Policies to protect wetlands in Manitoba should not be a financial burden on farmers, a public consultation hearing was told last week.
Producers should receive financial incentives to preserve wetlands. They should not be forced to do so by expensive environmental rules, according to the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association.
Art Jonasson, an MCPA director, told a June 14 Manitoba Water Council hearing that wetlands policy requires “market-funded incentives” through an environmental goods and services program rather than “cost-inducing regulations.”
MCPA is promoting an EG&S program for cattle producers which would reward them for ecologically friendly practices.
The Manitoba Water Council is conducting public hearings into developing a policy for wetlands in Manitoba, which has a greater proportion of wetland area than any other province.
Last week’s session in Winnipeg was the third in a series of hearings in 10 locations held throughout the province June 9 to July 14.
This fall the group will release a document with summarized comments and recommendations to help Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnyk form a provincial wetlands policy, said Don Sexton, MWG vice-chair.
A handbook distributed at the meetings expresses concern about the loss of wetlands to agriculture and urban development.
It says in some areas of southern Manitoba, up to 90 per cent of wetlands have been lost or affected.
As an example, the Broughton Creek Watershed in southwestern Manitoba lost nearly 70 per cent of its wetland basins between 1968 and 2005.
The environmental impacts of that loss included a 31 per cent increase in downstream water supply, a 41 per cent increase in sedimentation and a 28 per cent reduction in waterfowl population.
But Jonasson stressed the difference between preserving wetlands and restoring them. He said once wetlands are drained, they can never be returned to their natural state. Therefore, they should be preserved instead.
But no use is not the best use, Jonasson, a cattle producer from Ashern, told the panel.
He said cattle help protect wetlands because grazing preserves native grasses and biodiversity.
For that reason, wetlands policy should encourage rather than limit the presence of cattle on the local landscape, Jonasson said.