Canada plans conservation area
Ontario contributes land along Lake Superior toward the
creation of the world's largest freshwater conservation
By Scott Thistle
Duluth News Tribune
Canada may be leaping ahead of the United States when
it comes to conserving one of the world's largest freshwater
On Monday, Ontario Premier Ernie Eves said the provincial
government had agreed to hand over millions of acres of
Lake Superior shoreland and lakebed to the Canadian federal
government for inclusion in a new National Marine Conservation
Similar to a National Park in the United States, the
new conservation area managed by Parks Canada would stretch
from Thunder Cape, at the tip of Sleeping Giant Provincial
Park, to Bottle Point just east of Terrace Bay.
It also includes the waters of Black Bay and Nipigon
Bay and will run adjacent to the United States' Isle Royale
Ontario's contribution to the conservation area includes
2.47 million acres of lakebed and 14,820 acres of islands,
shoals and mainland.
The idea of the conservation area has enjoyed broad-based
support in Ontario because much of the land involved in
the proposed conservation area already is protected as
park land or is in remote offshore islands, said Kal Pristanski,
mayor of the Ontario township of Red Rock.
"The nice thing about this is that it is mostly
water-based," Pristanski said. Red Rock, a town of
about 1,150 people, is about an hour east of Thunder Bay
and sits "smack in the middle" of the proposed
conservation area, said Pristanski, who served on a committee
of local stakeholders that worked on issues surrounding
the conservation area.
Red Rock is embracing the idea of letting the federal
government manage a larger portion of the Lake Superior
ecosystem because, among other things, the federal government
also has committed up to $20 million toward the creation
of the conservation area. The federal government also
probably would step up enforcement of existing fishing
regulations, adding a new focus to protecting and preserving
one of the region's most productive lake- and brook-trout
fisheries, Pristanski said.
"It will not be new laws but enforcement of existing
laws," he said.
The decision by the provincial government to hand over
jurisdiction of the lakebed, the land under the water,
to the federal government was the final obstacle to creation
of the conservation area, Pristanski said.
"I don't think there's any going back on it now,"
he said. A final agreement between the province and the
federal government is being negotiated.
Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green
embraced the announcement by Eves.
"It doesn't change anything on our side of the border,"
Green said. "But it gives us a tremendous opportunity
to work together on joint issues."
As proposed, the Canadian Marine Conservation Area would
share about a 4.5-mile border with Isle Royale National
Park along the border between Canada and the United States.
Green credited Parks Canada with taking a lead role.
"I would say we had the lead on freshwater conservation,
but the scale, size and scope of this (Canadian proposal)
is really a unique lead role for conservation in this
day and age."
The World Wildlife Fund Canada also celebrated the news
of Ontario's decision.
The conservation area as proposed would protect much
of the habitat range for migrating woodland caribou, which
is considered threatened in most of Canada, said Monte
Hummel, World Wildlife Fund Canada president. Many of
the islands in the conservation area are considered valuable
calving grounds for the caribou, he said.
The conservation area also would ensure habitat for a
number of bird species, including peregrine falcons and
bald eagles. It also provides protection for species of
arctic plants that may help scientists better understand
the effects of global warming, he said.
"This area represents one of the most spectacular
freshwater coasts on Earth and the deepest, clearest open
water found anywhere," Hummel said. And not only
wildlife will benefit from the conservation area, he said.
Monday's announcement also marked a "great day for
the people who call Superior country home," Hummel