Manitoba renews focus on watersheds

Farmers should benefit from returning to the past with water planning management, said the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

And combined with a province-wide environmental compensation program, Manitoba farmers might soon start seeing progress on turning farmers into respected partners in environmental preservation.

“This is a very significant change,” said Dan Mazier about a three-pronged provincial government plan to fix and improve water and environmental planning in Manitoba.

The changes include:

  • The government is considering an Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS)-like program to reward farmers who practice environmentally positive operations, such as water retention, grassing vulnerable acres, restoring wetlands and protecting streams. The public is being asked for feedback about the idea;
  • Cutting red tape and removing unnecessary barriers to drainage maintenance while boosting inspection and enforcement of protections on vulnerable areas;
  • Conservation districts will be allowed to cover watersheds, rather than focus on managing water within municipal boundaries. The districts will be able to work with other bodies within watersheds to undertake larger planning and projects.

“They were never intended to be on municipal lines,” said Mazier about the third initiative. “Over time they slowly got eroded.”

Originally, conservation districts were meant to cover water systems, but soon got tightly connected to underlying municipalities, and slowly lost connection to the watershed focus.

With better watershed planning and an incentive program for farmers, major gains should become possible.

“We’ve never been able to do it” within present planning and financial limitations, Mazier said.

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