Big Boreal: Manitoba's Gift to the Planet!

The Problem

Manitoba is home of the greatest, world-class wilderness in the world, including the East Shore Wilderness Area, the largest intact forest North of the equator. Where most of the world's forests have been reduced to mere slivers of intact growth through industrial resource extraction, Manitoba is the exception. Its a place where someone can still be over a hundred miles from the nearest concrete road and drink water strait from thousands of pristine, undeveloped lakes, though it sits a mere hour's drive away from a huge population center. Dozens of First Nations communities still practice and celebrate traditional livelihoods alongside access to modern technology. Their ability to continue these activities like hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering medicines are tied directly and inextricably to the health of the forest. The scope of communities that this issue affects goes well beyond the local people who are directly reliant on the forest. The rest of the world relies on it indirectly. Boreal forest is the largest on-land carbon sink on the planet, helping keep carbon levels in balance, it is the largest source of clean, available fresh water on the planet and acts as a huge sponge, filtering toxins from the air and surrounding environment and filtering out fresh are and water. Humanity needs this forest to exist, in its intact form, not just because of the crucial ecosystem services it provides, like air and water filtration but because we need true wilderness for the human soul. Studies by Carleton University's psychology department have shown that a connection with nature is directly linked to happiness. The problem is that not nearly enough people in Manitoba, Canada or internationally are aware of this forest and how immensely it contributes to human health, sustainability and happiness. As a result, Manitoba's Provincial Park system, the only system of protecting Manitoba's lands has allowed industrial resource development such and logging and mining to ravage what should be protected areas. While in most other countries and jurisdictions recognizes parks as areas for habitat, health, and recreation, Manitoba continually allows their parks to be fragmented and damaged by developments that go unsupported by the majority of its population. Another result of this disconnect and apathy is that While the East Shore area is virtually undisturbed by modern developments right now, there are current proposals for hundreds of kilometres of all-weather roads, and increased forest-destructive developments such as clearcut logging and mining.

Plan of Action

My first goal was to work with the Wilderness Committee to build a strong, successful office in Manitoba, with a focus on solving one of the biggest problems to overcome, the misuse and mismanagement of Provincial Parks in Manitoba. I led the campaign end the practice of clearcut logging in Manitoba’s provincial parks. In order to accomplish my goal, I organized rallies, spoke with elected officials, delivered countless presentations to youth about the issue, fundraised tirelessly, organized volunteers to write and collect letters to the government and managed countless other initiatives while finishing my degree at the University of Winnipeg. In 2008, I was rewarded for my efforts when the Manitoba Legislative Throne Speech banned logging in four of the five parks with logging operations. This amounts to ONE MILLION acres of forest within Provincial Park Boundaries, a change that will benefit the tens of thousands of park visitors every year, who will no longer face the shock of stumbling upon logged out areas while enjoying the benefits of parks. It will also benefit future generations, who rely on the park system to protect the forests they depend on for its ecosystem services. While the work to protect parks is not over yet (logging is still allowed in one park), my focus has shifted to creating a more aware, active public. I'm working on a three pillar approach to this. The first pillar is trail-building, which will provide the public with access to experience the East Shore Wilderness Area. Also, by partnering with First Nations allies it will provide much needed opportunities for youth of First Nations communities by providing them with funding and bursaries. The second pillar is Wilderness Witness Tours which will bring school groups and other citizens on affordable, guided trips to Areas of Special Interest. This will allow people to experience the beauty, solace and significance of the Boreal, guided by Wilderness Committee volunteers and staff. The third pillar is to bring the experience to people in the city by setting up huge visual art installments and walk-in exhibits. The goal of this will be to provide images, sounds, even smells of the forest along with information for people to realize that this forest really is "Manitoba's Gift to the Planet". The world needs a forest like this to exist. They need it because future generations need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. They also need it because there needs to be a place on this earth where rivers run clean for their entire length, where water can be safely drunk strait from lakes and where humanity can connect with true wilderness.

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