The Selinger government introduced a bill today to protect essential habitats as a means of protecting endangered plants and wildlife.
Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said Manitoba would be the first jurisdiction in North America to allow the listing of whole ecosystems as endangered or threatened. The new law would apply only to Crown lands.
The proposed Endangered Species Amendment Act (Bill 24) would:
— create a new designation called "special concern" for species at risk of becoming threatened in Manitoba and requiring plans to prevent these species from further loss;
— expand the role of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on endangered or threatened ecosystems;
— add protection orders that empower conservation officials to pre-emptively stop activities that would endanger habitat and ecosystems; and
— increase fines and penalties for violations.
Mackintosh said examples of vulnerable ecosystems the province would like to protect include a tall grass prairie preserve in the Pansy and Gardenton area of southeast Manitoba and close to 4,000 hectares of alvar, a rare ecosystem with unique plants that grow in 10 centimetres or less of soil over limestone bedrock, in the Interlake. The latter was discovered only in the past year.