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Protection of the Seal River watershed will be the subject of a feasibility study

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jan19,2024

One ​​more step was taken Thursday towards the protection of one of the largest ecologically intact watersheds in Canada.

Protection of the Seal River watershed will be the subject of a study feasibility

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According to a study carried out in 2021 by the non-profit organization Ducks Unlimited, the watershed of the Seal River contains 1.7 billion tons of carbon.

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Gathered in Winnipeg, Manitoba Minister Wab Kinew and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault committed to the Seal River Watershed Alliance to evaluate the possibility of making the Seal River watershed an indigenous protected area and a national park reserve

Located in the far north of Manitoba, the territory which extends over 50,000 km2 is home to the Sayisi Dene First Nation in addition to being a hunting, fishing and trapping territory for neighboring communities. It is home to numerous terrestrial and marine animal species, several of which are threatened with extinction.

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The Seal River watershed in northern Manitoba is the ancestral hunting and fishing territory of four First Nations.< /p>

If at present the area is under the supervision of indigenous guardians of the territory, the feasibility study could lead to the granting of formal protection under the governance of the First Nations involved.

The watershed would thus become the largest section of protected territory in Manitoba.

By the end of the feasibility study, the watershed will benefit from interim protection, which welcomes Stephanie Thorassie, executive director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance, an organization made up of the four communities whose watershed is the ancestral territory.

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We are essentially providing interim protection for the largest protected area project in Canada, she emphasizes. It gives me goosebumps when I think about it… that our community members and our Nations were able to advocate and push for this like we were…

The Seal River Watershed Alliance hopes to complete the study within two years.

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Stephanie Thorassie is the executive director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance, an organization that has been campaigning for the protection of the watershed area since 2020. 50,000 square kilometers.

In 2022, during COP 15 on biodiversity in Montreal, the federal and provincial governments announced that a feasibility study led by the Seal River Watershed Alliance would be carried out.

However, the file remained blocked for several months, said Minister Steven Guilbeault during the press conference on Thursday.

The previous [progressive-conservative] provincial government, after the announcement made at COP15, seemed less inclined to guarantee that the project could move forward quickly, he says.

The study will be funded by the federal government and will integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge and elements of Western science, according to Mr. Guilbeault.

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Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew (left) and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault signed agreement to conduct the feasibility study on Thursday.

The Premier of Manitoba, for his part, indicated that although his government is studying mining projects in other regions of the north of the province, the Seal River watershed would remain intact.

This agreement paves the way for a new type of development in this region, maintains Mr. Kinew. This is a type of development that would suit ecotourism and other such opportunities.

But I want to say, and this is important, that it is also about the cultural, social and spiritual development of young people from the north of Manitoba and ensure that every person in the region has the ability to learn from the land, from Elders, an unbroken chain of knowledge that stretches back millennia.

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The chiefs and elders of the Dene Sayisi, Dene Northlands, Barren Land and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin, as well as the Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Garrison Sette, were present at the signing of the agreement on Thursday

The general director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in Manitoba, Ron Thiessen, also welcomes the steps towards protection of the watershed.

In addition to representing a major contribution to achieving the environmental protection objective set by the Manitoba government, the initiative could be a flagship project in terms of Indigenous territorial governance.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In order to achieve 30% of [protected lands in] Manitoba by 2030, Indigenous leadership of this level is absolutely essential to achieve this.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The Prime Minister has clearly recognized that the most important strategy to achieve this target is to support Indigenous leadership and this is a very good example, maintains, for her part, the general director of the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, Valérie Courtois.

And what we also know, at the global level, is that 80% of the biodiversity that remains on the planet is found on territories that are managed and, as I like to say, are loved by the First Nations, she adds.

With information from Arturo Chang

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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