Currently, there is a trend to remove natural-cover on steep slopes across Manitoba, as well as other areas where natural cover provides significant watershed benefits. With increased pressures such as high commodity prices, increased land values and equipment size, current tax system and the lack of ecological goods and services (EG&S) programs available, much of the long-term forest and ground cover protecting these highly vulnerable areas are being lost.
If the current trend continues, the loss of these important natural features will increase soil erosion and nutrient loading, will contribute to increased habitat loss, result in reduced water quality and ecosystem biodiversity, as well as, experience a reduction in ecosystem resilience to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Anywhere you have steep slopes there is a risk of too much water moving too fast down the slope and often bad things can happen,” says Pembina Valley Conservation District (PVCD) Vice-Chairman Walter McTavish. “Fast uncontrolled runoff can damage municipal roads and bridges and even yard sites can be threatened by that type of floodwater. Having natural vegetation like grasses and trees on and above the slope generally, increase infiltration and the water that runs off comes more gently.” McTavish, who is also a councillor with the RM of Thompson, adds, “The Conservation Districts and the Manitoba Forestry Association are trying to show the value in leaving a natural landscape around steeply sloped land.”
Over the next two years, the Pembina Valley Conservation District, La Salle Redboine Conservation District, Whitemud Watershed Conservation District and the Manitoba Forestry Association aim to reverse this trend and raise the awareness of the importance of natural landscapes by assisting landowners in managing their properties for multiple priorities, including the provision of ecological goods and services (EG&S.) The project will target 13,200 acres of the most vulnerable areas of the three conservation districts.
This will be done through education and outreach, the provision of resource management planning tools and best management practices, the four partnering agencies are hoping to reverse the trend of the ongoing loss of these natural landscapes.
The objectives of this project are to: conserve natural habitats on the erosion-prone and steep-sloped areas of the three Conservation Districts, especially along the Manitoba Escarpment, increase landowner’s understanding that they are able to manage their properties for multiple-use benefits, to encourage landowners to take into consideration the EG&S impact when determining both short and long-terms goals/investments for their properties and ensure landowners have access to planning tools to assist them with informed decision making.
This proposed project builds on the success of a similar project developed by the 3 Conservation Districts in partnership with the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation from 2013-2018, called the Sustainable Slopes Initiative. This project was funded by the Habitat Stewardship Program from Environment Canada and aimed to protect and enhance these sensitive areas through the establishment of conservation easements, conservation projects and development of resource management plans.
Support for this project has been provided by the Conservation Trust, a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Initiative delivered by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation. The Conservation Trust came into existence in 2018 as part of Manitoba’s Climate and Green Plan to fund activities that create, conserve, or enhance natural infrastructure for the benefit of Manitobans.
The activities funded by the Conservation Trust will conserve biodiversity, increase production of harvestable wildlife, mitigate floods and droughts, improve water quality by decreasing nutrients and other pollutants entering waterways, improve climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and reduction of other greenhouse gases, improve soil health and decrease soil erosion. Projects will also provide other values to Manitobans, such as improving recreational opportunities.
If you are interested in participating in the program and receive personalized resource management, please contact:
La Salle Redboine Conservation District
Pembina Valley Conservation District
Whitemud Watershed Conservation District
Manitoba Forestry Association