New parks, ecological areas added to Manitoba protection list

The Manitoba government has designating a series of new provincial parks and protected areas it says will help preserve native ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them.

Province creates 2 new provincial parks, 6 new ecological reserves, expands protections for others

Manitoba fens and bogs in St. Labre Bog Ecological Reserve just received new protections from the province. (Manitoba government)

The Manitoba government has designated a series of new provincial parks and protected areas it says will help preserve native ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them.

"Protected areas are a reliable and economical way to protect wildlife populations and safeguard 
pristine areas," Tom Nevakshonoff, Conservation and Water Stewardship minister, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Manitoba is known as a model jurisdiction for its protection standards, and our goal of protecting an additional six per cent of the province by 2020 goes beyond many other jurisdictions' commitments."

The province announced the designation of a series of new parks and protected ecological reserves Tuesday morning. (Government of Manitoba)

2 new parks

The province has created two new provincial parks and expanded two others.

The new Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park spans almost 14,500 hectares of land, some of which fronts onto Sturgeon Bay on Lake Winnipeg, about 230 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The fresh water ecosystem in and around its shoreline has been deemed important spawning habitat for fish, the province said. Moose call its bogs and mixed-wood forests home, too.

Kinwow Bay Provincial Park, another new addition, takes up about 8,400 hectares of land.

Expanded areas

Two existing parks have also grown in size. Moose Lake Provincial Park in the southeast of the province has been expanded from 956 hectares to 1,049 hectares.

Pembina Valley Provincial Park near the U.S. border has gone from 182 hectares to 672 hectares in part, to protect birds of prey, the province said in a statement. Forested hillsides and areas along the Pembina River serve as an important stop-over for raptors migrating north and south in the spring and fall.

The province added that the new space isn't intended for development, but will remain open for hunting.

Cedar Bog Ecological Reserve is home to the province's last remain cedar bog. (Government of Manitoba)

Protected habitats

Six new habitats were also designated as "ecological reserves."

Like the Pembina Valley park, the 130-hectare Pelican Islands Ecological Reserve on Lake Winnipeg is important bird habitat. American white pelicans, herring and ring-billed gulls, common terns, double-crested cormorants and the endangered piping plover all set up shop along a strip of six islands in the area during the summer breeding season.

Cedar Bog Ecological Reserve is 105 hectares in size and contains the last existing patch of Cedar bog habitat in Manitoba, the province said. Five of Manitoba's six shrew species call the place home, as do 13 species of orchid native to the province.

What are "ecological reserves"?

Ecological reserves are created in order to protect unique and rare species of plants, animals and geological features throughout the province. The sites are not designed for recreational or resource use; rather they are intended for research, education and preservation purposes.

With the expanded list, the total protected reserve area will grow by 15 per cent, and there is now 30 such areas in the province covering over 800 square kilometres of natural habitat. In comparison, there is just over 35 thousand square kilometres of provincial parks and 4,000 square kilometres of wildlife reserves in Manitoba.

Nestled along the border in the southeast is the 780 hectare Piney Ecological Reserve. The area is home to different kinds of wetlands and a rare butterfly species. Clusters of tamarack trees attract great grey owls to the area, too.

Of all the new parks and reserves, Ste. Anne Bog is the closest to Winnipeg. It takes up 415 hectares and contains prime habitat for rare grasses and sedges. Birds like the American bittern, LeConte's Sparrow, as well as the elusive and (typically) nocturnal yellow rail — which lets out a series of Morse-code-like "ticks" at night — are also found in the area.

The 515-hectare Woodridge Ecological Reserve is located in eastern Manitoba. It was formed as a way of protecting mature cedar trees and a forested spruce bog by the Sand River, the province said. Seventeen species of orchid and lots of dragonfly and bird species are found in the area.

Finally, the Lewis Bog Ecological Reserve, was expanded to protect bogs, swamps and orchid species in the area. The bog, located about 15 kilometres northwest of Hadashville has been increased in size from 570 hectares to 5,240 hectares the province said.

The bog is the last place in the province known to have the ragged fringed orchid.

"Commercial peat harvesting and agricultural activities near Lewis Bog Ecological Reserve have the potential to impact the ecological integrity of the ecological reserve. The expansion will help mitigate the risk to the area and the rare species it supports by affording increased protection to the larger wetland complex," the province said in a statement.


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