On March 5, 2002 Conservation Minister Oscar Lathlin released Next Steps: Priorities for Sustaining Manitoba's Forests, a document outlining the direction for government, industry and First Nations to help Manitoba's forests thrive in the future.
"Forests are critical to meeting environmental, cultural, social and economic needs in Manitoba," said Lathlin, speaking at the Boreal Forum hosted by Manitoba's Clean Environment Commission.
"The objectives we have set out today are ones that I know are shared by the forest industry, environmental organizations and First Nations communities who all have an interest in this important natural resource."
The minister noted that the boreal forest provides a home for a wide variety of wildlife, helps to improve air quality, moderates temperatures, and reduces soil and water erosion. Forestry-related industries provide work for about 13,000 people across Manitoba.
While Manitoba is considered a prairie province, forests make up a significant portion of the provincial land base. The mid-to-northern areas of the province have vast stretches of undeveloped boreal forest, made up of softwoods such as spruce and pine, and hardwoods such as poplar and birch. The document builds on past policy work and outlines the government's three primary goals for the survival of Manitoba's forests:
In order to meet these goals, the strategy document outlines five priorities for sustaining Manitoba's forests:
The document states that the Manitoba government will work with forestry companies, contractors, quota holders, Aboriginal organizations, First Nations, research agencies, environmental organizations and other governments to address these priorities.
"The future of Manitoba's forests is of particular importance to the many Aboriginal and northern communities located in some of our most forested regions," the minister said. "The boreal forest has a significant impact on the viability of these communities and they must be key partners in developing strategies around the sustainable management of forests and the employment opportunities they provide."
Lathlin pointed out that boreal forests are an important means of reducing greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change and global warming. One of the big contributors to greenhouse gas is carbon. The growing boreal forest absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, offering Manitoba a tremendous opportunity to enhance Canada's role in greenhouse gas reduction.
The document also notes that updated scientific data is needed to better understand Manitoba's forests and plan for the future. As a first step, updated information on the quantity and quality of trees in Manitoba's boreal forest is required. The province and LP Canada have partnered to update the inventory in the Mountain Forest Section. As well, the province supported the establishment of the Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR) at the University of Winnipeg. Provincial funding for C-FIR, the updated inventory and other research projects amounts to about $2 million.
"The importance of achieving these goals and priorities for sustaining Manitoba's forests has never been greater," said Lathlin. "We look forward to working with all those interested in sustaining our forests for the future."