People passionate about nature

Letter to MB Hydro re: Birtle Transmission Project

Our concerns for this highly endangered ecosystem

13 January 2017

Manitoba Hydro Licensing and Environmental Assessment

820 Taylor Avenue

Winnipeg MB R3M 3T1


Birtle Transmission Project


Nature Manitoba would like to express our grave concerns about some of the potential routes shown for the Birtle Transmission Project in Manitoba Hydro’s public documents posted at, particularly as portrayed in the document: btp_consult_round_1_newsletter.mb_esize.pdf. The routes that cross open grassland if enacted, could cause extreme damage to the delicate ecology of this species-rich area.

The Spy Hill-Ellice Community Pasture is the largest, un-fragmented grassland in western Manitoba and thus has high ecological values, particularly for several grassland birds listed both provincially and federally as species at risk.

It is also our understanding that the Manitoba Important Bird Area (IBA) Steering Committee (Nature MB, Bird Studies Canada (BSC) being the leads) intends to submit a proposal in the near future to have these pastures designated IBA status due to these concentrations of threatened grassland birds. This will be submitted by the Manitoba IBA Steering Committee to the IBA Canada Technical Committee, which consists of staff from BSC and Nature Canada.

There are also other COSEWIC species here - Baird's Sparrow and Bobolink for certain. Under the IBA Canada Technical regulations there are several criteria for designating IBAs. In simple terms in Canada we designate IBAs based on the following:

            -Global Importance - this is either an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red-listed Species or congregations of a species meeting 1% of the global population
            -Continental Importance - this is either an IUCN Near-Threatened Species or congregations of a species meeting 1% of the North American population
            -National Importance - this is 1% of the population of a COSEWIC species

Full technical info is available at

In relation to Ellice-Archie and Spy Hill, Dr. Christian Artuso and staff from Manitoba Sustainable Development’s Wildlife and Fisheries Branch surveyed these sites in 2015 and 2016. In total they recorded:

Sprague’s Pipit – 96 individuals in 2015; 67 in 2016. The threshold laid out by the IBA Canada Technical Committee for an IUCN vulnerable species is 30 individuals. These pastures therefore support globally important concentrations of this species.

Chestnut-Collared Longspur – 239 individuals in 2015; 189 in 2016. The threshold laid out by the IBA Canada Technical Committee for an IUCN near-threatened species is 90 individuals. These pastures therefore support concentrations of this species which are considered to be of continental importance.

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the review of this project proposal and we look forward to a response to our concerns, as well as being kept informed as to the progress of the proposal. If Manitoba Hydro would like clarification of any of the issues raised above and/or any further information on the bird species mentioned above, our members, including professional and dedicated amateur birders, would be glad to assist. Do not hesitate to call or email us.


Yours truly,


Jack Dubois


President, Nature Manitoba


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