February 2, 2019, is World Wetlands Day celebrating the signing of the Ramsar Convention in Iran in 1971 where the purpose was to recognize the importance of wetlands to society. So what’s the big deal about wetlands?
To start, we know that wetlands are considered to be a vital part of the Manitoba prairie landscape. There are many different shapes and sizes of depressions on the land – some that might hold water all the time and others that might dry up throughout the year. They are often referenced by the conservation community as “Nature’s Kidneys”.
Wetlands act as a filter for phosphorus and other sediments and pollutants that might otherwise enter our waterways and lakes. Wetlands mitigate flooding by capturing runoff from spring snowmelt or large rains; they are aquifer and groundwater recharge sources. In the world of carbon storage and sequestration, wetlands are very efficient and do a very good job. In Manitoba, they are also vital to the existence of many wildlife species like amphibians, waterfowl and large ungulates, such as moose and white-tailed deer.
The Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation (MHHC) has been working on the agricultural landscape in Manitoba since 1986. MHHC has partnered with landowners in rural Manitoba on over 850 wetland-related projects and in doing so we’ve managed to conserve, restore, and enhance 89,000 wetland acres. It is because of the landowners on the agricultural landscape that MHHC has these numbers on wetland projects to share. Landowners need to be aware of World Wetlands Day and celebrate their own significant contributions.
We should all recognize that the backbone of the Prairies, particularly in Manitoba, is an agricultural landscape. As I myself grew up on a family farm in the prairie pothole region, I was immersed in agriculture as a kid and chose a career in conservation. From my experience, I believe that we need to maintain the balance of a prosperous, vibrant agricultural community with a healthy landscape.
To the landowners in the agricultural landscape that contribute to wetland conservation in Manitoba, congratulations on World Wetlands Day and thank you on behalf of MHHC for being good stewards of the land while practicing wetland conservation. If you are interested in starting a conversation and learning more about MHHC and its wetland programs, go to the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation website or call 204-729-3501.
Curtis Hullick is the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation’s field manager, and is based in their Brandon office.