The secrets of Manitoba’s boreal forests

Eilís QuinnEye on the Arctic

When most people think about Canada’s province of Manitoba, they think about prairies.

But in reality, Manitoba is home to some of Canada’s most important boreal forest habitat.

A report titled Manitoba’s Blue Mosaic was recently issued by the Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited Canada calling attention to the diversity of the province’s environment and the importance of promoting active conservation in the region.

The science and policy director at the Boreal Songbird Initiative, Jeff Wells, describes these areas of Manitoba has “a hidden global treasure.”

“It’s a meeting place of these different ecozones: north and south, east and west. . .The biodiversity features are really extraordinary.”

Arctic environment

Manitoba is also home to an Arctic-like ecozone in the Hudson Bay, James Bay lowlands in the North of the province. The region is home to polar bears in late fall and early winter, Wells says.  The report also describes that as many as 50,000 belugas are hosted in the rivers going into Hudson Bay.

While commercial and industrial development have put some of Canada’s Boreal regions under threat, Wells says there’s been several positive moves in Manitoba.

“Manitoba has done a really good job over the years in being careful and cautious in how it moves forward,” Wells says. "About 80 percent of their boreal forest region  is still intact.”

Peatland strategies and caribou conservation  have also been supported.

First Nations participation has been key in conservation efforts, Well says. And they’ve have been the driving force behind the move to have an area  known as Pimachiowin Aki be declared as a UNESCO heritage site.

“It’s one of the last large intact areas of southern boreal forest,” Wells says. “So that’s a really special spot that First Nations have taken a great leadership role in moving forward on.”

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.