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Man. offers incentives to restore wetlands

Manitoba expects to restore over 2,500 acres of lost wetlands on up to 150 farms by 2012 through a new $2 million incentive program for farmers and other landowners.

The wetland restoration initiative program, announced Tuesday by provincial Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick, will provide one-time payments for landowners if they sign a conservation agreement for long-term protection of “natural landscapes.”

But the program also provides those landowners with an additional “ecological goods and services” payment to recognize the “unique value” of restored wetlands and helps offset the operational costs for those landowners to retain the restored wetlands on their land.

“Ecological goods and services” describes the principle of providing support to preserve a jurisdiction’s “natural capital,” such as grasslands, forests and riparian zones. Wetlands are considered natural capital for their use in water treatment, food production, recreation and wildlife habitat. The Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS) program, piloted in Manitoba, is another example of an ecological goods and service program.

The province noted its partners in the new program will be Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation and Ducks Unlimited Canada. Melnick cited the two organizations’ “considerable wetland expertise” and the national recognition of their expertise in delivering conservation agreements.

According to the province, the two groups will provide the “technical expertise, manpower and equipment” for the reconstruction of the wetlands, to ensure maximum benefits from the wetlands and minimal disruption to the landowner.

Direct payments

The province said Tuesday that the new wetlands initiative is expected to provide up to 150 eligible farmers and landowners with direct payments of about $2 million over four years. The ecological goods and services payment is to be based on the acreage of the wetlands being restored.

“By 2012, through this program, it is anticipated over 2,500 acres of lost wetlands will be restored… and over 10 tonnes of phosphorus and 10 tonnes of nitrogen will be retained annually on the landscape that would otherwise be lost to nearby streams, rivers and lakes,” the province said.

“It is also estimated that about 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year will be tied up or sequestered and the amount of carbon dioxide retained through restoration of these wetlands will be about 120,000 tonnes by the year 2050, helping the province achieve its targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases.”

“We are pleased with this announcement as recognition of the role that our prairie wetlands play in moderating climate change and storing excess nutrients is a significant step towards their protection and restoration,” Bob Grant, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada, said in the province’s release Tuesday.

Conservation agreements are voluntary legal agreements, custom-made between a landowner and a conservation agency, to provide long-term protection of habitat without interfering in activities on a landowner’s “more productive” agricultural lands.

Activities such as haying, grazing, trapping and hunting, for examples, may continue on lands under a conservation agreement. The landowner retains title to the land, controls access and may continue to use the land under the terms of the agreement.

The agreement also specifies the habitat that’s to be protected and lays out what uses are acceptable while maintaining the “ecological integrity” of the land.

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