Press release

Manitobans Back Ambitious Targets for Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Boreal Forest, poll shows

February 12, 2015


WINNIPEG—13 February 2015—A large majority of Manitobans favour conservation of most of the province’s boreal forest, according to a new poll.  

The poll, conducted by Probe Research for the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), found widespread support for boreal conservation among Manitobans of all political stripes and demographics.

The survey showed most Manitobans embrace conservation targets that are more ambitious than those adopted by Ontario and Quebec, which have policies to protect 50 per cent of the boreal region in their provinces from industrial development.

In addition, the poll indicated Manitobans want the government to develop a broad-based plan in partnership with Indigenous communities to balance sustainable development and conservation in the north.

 “The Canadian Boreal is the world’s largest remaining intact terrestrial ecosystem,” said Dr. Hank Venema, chief scientist at IISD, “Manitoba has a big piece of it and it is really only now coming under pressure from development.  Manitobans want to see their economy and communities prosper, but want it done in a way that is respectful of the land and the people who live on it. We have in this province a unique opportunity to look forward, to strive for—and achieve—the right balance between development and conservation. To get things right where in many other places it has gone wrong.”

The poll was conducted via telephone interviews Jan. 14–27 among a random and representative sampling of 1,015 Manitoba adults.  Among its findings:

  • 62 per cent of Manitobans feel that there should be an even balance between conservation and development in the north.
  • 34 per cent feel that conservation should be the highest priority.
  • 3 per cent say that development should be the highest priority.
  • 88 per cent overall feel that at least half of the Boreal should be protected, with 63 per cent stating that the level of protection should be greater than half.
  • 86 per cent of Manitobans from northern or rural areas feel that at least half of the Boreal should be protected, with 55 per cent stating that the level of protection should be greater than half.
  • 10 per cent overall said that less than half should be protected.
  • These values are held consistently across party lines.
  • On average, Manitobans believed that 75 per cent of the boreal forest should be protected and that 25 per cent of it should be open to development.
  • By a 4 to 1 margin, Manitobans believe that companies operating in the boreal forest region should be required to share resources extracted from traditional lands with Indigenous communities.

Curtis Brown, Vice-President at Probe Research Inc. said the results show that support for a balanced approach to conservation and sustainable development of the boreal region crosses partisan and ideological lines. 

According to the poll, people who back all three major political parties in Manitoba “want their provincial government to protect and preserve the bulk of its untouched boreal forests—an impressive consensus.”

While some debate might be expected between those who want broader conservation and those who want more development, according to Probe’s analysis, the debate is only between those who want to see half of the region protected and those who want more than half protected: “[T]he fulcrum point of debate on boreal policy will be between those who want to see total or near-total preservation of these ecological assets and those who are inclined to allow limited development in these areas.”

Dr. Venema said the poll validates efforts by resource companies, conservation organizations and Indigenous communities to implement the principles outlined in the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework.

“The Framework calls for landscape scale planning in partnership with Indigenous communities to protect at least half of the Boreal, and provide world-class standards for sustainable development on the remainder,” said Dr. Venema. “Quebec and Ontario have already adopted many of the principles of the Framework, but nowhere has the public support for this approach been as high as we’re seeing here in Manitoba—and across party lines. It’s very encouraging to see that Manitobans strongly favour taking the long view and embracing conservation and sustainable development for such a large and important part of the province.”  

The poll is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Eighty per cent of Manitoba’s land surface area is classified as boreal forest, a landscape that stores amounts of carbon comparable to the Amazon rainforest.  Three-quarters of all the bird species in boreal forest region of North America can be found in Manitoba.  These 250 species in Manitoba represents a total population of 100 to 300 million birds.  Manitoba’s boreal region is also home to robust herds of the iconic boreal woodland caribou, which are in decline in other jurisdictions around the country because of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.

You can download a copy of the poll results here.

For more information please contact Sumeep Bath, IISD media and communications officer, at or +1 (204) 958 7740.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.