Brandon City Council voted unanimously to allocate a chunk of municipal land in the south end toward a preserve for a species of endangered orchid.
Earlier this year, the developer of a plot of land near the intersection of First Street and Patricia Avenue announced it was putting aside a portion of that land to protect endangered small white lady’s slipper orchids in the area.
The land is one of only a few habitats for the flower in the province.
The request for the land donation came from Kevin Teneycke, regional vice-president of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He gave a presentation to council on why the establishment of a preserve is necessary and what benefits it could bring to the city and the area.
To protect the endangered plants, which are recognized as such at both the provincial and federal levels, Teneycke asked for the city to contribute 2.06 acres of land it owns to the preserve as well as contribute $250,000 to its creation.
He said he believed the city’s investment would be matched by other levels of government.
In addition to the creation of a preserve, Teneycke said the hydrology of the land in question has been compromised and restoration work would need to happen to ensure the plants’ future.
An exact inventory of the orchids on the site would also be necessary, along with an assessment of potential threats to them.
In response to the presentation, councillors had a lot of questions about just how the preserve would function.
Coun. Barry Cullen (Victoria) wanted to know how the preserve would protect the orchids while allowing public access.
Another NCC preserve protecting an endangered species in the Stonewall area has low-impact trails and interpretive signs. Teneycke said he believed a preserve in Brandon would be much the same.
There would also be a buffer zone around the plants to protect any orchids missed outside the central area as well as preserve some of the natural prairie habitat in the region.
Cullen also wanted to know just how many orchids are on the site. Teneycke didn’t have a precise count, but said there were likely several hundred individual examples of the endangered plants.
When the orchids are counted, he said, only flowering stems are taken into account. However, there may be other dormant orchids that might not be visibly apparent.
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) asked if all federal rules would be followed in conserving the orchids. Teneycke said the NCC has a history of working with provincial and federal partners to ensure all rules are being followed.
The existence of a preserve in Brandon could lead to educational opportunities, and Coun. Shaun Cameron (University) wanted to know if any programming partnerships could be made between the NCC and local post-secondary institutions and schools.
While the land grant for the preserve was approved unanimously, council did not vote on Teneycke’s request for $250,000 in funding.
Council also found a way to maintain a Christmas tradition. Instead of singing a song together, councillors and staff on the livestream took turns reading passages from "’Twas The Night Before Christmas."
Getting most into the Christmas spirit was Chaboyer, who wore a string of flashing Christmas lights around her neck and used a silver reindeer as a prop during her part of the performance.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark