Wednesday 5 January 2005


Non-government conservation organizations play an important role in the longterm viability of urban forests and private land forestry.

As the government increasingly devolves itself of the responsibility for the stewardship of common resources like forestry and natural lands, non-government organizations act as an important watch dog to help shape government policy.

Recently, we have seen government (in an effort to reduce spending) leave the monitoring

and management of natural lands to industry and other agencies with a vested interest in exploiting the resources they protect. Without strong, informed groups to question the wisdom of some decisions, in the future we will wonder how we missed what, in hind sight, was so obvious. As Joni Mitchell so apply stated, with reference to a “Tree Museum”, “before you know it, we’ll be paying a dollar and a half just to see’ em”.

This doesn’t mean that industry, government and advocacy groups should be at each others throats. To the contrary, at times they may be important allies.

One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of how groups working together can result in benefit to all.

In the early 1990’s, the Province of Manitoba was looking to reduce expenditures, the Dutch Elm Disease Program, a vital protection for Winnipeg’s urban forest, was cut to the point of failure.

People within the department of natural resources knew the negative effect this would have on the long term survival of the urban forest.

What was needed was an educated public to inform political leaders of the importance of this valuable public asset.

The Coalition to Save the Elms was born and public outcry helped reverse the decision to cut the program, and Winnipeg still has its elms.

The moral of the story is government, quasi-governmental organizations, and private organizations need to work together to ensure that what’s best for all is archived.

It’s not fast, it’s not expedient, but it does work.

Without partners and strong connections to the community, who will speak up when the next program is on the chopping block?

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