A nearly 10-year effort to create a massive heritage area on the east side of Lake Winnipeg will continue for at least another year.
A UNESCO advisory committee has recommended the bid to have the area, known as Pimachiowin Aki, declared a world heritage site be deferred.
The committee says it needs more details to determine whether the 33,400-square kilometre area of boreal forest qualifies for the designation, which the province says would attract tourists and protect the environment.
“We were certainly disappointed but heartened by what we see in the report as far as positive feedback,” Bruce Bremner, the assistant deputy minister for Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that it falls short on several criteria.
The boundaries of the area aren’t clearly defined, and there are “similar areas nearby, but protected in smaller areas, and other more diverse boreal forest areas either already included on the World Heritage List or in other protected areas within the boreal realm. The case for inscription only under (the ecosystem criterion) is not compelling, despite the scale and naturalness of the area,” the report states.
Bremner expects they’ll host another field visit this year to find out what the province will have to do “to put us over the top.”
The Manitoba government has committed or spent more than $14 million on the project. The provinces recently signed a memorandum of understanding to protect and manage the site and surrounding national resources to strengthen its application.
The project is a collaboration of five First Nations with the two provincial governments.
Pursuit of the designation is one of the reasons the NDP wants to run Bipole 3, a new high-voltage transmission line from Gillam to Winnipeg, down the west side of Lake Winnipeg. The eastern route is shorter, possibly saving Manitoba Hydro millions of dollars.