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Boreal forest UNESCO bid heading to Paris

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A bid to get a huge area of northern Manitoba designated a United Nations world heritage site will be in the mail next week.

The long-awaited nomination for a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation was announced today by Premier Greg Selinger at the legislative building.

"Today marks an important milestone on our journey to protect the heart of the last intact forest of its kind left in the world," Selinger said. "Thanks to the vision and leadership of our First Nation partners, we are now in a position to present Canada's first UNESCO world heritage site proposal based on both natural and cultural criteria."

Known as Pimachiowin Aki, the project is a collaboration of five First Nations and the Manitoba and Ontario governments and is aimed at giving world heritage status for the largest protected-area in the North American boreal shield.

"The inscription of Pimachiowin Aki as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would advance the objective of all our partners to safeguard and celebrate this outstanding cultural landscape," said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in a statement. "It would also recognize the foresight and leadership of First Nations, and would stand as a proud example of co-operation among Aboriginal peoples, the Province of Ontario and the Province of Manitoba."

Pimachiowin Aki, Ojibwe for "the land that gives life," is the name for the 33,400-square kilometre area on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, Selinger said.

The Pimachiowin Aki nomination dossier, contained in a wood box, is more than 4,000 pages of material, photos and video. It is scheduled to arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris by Jan. 27, project spokeswoman Sophia Rabliauskas said.

A special display has been set up at the Legislative Building for the public to learn more about the nomination. It will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Sunday, Jan. 22.

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