Karol Dabbs

Manitoba

Number of projects: 7

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $574,700

Acres conserved: 901

Stewardship volunteers: 183

Protecting Manitoba’s Interlake Natural Area

Dave Menke (USFWS Image Library)

Debby Hirsch grew up spending summers along the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

Over time, she and her husband, Brian, decided they wanted to make a difference to help protect an area that had been so important for Debby and four generations of her family. After some research, they turned to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). “We realized the excellent fit between NCC’s mission and our desire to make a difference,” says Brian.

Recently, Debby and Brian generously provided funding to allow NCC to purchase the Fish Lake Drain Parkland property in Manitoba’s Interlake Natural Area, as they wanted to see it protected.

To mark Canadian Environment Week in June, NCC announced the purchase of the 145-acre (59-hectare) property.

Conservation activities on the property will assist in managing surface water and protecting wetlands. In doing so, NCC will mitigate negative impacts on Lake Winnipeg downstream, directly impacting the health of the lake.

"It’s through the generous donations of Manitobans, families like the Hirsches and other key partners that NCC is able to continue with its work protecting important natural areas, habitats and species for the benefit of all Manitobans," stated NCC regional vice-president Jeff Polakoff. "Canadian Environment Week is an excellent time for us to acknowledge those who make it possible for us to do conservation work necessary for today and for future generations."

Working together to restore healthy ecosystems with prescribed fire

NCC

Fire is a natural part of ecosystem dynamics and plays an important role in the development, maintenance and restoration of fire-dependant ecosystems and wildlife habitat.

NCC and Parks Canada have joined in a partnership to carry out prescribed fires in Manitoba, with the goal of restoring long-term ecosystem health. The agreement aims to share resources and expertise on prescribed fire planning, training, communications and implementation in Riding Mountain National Park and on NCC properties.

A prescribed burn in early May provided an excellent opportunity for the fire crews from both organizations to build capacity and improve operations for future prescribed fire activities. The goal of the fire was to reduce fuels and maintain the size of rare fescue prairie grasslands by thinning encroaching woody species, such as trembling aspen and willow, and to improve the condition of the prairie.

Prescribed burns are conducted under controlled environmental conditions in a safe and professional manner, to manage the health of the grassland landscape.

Adding the Assiniboine Delta Natural Area to the roster

NCC

The prairie skink, one of only five lizard species in Canada, can be found in mixed-grass habitat with sandy soil. It is easily distinguished by the lines that run down its body. Listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, it is primarily threatened by habitat loss due to human activity and development.

This year, we expanded our conservation work in the Assiniboine Delta natural area — key habitat for the endangered prairie skink, rare hog-nosed snake, wolf, large herds of elk and an abundance of other wildlife.

The Assiniboine Delta supports one of the last large, intact blocks of mixed-grass prairie in Manitoba as well as aspen parkland and spruce forests. This natural area, which spans 1,447,743 acres (585,881 hectares, encompasses the largest sandhill complex in Manitoba.

The area also supports populations of chestnut-collared longspur and Sprague’s pipit, along with other grassland birds. Underlying the natural area is the province’s largest unconfined sand and gravel aquifer: the source of freshwater springs that feed the Assiniboine River and other waterways. It also supports the nationally rare roundleaf monkeyflower. The Assiniboine Delta’s abundant and clean aquifer is also an important component of the local agricultural economy that relies on irrigation farming.

Rare tufa mounds — created when mineral-rich groundwater flows from spring vents and forms solid limestone rock — were recently found on NCC’s Fort Ellice property. These geological features are rare in Manitoba, and may support a unique variety of species.