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Province puts orchids above landowners: Graydon

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 03/5/2019 12:45 PM

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Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon says he wants to make sure efforts to save an endangered flower species in southeastern Manitoba do not step on the toes of those who make their living off the land.

The western prairie fringed orchid is recognized provincially and nationally as an endangered wildflower, and can only be found in the RM of Stuartburn, mainly near Vita, as well as in seven U.S. states.

Graydon said he was in attendance at the recent annual meeting of the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) in early February, where a resolution was passed on the issue of the province’s efforts to save the western prairie fringed orchid from extinction.

MBP now plans to lobby Manitoba Sustainable Development to work with producers to develop strategies to find common ground when it comes to preserving the orchid.

Graydon told The Carillon he currently believes the province is putting efforts to save the endangered orchid ahead of the livelihood of local producers, and said there have been cases where landowners have not been allowed to work on their own properties because of the orchid’s presence.

"What prompted all of this was an Amish community that bought land around Vita. They were cleaning up part of the land that they bought and the province walked in on them and threatened to arrest them if they did anymore, because the orchid was growing on the property," Graydon claimed.

"They were just cleaning up rock piles and brush and there were some orchids in there, but that had never been identified to them, and they paid good money for that land."

Graydon added he believes the province needs to do more to stop the spread of the endangered orchid into private land, and compensates landowners who lose out on money because the orchids.

"If I own a quarter-section of land and the orchid transplants itself on there and then the province steps in there…they had better be paying me for that, or doing more to control this endangered species," he said.

He believes the province may be putting too many resources into its efforts to save the endangered species.

"I walk through the Manitoba Legislature every day and see the big bison statues, and I don’t see anyone yelling and screaming about the bison going extinct on the prairies," he said.

"It is important to clarify some facts of this issue," a provincial spokesperson said in an email to The Carillon, when asked about Graydon’s claims.

"There have been no threats of arrest and the four stop-work orders have been lifted. We continue to try to engage these landowners directly."

"It's also not accurate to suggest that all agricultural activity has been limited, as the only restriction is on direct cultivation of the known orchid locations and this has only been an issue on three sites."

The province also said it is working closely with local politicians on the issue of saving orchids and respecting the right of landowners.

The spokesperson noted Stuartburn reeve David Kiansky attended the province’s prairie conservation and endangered species conference last week, "to learn more about endangered species and how to exploit them as a tourism opportunity in the RM of Stuartburn."

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