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Province's parks facing environmental threats: CPAWS

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A Canadian environmental group says that Manitoba’s parks are facing growing threats.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) said the province’s parks and protected areas are facing dangers due to government funding cuts, the loss of science and ecological monitoring capacity, the growth of inappropriate developments and inadequate boundaries.

"In Manitoba, Little Limestone Lake, which changes colour daily from brilliant turquoise to Caribbean-blue, is encircled by park lands which fail to be expansive enough to keep this unique lake healthy," said Ron Thiessen, the organization’s executive director. "CPAWS is working with all involved, including our partner Mosakahiken Cree Nation, to get larger park boundaries so that mining interests don’t prevail over protecting the biggest and best lake of its kind in the world."

Peat extraction is also a concern in Manitoba’s parks, the organization said.

"Manitobans are still wondering what is happening with the proposed peat mine in Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park," said Thiessen. The province is currently weighing a proposal by a company that wants to extract peat in a section of the park. A decision is expected later this year.

National Parks have been hit hard by funding cuts, leading to the elimination of 638 positions across the country. In turn, this means that nearly 30 per cent of the scientists and technicians restoring and monitoring the ecological health of the country’s parks have been fired or reassigned. The cuts also mean many parks are less people-friendly as services are reduced.

"In Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, we are very concerned that Visitor Safety Services will be cut. This will place park-goers in increased danger in emergency situations," said Thiessen. "They are also shutting the skating rink down and ceasing to groom the ski trails."

Parks Canada’s funding cuts will hurt the tourism community and nearby communities are also facing economic harm. The government’s own research shows that for every $1 spent on parks, $5 is contributed to Canada’s gross domestic product.

On the positive side, Thiessen said, the provincial government made a commitment last month to create 15 new parks and protected areas as well as to expand some existing parks. Also, five new parks and protected areas have been established in Manitoba within the last two years.

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