VIDEO: Man. funds first projects in conservation program

The Growing Outcomes in Watersheds program pays money toward ongoing environmental protection projects in agricultural areas

GLEN LEA, Man. — After so many years of hoping, conservation-minded farmers are on the cusp of seeing themselves being rewarded for being good stewards.

While there have been many conservation projects and environmental programs that farmers have participated in, the roll-out of permanent funding for some farmer efforts is a joy for some to see.

“We think it’s a fabulous opportunity for Manitoba,” Duncan Morrison, executive director of the Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association, said about the first funding announced for the Growing Outcomes in Watersheds program.

“A lot of our guys are farming these types of wetlands and grasslands … a lot of them run livestock and a lot of them also have regenerative agricultural practices, so it’s a very good fit with the direction we’re going.”

GROW pays money toward ongoing environmental protection projects in farming areas. It was established with a $52 million grant from the Manitoba government, earns money from its invested capital, and pays out its earnings for habitat conservation.

Here are the first three projects for which funding was announced Oct. 22:

  • $250,000 for Seine-Rat River Conservation District activities.
  • $250,000 for Little Saskatchewan River Conservation District programs.
  • Up to $1 million for the TransCanada Shelterbelt Renewal Project.

Premier Brian Pallister, who has been a vocal advocate for his “Made in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan,” took part in the announcement and lauded its approach.

“What’s more timely than reducing the threat of flooding, or mitigating drought, or improving water quality, or doing nutrient management?” he said.

“It’s not enough to be proud (about environmental preservation). It’s not enough to have sentiment. You have to have programs. You have to have programs that enact that, that put that into action.” The announcement was also a chance for Manitoba conservation-minded people to celebrate the implementation of GROW, which is based on the Alternative Land Use and Services concept and was developed in the province but mostly implemented in Eastern Canada up to now.

ALUS Canada vice-president for policy, Lara Ellis, said the ALUS approach makes sense for the environmental, water and land preservation that so many want to see achieved.

“Nature, or natural infrastructure, is the key to resiliency, resiliency for wildlife, resiliency for security, resiliency versus severe weather events, and resiliency for our very important agriculture sector,” said Ellis.

ALUS is also increasing its funding to Manitoba by $300,000 over the next two years.

Manitoba has a long existing fund for building new projects, but the GROW funding supplements that by providing continuing support beyond initial construction.

It was a combination of support that Tim Sopuck, chief executive officer of the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corp., said is key to the establishment and survival of preservation efforts.

“By using the two trusts judiciously, we can help fund the full lifecycles of a project,” said Sopuck.

“This is quite unique in the conservation world…. We always struggle to cover the long-term cost of projects…. Conservation funding in Manitoba has far more certainty than it ever has before.”

In coming years, more GROW funding will be announced, participants said, with some projects being executed through local watershed authorities, which are replacing the old water conservation district structure.

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