What’s the value of our natural landscapes?

Taking care of the environment isn’t free and should be compensated

It’s not just a pretty sight, a natural landscape also benefits everyone.

If you have looked around your local countryside, you may have noticed that we are losing our trees.

This is considered progress as we are developing more arable land to grow more food which makes our farms more profitable.

But on the other side of the coin, we need the benefits that natural landscapes provide and we call that ecological goods and services or EG&S.

The following EG&S are extremely important to maintaining our healthy way of life: clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and healthy food.

Most of these things are not monetized and valued by our financial systems. If you are a landowner who is providing the EG&S benefit to the population, you are receiving nothing for these services other than personal satisfaction.

Market signals tell producers that wetlands, bush and grasslands are valued less than cultivated acres. These signals are the driving force behind wetland loss, bush removal, grassland conversion and ultimately land values. Another factor that is involved with this scenario is the relationship between land costs and producers motivated to convert permanent cover crops to cultivated acres.

This all sounds like a situation that is going sideways with no easy solutions. If we lose the benefits provided by our remaining natural landscape, then we are in deep trouble or our grandchildren are.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, especially in Manitoba. The province has recently created trust accounts that will help fund programs to assist producers that value EG&S and $250 million has been set aside and the interest on these funds are dedicated to make environmental improvements in Manitoba watersheds.

This public investment places Manitoba as a world leader in innovative environmental action.

For more information, contact your local Watershed District.

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