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Province doubles size of Brokenhead ecological reserve

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The Manitoba government has broadened protection for a unique orchid-rich wetland along Highway 59 northeast of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

On Friday, it announced it was doubling the size of the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve to 1,240 hectares from 563 hectares.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said the area contains representatives of more than 70 per cent of Manitoba’s orchid species along with many other rare plants.

"Over the past seven years, the ecological reserve has been protecting and nurturing a precious piece of Manitoba’s natural heritage and our goal is to continue to do this," Mackintosh said Friday.

The Brokenhead ecological reserve is one of 22 protected ecological reserves in Manitoba. It features 23 species of provincially rare and uncommon plants, eight species of insect-eating (carnivorous) plants and 28 of Manitoba’s 36 native orchid species including the rare ram’s head lady’s-slipper.

Protected areas may be used for research, education and nature study, but are free from intensive recreational development. Access to the Brokenhead reserve remains limited to walking tours.

Areas designated as ecological reserves benefit Manitoba's network of protected areas by prohibiting commercial logging, mining, hydroelectric and oil and gas development. However, Mackintosh noted First Nations and Aboriginal people are the traditional stewards of this land and will continue to exercise their treaty and traditional rights that include hunting, trapping and medicinal plant collecting.

Construction of the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail, announced last October, will begin this fall and is scheduled for completion in 2014. The $1-million trail and boardwalks will run adjacent to the ecological reserve and allow access for viewing and research while protecting the ecological integrity of the wetlands area.

Information on the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail can be found at www.debwendon.org/.

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