Conservation Agreement A Milestone – for Sep. 9, 2010

The habitat on a Basswoodarea farm is now permanently protected. While all habitat is important, this easement has additional significance as it is also the 500th Conservation Agreement (CA) held by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.

“Dad was a conservationist,” said Keith Proven. “That’s what drove him to always think that the bush would stay the same and that the water would remain. It was very important to him.”

Earlier in the year, the corporation finalized a conservation agreement with James Proven to permanently protect 50 acres of natural habitat on farmland he owned in the Basswood area. Sadly on May 14, James passed away. However, the CA ensures that his wishes to protect this habitat will continue in perpetuity.

“Now his legacy lives on in a way that he would have approved, said his son Keith, who raises cattle on a half section also protected with a CA.

“I think this is a great program that we have in place,” the Hon. Stan Struthers, minister of agriculture said during a ceremony to mark the milestone. “I think that the landowners deserve a lot of credit for their partnership in this.

“The agreement also takes advantage of Manitoba’s Wetland Restoration Incentive Program to restore 15 acres of wetlands that had been drained decades ago,” he noted.

During his lifetime, James recognized the need to retain the wetlands and bush on his farm. Today his foresight is recognized as an important contribution to the conservation of natural habitat. When all 500 CAs are added up they encompass 88,500 acres of important habitat that is now protected.

Landowners participate in a variety of conservation and habitat projects, according to John Whitaker, chair of MHHC. Many are good stewards and they take good care of their land during their lifetimes.

“The problem is when the good steward passes away, often there is no continuity in those environment benefits,” he said. The next landowner does not have to continue to do what the previous owner has done. That is not the case with the conservation easement program because it carries on with the title.”

CAs are a type of easement that permanently protects the habitat. They carry on from owner to owner when the land is sold or transferred. The farmer continues to own the property, but the habitat cannot be drained or removed.

“CAs like these strike a balance between land use and habitat protection on private land,” said Whitaker. “They can provide long-term protection of wetlands, woodlands, grasslands and riparian areas without affecting productive farmland.”

“This agreement creates a conservation legacy and fits with my father’s view of the land”, said Keith. “He believed that agricultural production and habitat conservation could occur side by side.”

MHHC is a Crown corporation with a mandate to conserve, restore and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. It focuses on delivery of conservation projects on privately owned agricultural land. The MHHC is one of the largest holders of conservation agreements in Canada, according to Whitaker. The celebration of its 500th CA underscores its strength.

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