Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Heritage status or not, money still needed

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MORE public money may be needed to promote a vast stretch of boreal forest along the Manitoba-Ontario boundary regardless of whether the area receives international recognition from UNESCO.

The two provinces have already spent millions of dollars on seeking to have Pimachiowin Aki declared a UNESCO world heritage site, and more money is likely to be needed to build infrastructure in the remote area, the Manitoba government said Monday.

"I think it was (always) contemplated that ongoing funding would likely be needed, just because of the need to better develop the tourism infrastructure in the area, but again, the amounts and the priorities are always subject to the annual budget process," Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said.

The two provinces have been working toward the UNESCO designation for almost a decade, along with five area First Nations that want to protect Pimachiowin Aki. Its name is an Ojibwa phrase that translates as "the land that gives life."

The 33,400-square-kilometre area is touted as the largest intact section of northern boreal forest. Its lack of roads and other infrastructure have kept it relatively unchanged over the centuries.

The Manitoba government has committed $10 million toward a trust fund for the Pimachiowin Aki Corp., a non-profit venture by the two provincial governments and the five First Nations. Manitoba has provided $2.5 million so far. The remainder is to be paid out over the next three years.

Manitoba and Ontario have also given annual operating funding to the corporation. Ontario has provided $150,000 a year and Manitoba's amount has varied, but totals $4.5 million over the last decade. The protection bid has hit a hurdle. It was put on the agenda for next month's annual meeting of the UNESCO world heritage committee. But two of the committee's advisory groups said last week they need more time and information before deciding whether the area should be deemed a world heritage site.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 A7

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