MHC was established in 1986 as a provincial Crown Corporation by the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Act. MHC underwent a significant transformation on February 1, 2021 when it moved out of government to become a private, charitable organization (CRA charitable registration #126479468 RR 0001).
While the organization has evolved over the decades, its charitable purpose – conservation, restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat – has remained the same.
1986 – 1990 IN THE BEGINNING
MHC was initially created to act primarily as a funding source, directing funds provided by the Province and others into worthwhile fish and wildlife habitat initiatives. This evolved and in 1989, MHC became a founding member and major partner in the Critical Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP). The program was established to conserve unique and threatened habitats such as tall grass prairie, burrowing owl habitat, garter snake denning sites and locations of endangered plant species.
AMERICAN WATERFOWL MANAGEMENT PLAN
In 1990, the Manitoba Minister of Natural Resources designated MHC as the agency responsible for coordinating the delivery of NAWMP in Manitoba. As a result, MHC took on a new dimension. Field offices were established and staffed to better serve the needs of landowners in southwestern Manitoba. Funding provided through waterfowl programming gave MHC a long-term opportunity to encourage a positive change in land use practices in and around prairie wetlands.
1992 – 2006
In 1992, MHC was selected to be the delivery agency for the agro-forestry component of the Canada-Manitoba Partnership Agreement in Forestry. The Woodlot program represented an additional conservation tool for landowners seeking technical assistance and incentives to manage their woodlands sustainably. In 2006, responsibility for this program was transferred to Manitoba Agriculture.
In 1995, MHC began targeting riparian area management with the launch of its Green Banks program. This program focused on the conservation of stream-bank and lakeshore habitats that provide valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as contribute to clean stream water and better fish habitat. The Green Banks program was used to provide funding for land use practices that conserve habitat, maintain clean water and provide sustainable income opportunities for landowners.
From that beginning, MHC’s efforts have been expanded to include an outreach and extension programs called Managing the Waters Edge, and later, the Green Banks: Clear Waters Program.
The passage of the Conservation Agreements Act in 1998 provided MHC with a tool that has now become MHC’s primary way to conserve wildlife habitat on private land. A Conservation Agreement (CA) is essentially an easement through which landowners are compensated for preserving habitat on their land. Typically no change in management of the land is required but rather, the conservation agreement serves to enshrine that land’s current use for future generations. Although MHC only works in Manitoba, nationally, it is among the top three organizations in Canada in terms of the number of conservation agreements under its responsibility.
2008 WETLAND RESTORATION
Since 2008, MHC has been working with landowners to restore previously drained wetlands throughout Manitoba. Variously funded through mitigation, climate change, waterfowl and water quality programming, MHC continues to offer wetland restoration opportunities to all Manitobans. Restoration contracts are offered under 10-year term agreements or in association with conservation agreements that conserve the newly restored habitat in perpetuity.
Conservation, GROW and Wetlands GROW Trusts
MHC administers annual revenues from a historic $204 million Provincial endowment to create the Conservation, GROW, and Wetlands GROW Trusts. Trust revenues support many small-scale projects across the landscape that take a nature-based approach to climate change. These projects, selected through annual calls for proposals, increase resilience to the extremes of flooding and drought, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, biological diversity, and carbon sequestration and improve soil health.
Originally envisioned in the 2017 Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, Manitoba’s conservation endowments with The Winnipeg Foundation will generate annual revenues for conservation projects in perpetuity.
Transition out of Government
In its 2020/21 Manitoba Budget, the province announced its intention to have MHC transition from a provincial Crown Corporation to a private, charitable organization by the end of that fiscal year. The Manitoba Legislature repealed the Manitoba Habitat Heritage and passed the MHC Reorganization Act in November, 2020. This allowed for MHC’s seamless transition to a private, charitable organization registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The transition was official on February 1, 2021.
With a robust conservation delivery capacity and a well-funded, sustainable conservation granting program, MHC is well positioned to take advantage of new opportunities that come with its new charitable organization status.