Skip to content

Town joins Priority Places Initiative workshop

Working group shares concerns about habitat.

Virden Mayor Tina Williams and Deputy Mayor Marc Savy recently participated in a day-long information sharing workshop hosted by the Southwest Manitoba Priority Places Initiative.

Steven Anderson, Conservation Operations Program Coordinator with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Winnipeg, along with NCC Community Relations Manager Christine Chilton and Ron Bazin, Conservation Coordinator for the Canadian Wildlife Service, facilitated workshops in Killarney, Glenboro and Birtle before coming to Virden’s Lions Hall on August 30. Anderson said that geographically, the Priority Places region is large and highlights areas home to the province’s remaining mixed grass prairie. 

“It kind of covers from the very southwest corner of Manitoba, up to almost the Russell area,” he said. “It’s a bit of a meandering boundary, but it hits on Birtle, Neepawa, Minnedosa, wraps around Portage and extends down to Killarney.”

Representatives of rural municipalities, local councils and conservation and producer organizations shared their knowledge about species at risk and what programs and services presently exist to conserve habitat. They also provided insight into what is working well, what should be improved upon and what the future priorities should be.  

“We’re trying to get local perspectives on species at risk, conservation, but also how conservation can align with community priorities and how human health and well-being can also benefit from conservation activities in the area,” Anderson said. “One objective is to work together to identify and remedy gaps in current programming and underserved issues.”

Although attendance numbers were small, Anderson was pleased with the lively and productive discussion that can feed into the planning process.

“This group was really great because we had a lot of local government at today’s session, which was the kind of demographic we haven’t heard from as much in other areas,” he said. “We’ve talked to a lot of agricultural producers (and) conservation groups, so this was kind of a different perspective and kind of brought in some local concerns that we hadn’t really heard in the broader area yet. We’re also hoping to follow this up with some research surveys as well so hopefully another opportunity to hear from more voices in the area.”

Anderson took note of the consistency across the four communities the working group has visited so far.    

“We’re starting to see a lot of common threads emerging,” he said. “One of the biggest drivers of the loss of mixed grass prairie has been the expansion of agriculture, and so we’ve been hearing quite a lot about those economic drivers that are causing people to clear trees, drain wetlands, and shift from cattle production to more crop production. As well, we’re hearing a lot of interest in youth engagement. We talked about how to instill those conservation values at a young age, to they can grow up part of the special area they are living in and want to see it remain over the long term.”

In Virden, concerns expressed included the siltation of Scallion Creek.

“That might be caused by a loss of riparian cover upstream, as we’re getting more erosion and more silt in the bottom of the river, Anderson said. “That’s kind of unique to Virden, but the loss of riparian habitat is quite common across the larger landscape.”

The working group will soon have a website to disseminate information and aims to draft a new conservation strategy for the Priority Places area by the end of March, 2024.   

“We’re going to be compiling this information and trying to synthesize out the common themes that we’ve heard,” Anderson said. “If there’s a very clear concern and a strategy that has been discussed to address that concern, that might just get directly incorporated (into the conservation strategy). When it’s done, it should be publicly available and we’ll probably send it to anyone who has been engaged throughout the process. As we draft the report, we’ll probably be contacting different organizations for feedback and review before the draft plan is finalized. The goal is to create a shared plan and to coordinate action to conserve, protect and recover endangered and threatened species and the land and waters they rely on.”




push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks