Nature Canada

Good news for a rare prairie lizard — New conservation area created at Manitoba’s Canadian forces base Shilo

The announcement represents a new approach – where Environment Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) are working together to identify the conservation potential of lands on a military base.

The Governments of Canada and Manitoba have announced that they plan to work together to protect nature at Canadian Forces Base Shilo.

The announcement represents a new approach – where Environment Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) are working together to identify the conservation potential of lands on a military base. It’s a new way to think about nature protection, and Nature Canada salutes the effort. It’s an approach we want to see provide long-term protection for the 17 at-risk species that live on the base.

As you’d expect, many parts of Canadian Forces Base Shilo in southwestern Manitoba are busy areas with vehicles, buildings and foot traffic. Fortunately, other areas on the base remain natural mixed-grass habitat, and it is in these undisturbed areas that endangered species like the Prairie Skink (the province’s only lizard) make their home.

The federal government evaluated the area and as of March 7, 2019, with DND’s support, it has been designated an “Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure” or OECM. The new status recognizes the site as being managed in a way to conserve biodiversity and it means the land can be counted towards Canada’s target to protect 17 per cent of terrestrial areas and inland water by 2020.

While the OECM status is new for a military base, it’s not the first time there have been conservation efforts on such lands. In 2003, Nature Canada was part of a push to have 458 square kilometres of CFB Suffield in southeastern Alberta set aside as the Suffield National Wildlife Area.

Thursday’s announcement recognizes the biodiversity value of 21,138 hectares of CFB Shilo – tho unlike Suffield, the commitment to protection is not necessarily permanent. The government backgrounder notes the OECM status can be removed at any time if the future land use is not compatible with conservation.

Nature Canada welcomes new possibilities for expanding protected areas such as on CFB Shilo. We look forward to seeing how the process can result in effective and long-term protection for nature under international conservation guidelines.

To protect other critical areas in Canada, like the South Okanagan Similkameen, click here!

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