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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. Ecological reserves are the most protected of the provincially designated sites within Manitoba's protected areas network. 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 and Water Stewardship, the Minister responsible for the Act, regarding the establishment of ecological reserves and their stewardship. Parks and Protected Spaces Branch 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 hectare 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 ecological reserves. Passage of the first Ecological Reserves Act in 1981 led to all subsequent reserves being designated under this legislation. To date, 30 ecological reserves have been created, bringing the total protected area in ecological reserves to over 85,420 hectares.

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. Most ecological reserves are open to the public for non-destructive, observational uses (e.g. walking, wildlife viewing), but in some ecological reserves, where the land is easily impacted, access is not permitted without a Ministerial Permit. All other uses and activities within ecological reserves, including research, require a Ministerial Permit or Ministerial Order. However, traditional land use by Indigenous Peoples is generally permitted. Where the feature being protected could be placed at risk by traditional use, the government will undertake Crown-Indigenous consultation.

Research in Ecological Reserves

Ecological reserves are set aside for ecosystem and biodiversity preservation, research, education and nature study. Therefore, scientific research in ecological reserves is encouraged. Permits for research in ecological reserves are issued by the Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship. Research proposals are reviewed by the Ecological Reserves Advisory Committee (ERAC) to ensure minimal impact to ecological reserves and the features they protect. If any potential negative impacts are identified, ERAC will work with the researcher to mitigate these impacts to the satisfaction of both parties. ERAC sends its recommendations to the Minister along with any conditions to be placed upon the research activities. The Minister may either approve or deny issuance of a research permit. Research proposals for ecological reserves should be submitted no less than four months prior to the intended start of research activities to allow time for review, processing, and mail out. Research proposals must include:

  • Study rational/purpose;
  • Which ecological reserve the research is to be conducted in;
  • When the field work will be conducted; and
  • Detailed methodology of the study including proposed collection of any specimens.

Proposals or other inquiries regarding research in ecological reserves can be sent to:

Parks and Protected Spaces Branch
Box 53, 200 Saulteaux Crescent
Winnipeg, MB R3J 3W3
Tel: (204) 945-4148
Fax: (204) 945-0012
Email: ecores@gov.mb.ca