The Manitoba government has established Chitek Lake Provincial Park as the province’s 88th park and has permanently protected the Walter Cook Caves Park Reserve as an ecological reserve, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh announced today.
“Manitoba is home to a number of rare and ecologically sensitive areas that must be protected,” said Minister Mackintosh. “Manitoba’s only herd of free-ranging wood bison roam through the area that includes Chitek Lake Provincial Park, while the Walter Cook Caves contain a variety of unique rock formations and are home to little brown bats. It is also the only known place where elk, moose, white-tailed deer, woodland caribou and wood bison share the same habitat.”
Chitek Lake Provincial Park will also become the first land in the province to be classified and preserved as indigenous traditional use, the minister said, adding this new classification gives recognition to lands of natural or cultural significance to indigenous people and that these parks are significant traditional-use areas. While the park has the new classification, it will be open to licensed hunting, fishing and trapping.
The park is now the province’s 12th largest park, covering about 1,000 square kilometres and is located about 350 km northwest of Winnipeg, along the shore of Lake Winnipegosis.
“I am very honoured and thrilled that our wishes have been met and there has been so much commitment in working together for our future,” said Chief Cameron Catcheway, Skownan First Nation. “We must protect our traditional land from mineral exploration, mining, logging and the list goes on and on. I am thrilled and honoured to be part of history and that we can keep the land green and respected so the buffalo can roam freely without any habitat being jeopardized.”
“I commend the Province of Manitoba for their commitment to working with the Misipawistik Cree Nation (MCN) on the designation and management of the Walter Cook Caves Ecological Reserve,” said Councillor Heidi Cook, MCN. “My hope is that through the protection of this special area my grandfather’s legacy is honoured with our peoples’ commitment to love, respect and care for the land as he did.”
A new community advisory group has been established to co-operatively managethe Walter Cook Caves Park Reserve as an ecological reserve, protecting itsunique features including several geologic formations due to weathered limestone and brown bat habitats in the areas caves, the minister said, adding the group is the first of its kind in Manitoba. The ecological reserve is located within Misipawistik Cree Nation’s trapline.
“This is a great day for all as these boreal forest areas serve the globe by storing carbon, which helps to slow the affects of climate change,” said Ron Thiessen, executive director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Manitoba. “We are delighted these protected areas were established in partnership with local First Nations and in a manner that rightfully honours their ancestoral connection to these special lands and waters.”
The designations support TomorrowNow – Manitoba’s Green Plan, an eight-year plan that supports environmental protection while ensuring a prosperous and environmentally conscious economy.
For more information on TomorrowNow, visit www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/tomorrownowgreenplan/.