September 5-12, 2005

Manitoba signs accord with nature group to protect rare prairie habitat

WINNIPEG, MAN-The Manitoba government and the Manitoba Naturalists Society (MNS) have agreed to protect 355 hectares of rare habitat within the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, south of Winnipeg. The lands owned by the MNS will be protected through a memorandum of agreement with the province, ensuring they will be sheltered from mining, oil and gas, and other forms of development. "Conserving rare lands is a challenge in southern Manitoba because of pre-existing development, but with conservation partners such as the Manitoba Naturalists Society, a portion of the province will remain as native prairie habitat," said Conservation Minister Stan Struthers. Tall grass prairie once thrived in the fertile soils of the Red River Valley, but since the 1800s, most of the prairie has been converted to agricultural land. Less than 1% of Manitoba's native prairie remains today, making it among the most endangered ecosystems in North America. The MNS began an inventory of prairie remnants in 1987. The society later purchased some prime prairie remnants with funds provided by the province and private donations. These private lands will be added to Manitoba's network of protected areas. The diverse prairie is home to more than 300 plant species and a variety of animals. The southwest corner of the province is the only location in all of Canada where the endangered western prairie fringed orchid can be found.

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