings the country a step closer to conserving a quarter each of Canada's land and oceans by 2025, added Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of environment and climate change.

Nearly the size of Nova Scotia

The Seal River watershed is one of the world's largest remaining ecologically intact watersheds, the news release says, measuring roughly 50,000 square kilometres — nearly the area of the province of Nova Scotia.

The river got its name because large numbers of harbour seals can be found about 200 kilometres inland from the mouth of the river.

The water in the Seal River, which flows into Hudson Bay, is so clean that one could drink from it, because it has never been touched by industry, the news release said.

The fact that the watershed has not been altered by civilization is part of what makes it "remarkable," Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said in the news release.

"There are few places left in the world where it's still possible to preserve an area as pristine and as massive as the Seal River watershed," Thiessen said.

"Conserving the Seal River watershed would be a gift to the globe because of the tremendous oxygen that it supplies for people and wildlife on earth, the colossal amount of carbon stored in the watershed, and all the clean, fresh water that it holds."

He said the initiative would also protect wildlife in the watershed's ecosystem, such as beluga whales, polar bears and various birds.


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