Strategizing for instability

The Province did a lot to destabilize environmental groups in 2019

Glen Koroluk, director of the Manitoba Eco Network, was surprised to learn that the organization was denied funding by the provincial government for the first time in 20 years.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Glen Koroluk is the director of the Manitoba Eco Network (MbEN), a 35-year-old non-profit organization that advocates for a plethora of environmental causes. It is also one of several organizations to have funding denied by the provincial government, many of which are housed in the EcoCentre, above the Mountain Equipment Co-op on Portage Avenue.

“We’ve been put in a position of, I wouldn’t say panic, but an unsustainable position,” Koroluk says.

For the first time in 20 years, Manitoba’s provincial government decided not to renew their funding for MbEN last March. After months of consultations, the cut was made official and public in November of 2019.

Koroluk says MbEN, which “began as a very grassroots organization,” had become too dependent on provincial funding, and he is looking to diversify funding in the future, but that funding insecurity is indicative of a lack of respect for environmental organizations.

“The government of the day has its own philosophical underpinnings, which is different from the previous government. What we’re seeking and promoting is a level playing field in terms of having secure funding.

“There are numerous organizations in Manitoba right now who get funding through provincial laws and mechanisms that allows them to raise their voice, and we would like to see that level playing field for the environmental community,” he says. “Other governments have done that in the past and it's all about respect and listening to everyone who has a say. That’s the direction we would like to send to the current government.”

Koroluk says the Province is working on a new funding strategy for nonprofits, “however, the groups that are being impacted aren’t being asked or invited to help shape that new policy.”

These cuts come at a time when the Province is further ignoring environmental work by renewing the industrial logging license for Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

Eric Reder, wilderness and water campaigner for the Manitoba branch of the Wilderness Committee, says this is just the most recent in a long legacy of irresponsibility and obfuscation from the government.

Reder only found out about the license renewal because a journalist asked him about it. For Wilderness Committee, which advocates for environmental protections and ending industrial activity in parks, this was an odd way to find out about a major logging license renewal.

Reder says this is because even though anyone operating on public land needs an Environment Act License and is given a public registry file (which holds all communication regarding the industrial process), he found that some files, like the one for Duck Mountain, were not being updated for months while decisions were being made and announced, while others were being kept up to date.

“The public wouldn’t even know about this if not for the reporter hounding this file,” Reder says. “Not only has the extension not gone through the proper channels, but they haven’t publicly filed this document yet, so they are abdicating their responsibility.”

This license renewal is “in line with this government not recognizing that the scientific community around the world is telling us that we’re in a biological crisis,” Reder says. “The Government of Manitoba is lying about logging being a forest-management tool. That’s so essential that people understand no forest needs to be logged.”

The Province of Manitoba did not respond to The Uniter’s request for comment at press time.

Update: The Province of Manitoba issued the following response to The Uniter on Jan.16

The province has been working to ensure not for profit agencies that receive government funding are properly aligned with and supportive of the priorities of the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan. This includes insuring that not-for-profit agencies provide tangible deliverables and meet measurable targets in the framework of the Climate and Green Plan. The province is providing funding to the Green Action Centre, Manitoba Eco Network, and Climate Change Connection this year, while also working with them to develop a cooperation based on Manitoba’s priorities under the Climate and Green Plan and transitioning to the new grants portal next fiscal year ... 

Our government is committed to responsible and effective resource development while ensuring the sustainability of our natural landscapes, their habitats and the green benefits they provide today and for generations to come.

The current Forest Management Licence held by Louisiana Pacific for Forest Management Area 3  has been extended for two years to allow for thorough review and formal consultation on the company’s proposed 20-year Forest Management Plan. The LP mill and its associated forest operations employ approximately 500 people, making them an important and significant economic driver in the region.

It is widely recognized that responsible, well-planned timber harvest is an important tool for healthy forest management, including for forested lands in Manitoba. Forests that are artificially protected from disturbance by human intervention, including fire suppression and other forms of protection, are at higher risk of forest disease and for larger wild land fires. Activities like sustainable and responsible logging can emulate natural disturbance, mitigating these risks, and helping ensure the opportunity for new forest growth, both naturally and through renewal activities, that enhances habitat for many wildlife species that require renewing forest landscapes, including Moose.

Timber harvesting in the Duck Mountain Provincial Park is an important part of the footprint for forestry activity in the region, and is a great example of responsible management of Crown lands and resources to support multiple values, including recreational activities and economic development.

Published in Volume 74, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 16, 2020)

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