Parks and Protected Spaces
Ecological reserves play a critical role in protecting our natural heritage. They are created to preserve unique and rare examples of plants, animals, and geological features. Our goal is to protect examples of each of the Province’s 1000 plus habitat types - from arctic tundra to spruce bogs and from river bottom forests to mixed grass prairie. If we do not safeguard these places, there is the possibility that some of them will disappear forever.
Ecological reserves are established under The Ecological Reserves Act. An Ecological Reserves Advisory Committee, appointed under the Act, provides advice to the Minister of Conservation, the Minister responsible for the Act, regarding the establishment of ecological reserves and their stewardship. Parks and Protected Spaces Branch of Manitoba Conservation administers the program.
Ecological reserve programs began in the 1970s in Canada, as governments sought to protect ecologically significant areas. Manitoba's Ecological Reserves program began in 1973. Reindeer Island Ecological Reserve, a 13,860-ha island in the north basin of Lake Winnipeg, was the first in Manitoba. Established in May 1976, it was created under The Crown Lands Act, as were the next three reserves. Passage of the first Ecological Reserves Act in 1981 led to all subsequent reserves being designated under this legislation. To date, 22 ecological reserves have been created, bringing the total protected area to over 61,450 ha.
Ecological reserves may only be established on Crown land. They preserve unique and rare natural (biological and geological) features of the province and examples of natural and modified ecosystems. These sites are set aside for ecosystem and biodiversity preservation, research, education and nature study. They are not intended to be recreation, resource harvest or multiple-use areas. Under the Act, approval from the Minister responsible for the Act is needed to conduct activities in ecological reserves. Generally, no damage may be caused to, nor may anything be taken from an ecological reserve without a permit. In most cases, permission by means of a general Ministerial Order allows travel through ecological reserves by people on foot. Access by motor vehicle is largely restricted to trails and routes that existed before the ecological reserve was established. Approval is needed to conduct scientific research. Hunting is generally prohibited in ecological reserves, but traditional use by Native people can be allowed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the ecological sensitivity of the area.