While talk of jobs and economy have reverberated through the media coverage of our Premiere’s recent throne speech, the province’s significant protected areas announcement has yet to draw the attention it deserves. With the recent discovery of hugely significant polar bear denning areas near Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coast, the province announced a plan to begin consultation on the creation of a provincial park to protect these iconic animals.
With polar bears facing an uncertain future as climate change alters their winter sea ice hunting grounds; protection of large areas of their land based habitat will provide a greater opportunity to adapt to these changes. By far the largest park in Manitoba, if created will serve a huge diversity of species in this northern boreal region including caribou, arctic fox, beluga whale, and the thousands of migratory birds that flock here to breed in summer.
This is incredible news both for wildlife as well as local communities and the province at large. As the central draw of an increasingly popular eco-tourism industry in the region, polar bears are a critical component of our northern economy. If established, the park would allow the expansion of this economy while ensuring the persistence of the species and ecology it depends on. Through a process that includes full consultation with local First Nations, we hope Manitobans support this initiative as a wise path to integrating healthy environmental and economic values.