DELORAINE — Big oil showed it has big heart when Tundra Oil and Gas Partnership unveiled the new Sustainable Land Use Centre near Deloraine on Thursday.
The oil company worked closely with Ducks Unlimited Canada for more than three years to open the centre, which specializes in resource extraction and conservation.
"There is a significant element of accountability, and we’re willing to accept that," said Dan McLean, Tundra president and CEO, to the crowd of business people and landowners.
Tundra Oil and Gas is an affiliate of Winnipeg-based James Richardson and Sons Ltd. and in 2009, the prominent Richardson family donated $1 million to develop the site. Six distinct components make up the SLUC that aims to do one thing — keep wetlands alive.
"We can work co-operatively, and we can work for the land," Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed said during the press conference, later noting to media that most people still don’t connect oil with environmentalism and that it’s time for more groups to think about sustainability.
"These are the kinds of arrangements we need to see," he said.
Mark Francis from Ducks Unlimited Canada was the main proponent behind keeping wetlands protected as the oil industry continued to move further into southern Manitoba.
"This area was unique because at the time we were overlapping," Francis said. "We were just starting to experience each other on the landscape."
The organizations worked together to put in place restoration and rehabilitation policies to correct the land after use.
They also developed ways to efficiently use the land by making the change to horizontal drilling which enables rigs to avoid sensitive areas such as wetlands.
Landowners Martin More and Nancy Holden own areas now part of the Sustainable Land Use Centre. In 2007, they entered into a collective conservation agreement that not only provides wetland security while they own the land, but also when future owners take over.
"We’re not allowed to disturb those areas," Holden said, adding specific land has been set aside for "no till, no drain."
"We have not drained and we signed up because we want to keep it that way," she said.
The two owners took part in a bus tour of the SLUC area, which showcased specific functions of the project.
For Holden, the most important part is balancing industry while maintaining habitat for the original owners of the land.
"We have a lot of wildlife south of here," Holden said. "The wetlands gives ducks and other birds a home — and you never know what you’re going to see."
Holden said she sees a number of larger animals including moose, fox, beaver and coyotes while harvesting crops. Fellow owner More also enjoys seeing the area thrive, as he remembers back to when he starting farming and conservation wasn’t part of corporate consciousness.
"I saw years ago first-hand how it used to be but to see things now — it’s so environmentally friendly," More said, adding he specifically recalls a pumping well built in 1954 that hurt the land so badly, Tundra is currently restoring the area some 60 years later.
The area near Deloraine is one of three locations designated as Sustainable Land Use Centres. The others are located at Yorkton, Sask., and at the Kelburn Farm south of Winnipeg. It will be used as an exemplar for future conservation partnerships and provide the stage for educational tours.
RM of Winchester Reeve Michael Dillabough summed up the mood of Thursday’s event by saying; "We’re only renting the future from our children."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 30, 2012