Manitoba’s largest conservation agreement signed in Langruth


By: Kate Jackman-Atkinson

Earlier this month, the province’s largest conservation agreement was signed in Langruth.

The conservation agreement covers 17,400 acres of municipal land in the Lakeview Community Pasture. Not only is it the provinces’ largest conservation agreement, it’s the fifth or sixth largest in the country.

The land was first turned into a community pasture in the 1940s and since then, has provided summer grazing for 2,600 cow/calf pairs. Most of the cattle are owned by area farmers and the pasture is managed by a local co-op board.

The municipal land makes up 60 per cent of the pasture. Except for one quarter of federal land, the rest of the pasture is comprised of provincial crown land. Under the conservation agreement, not much will change, and that’s the idea. The conservation agreement ensures that the present use of the land, as pasture and wildlife habitat, will continue into the future.

“The conservation agreement is an insurance policy, it says the land will carry on in the future,” said Tim Sopuck, CEO of the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Conservation (MHHC), the group that administers conservation agreements in Manitoba. “The municipality will continue to own and control the land,” said Sopuck. This means that they will also continue to manage land use activities in the pasture.

Richard Callander, a councilor in the RM of Lakeview and a rider at the community pasture was one of the first proponents for obtaining a conservation agreement for the land.  For him, seeing this land protected through a conservation agreement is important because it’s one of the few big blocks of natural landscape remaining in the province.


Habitat for many species

Sopuck explained the importance of this conservation agreement, stating the land covers a wide range of landscapes and habitats. From areas of the big grass marsh, which are home to waterfowl and other marsh species of birds, the landscape moves into forest and grassland. “It’s a mix that really attracts lots of wildlife,” said Sopuck. 

The land is especially important to the province’s bird population. Sopuck explained that there more than 100 species of birds that use the land as habitat, including during nesting and migration seasons.

Callander has been around the pasture all of his life and says many different kinds of wildlife can be seen in the area, from deer and birds to bears, raccoons and badgers.  “Even a few cowboys,” he says jokingly.

The conservation agreement will preserve the land for future generations as both livestock grazing and as a wildlife habitat. “The landscape is very well suited to grazing livestock. Those characteristics also make it [well suited] for wildlife. They co-exist,” said Sopuck.


Wide ranging benefits

The Lakeview Community Pasture is located within the Whitemud Watershed Conservation District. WWCD manager Chris Reynolds says that the land and the conservation agreement will have a big impact on the area.

Reynolds said that keeping the land as native pasture and marsh will have a positive impact on water quality as well as protecting the area from flooding and erosion. “It’s an excellent project to be involved with,” said Reynolds.

While the idea of protecting the Lakeview pasture land with a conservation agreement had been around a while, it was first seriously brought forward to the MHHC two years ago. That’s when the work began on drawing up the agreement.

The WWCD is a funding partner, providing money for certain MHHC projects, such as conservation agreements. This funding covers the MHHC staff time required to draw up these agreements. Preparing all of the paperwork for this conservation agreement took about a year of MHHC staff time. “It was no small task,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds says that big conservation agreements, such as this one, require a lot of administration work since titles for each parcel of land must all be searched and maps drawn up.

“We’re very proud of our partnership with MHHC and grateful that we can be a part of it,” said Reynolds.

The WWCD has the unique distinction, having the province’s two largest conservation agreements within its area.  Previously, the conservation agreement for the 9,822 acres of municipal land in the Langford Community Pasture, signed in 2010, was the largest conservation agreement in the province.

“It’s exciting,” said Reynolds about the distinction.

Looking to the future

Callander said that their conservation agreement does include a unique clause that gives them some flexibility for the unknown future.  Under the agreement, there is an option to pull out two sections of land from the conservation agreement. 

For example, this land could then be broken, or developed as a yard site or gravel pit. This flexibility allows for some future development while still protecting the majority of the land under a conservation agreement. 

“We don’t know what the future holds,” said Callander.

With a conservation agreement in place for the municipal land in the pasture, Callander said that they are now pursuing a conservation agreement for the provincial land. If they are successful, they would have conservation agreements covering 43 sections of land in one block. The block of land has just one road, which only goes a few miles.

“The conservation agreement is a huge step for the RM and people in the area… It’s a great benefit knowing it will always be there. [People] really need to be proud,” said Reynolds.

Callander said that as a council, they are happy that the conservation agreement has been signed.  He added that over the years, he has seen more and more land broken and cultivated.

“This land was made for cows, it shouldn’t be broken,” he said.