Conservation Districts Take Key Role In Long-term Plan For Cleaner Water

A blueprint for the future of Manitoba’s conservation districts and a vision for creating and maintaining healthy watersheds are laid out in a new report issued today by Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick.

The report, entitled Framework for the Future, is based on the hard work and input from the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, the Manitoba Conservation Districts Association and the province, the minister said.

“It is my honour to work closely with our municipal partners and conservation districts to build a strong program in Manitoba and to set a clear vision for the future to achieve healthy watersheds and clean water,” Melnick said. “The conservation districts program is one of the most successful land and water programs in Canada.”

“The success of the program is due to the strong partnership between municipalities and the province and the input of a very large number of dedicated individuals that tirelessly work on local conservation district boards,” said Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

Framework for the Future outlines goals and objectives for the conservation districts program for the next 15 to 20 years. Among them are:

– establishing water management and water planning as the key roles of conservation districts;

– creating new conservation districts and expanding existing districts along watershed boundaries;

– affirming that conservation districts will be governed by strong local participation and that residents of watersheds will be involved in decision-making;

– developing integrated watershed management plans with the goals of creating and maintaining healthy watersheds, protecting drinking water and meeting provincewide priorities for improved water quality including restoring the health of Lake Winnipeg;

– supporting sustainable land and water management through sound planning, strong local involvement, and education and incentive-based programs; and

– developing benchmarks to measure programming effectiveness.

“Conservation districts are well-positioned to make a real, positive and long-lasting difference to how land and water are managed within Manitoba,” said Harold Foster, chair of the Manitoba Conservation Districts Association, which represents the 18 conservation districts within Manitoba. “We are pleased to work closely with our municipal and provincial partners to implement the long-term vision set out in today’s report.”

Further discussions will occur on a funding allocation formula that rewards success and innovation and that is fair and equitable between rural and urban watersheds, the minister said.

“The province remains committed to supporting Manitoba’s conservation districts and looks forward to working with our municipal and local partners to implement this new blueprint,” she concluded.

Since 1999, participation in the conservation districts program by municipal governments has grown to 154 from 78, an increase of 97 per cent. Over the same period, provincial base funding has increased by more than 110 per cent and now stands at $5.615 million.