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Co-operation, unity key to survival of agriculture in district

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Recent community “summits,” conferences, and workshops have focused on the economic problems facing Rainy River District—job losses in the forest industry, the impact “mad cow” disease has had on local cattle farmers, border issues affecting area tourism outfitters, and the out-migration of our young people.

All these are important issues, of course. But one which has not received as much attention of late, yet is equally crucial to our future, is the environment—or more specifically, the health of the Rainy River watershed.

Fortunately, the Rainy River Watershed Program has been diligent in trying to keep this issue in the spotlight. A good case in point was its fourth-annual ManOMin conference here last week, during which guest speakers outlined some of the problems and possible solutions.

What all agreed on, though, was the need for immediate action to ensure a healthy river that future generations can use and enjoy.

Renowned angler and outdoors writer Gord Pyzer, a former senior manager with the Ministry of Natural Resources, certainly painted a gloomy future for the watershed, at least in terms of its fish population, unless something is done fast.

Rainy River First Nations Chief Al Hunter, for his part, did propose doing something, arguing last week that all stakeholders must present a unified front against threats to the river’s future health. Part of his plan is to hold a “Summit on Rural Culture” within the year to brainstorm ideas and implement solutions.

Then there’s noted author, adventurer, and paddler Max Finkelstein, the keynote speaker at the ManOMin conference, who advocates adding the Rainy River to the Canadian Heritage River System as a way to help preserve the watershed.

The bottom line is we’ve taken for granted our river—our district’s namesake—for far too long. Clearly, we cannot, and must not, continue to do so.

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