On October 13, 2010, a cairn was unveiled on Ken and Sharon Johnson’s pasture land to honour their Conservation Agreement made with the partnership Ducks Unlimited Canada and Tundra Oil & Gas.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is a national, private, non-profit organization committed to conserving Canada’s wetlands. Tundra Oil & Gas, a wholly owned affiliate of James Richardson & Sons, is the highest producer of oil in Manitoba. As such, their partnership may seem a bit unlikely. However, as President and CEO of Tundra Oil & Gas, Daniel MacLean, stressed: “we are very cognizant of the impact we have on the land, and want to make sure that the impact we leave is a positive one.”
The parklands of Manitoba provide an array of wetland and upland habitat for North American waterfowl. These habitats also provide ecological benefits to the surrounding area.
In 2009, the Johnson family granted a Conservation Agreement on these lands to preserve their natural integrity for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.
A Conservation Agreement (CA) is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, that allows the organization to secure habitat without holding title. It also ensures the natural functions of the wetlands and uplands are protected in perpetuity for the benefit of waterfowl and other wildlife.
The CA signed by the Johnson Family includes 1039.7 acres in total: 197.9 acres of conserved wetland, 41.0 acres of restored wetland, and 800.8 acres of upland (the land and habitat located around a wetland). As bison farmers, the CA will benefit the Johnson’s in that the existing and restored wetlands will provide adequate source water for the herd and ultimately maintain and increase the quality of their lands. The mixed natural uplands and planted perennial tame cover will also benefit their grazing regime, while maximizing the use of these less productive lands through the use of managed rotational grazing.
As partners with Ducks Unlimited Canada, Tundra Oil & Gas generously provides funding for the Johnson Family CA as well as other projects in the Prairie Pothole Regions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Mark Francis, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s head of habitat retention, explained that more than 70 per cent of wetlands in the area have been drained, which has had a profound effect on waterfowl. The Johnson Family CA and the 1039.7 acres which have been agreed upon will be instrumental in seeing a portion of those wetland areas restored to their former conditions.
Ken Johnson, head of the Johnson Family, is pleased with the project. “Fighting nature isn’t a good thing,” he said, “They’re just putting it back to how it was before.” He also commented that Johnson and his family worked with Ducks Unlimited Canada to select the land included in the agreement, “there was no pressure, we just gave what we were able to.”
As part of their partnership, Tundra Oil & Gas provides the funding which pays the farmers a certain amount per acre for the wetlands agreed upon in Conservation Agreements.
Communications Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada, Karli Reimer, stressed that they are “trying to work together in partnership to demonstrate that conservation and restoration of wetlands and uplands is a viable option.” Johnson plans on putting his funding back into his farm – “there’s always fencing to be done.”
The unveiling of the cairn was attended by Ken and Sharon Johnson and their four children, Rodney, Darren, Angela and Cheryl, and granddaughter Piper, personnel of Tundra Oil & Gas and of Ducks Unlimited Canada, neighbour John Orr, as well as local dignitaries Keith Wadham and Harry Bajus.
Following the dedication ceremony, where DUC board member Mike Leech, farm owner Ken Johnson, and DUC member Rick Andrews, made speeches and addresses, the cairn was unveiled by the family. The group then moved to the Elkhorn Elks Hall and was served a delicious lunch by the Elkhorn Elks ladies.
MCNA award-winning story published in the Virden Empire-Advance. October, 2010.