On June 4, 2007, Native Orchid Conservation Inc. (NOCI), a non-profit organization that works to conserve native plant species in Manitoba and throughout Canada, was honoured with a Canadian Environmental Silver Award in the Community Conservation category for their work protecting unique mini-ecosystems and plant communities in Manitoba.
In particular, the award recognized the key role that the Native Orchid Conservation Inc. played in the creation of the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve by raising the wetland's profile and educating the community through public talks and guided nature tours. The reserve contains 23 species of provincially rare and uncommon plants including 28 of Manitoba’s 36 native orchid species such as the Showy Lady’s-slipper, Cypripedium reginae, which is one of four flagship orchids selected by the IUCN North American Regional Orchid Specialist Group. The protection of a wetland in this area is particularly important given that since 1900, more than 70 percent of Manitoba's wetlands have been drained in the name of development for agriculture and for residential and recreational construction.
Doris Ames, NOCI president highlighted the importance of orchids as flagship species for promoting the conservation of wetlands:
"People may not initially care about wetlands, but everyone cares about the aesthetics of the orchid. Right now, the orchid is the wetlands symbol. Our group offers people an opportunity to feel empowered in caring for the natural world. We show that if you get involved, you can make a difference."
This award is an important milestone in the evolution of a grassroots organization which has shown repeatedly that they care about orchids and about people including the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation which expressed a wish to have the wetland as an educational and cultural resource for future generations. The prize included a plaque commemorating the 2007-2008 Polar Year as well as a cash prize which NOCI will donate to the newly formed Debwendon Corporation toward the construction of board walks and interpretive trails on Crown land adjacent to the reserve. This will allow the public to safely visit the area for aesthetic, educational and cultural reasons without causing further damage to the habitat.
For more information:
Native Orchid Conservation Inc. http://www.nativeorchid.org/
Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/pai/mb_network/brokenhead/index.html
Conservation Award Winners http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/cea2007/winners.asp