It is hard to believe but orchids are in the news again. Last year it was the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. A farmer in Southeastern Manitoba was charged with an offence because he was allegedly harming this rare orchid that is on the Endangered Species List. He said he was not aware of that. He had bought land from the Rural Municipality of Stuartburn and these orchids were found on it and he was farming the land. I could not comment on this case because our firm was involved in it.
Recently, I heard a Brandon member of Native Orchid Conservation Inc. (‘NOCI’) of which I am a member, interviewed on CBC radio on account of NOCI’s concern about a residential development in the city of Brandon. Apparently a private development firm owns land in Brandon on which Northern Small White Lady’s-slippers (Cypripedium candidum) are found. These flowers are considered threatened on the Endangered Species List. In fact this may seem strange but this location is considered the third best location for these orchids in Manitoba and it is right inside the city!
The developers hired a slick professional who made a strong case that the developers and owners acknowledged they had a legal responsibility to protect the orchids under Federal legislation and had no intention of shirking that responsibility. He kept repeating that they understood their “fiduciary duties.” Such an acknowledgement was bound to please environmentalists and politicians. That was a smart approach. He clearly painted a picture of the developers as good guys who would do their duty diligently. He suggested the owners would carve out a parcel of the land being developed and protect it, though he was vague about how that would be done. As so often happens in such cases, the devil is in the details.
NOCI is sceptical that it is possible to carve off a part of the land. Orchids belong in their habitat. That is exactly why the name of the Manitoba Endangered Species Act was changed to the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act. It is not possible to sever orchids from their habitat and protect them. The habit must be protected to protect the orchids.
According to a hydrologist I know, the protection of drainage is critically important for orchids. You take away the water flow and you kill the orchids. How could the developers avoid that? We don’t know how. This could get interesting.
I was not able to drive to Brandon to look at the site due to my manservant responsibilities so I visited Kleefeld where I know the Small White Lady’s-slippers can be also be found in ditch near town.
I wanted to show my faithful readers what these flowers look like.
They were difficult to see in the grass of the ditch even though they are such a brilliant white colour. No doubt that is what saves these flowers from people wanting to fill their homes briefly with beauty at the expense of removing them from nature where we can see them year after year. I made sure I did not groom the area around the flowers were to make them more presentable, as I figured that might also attract people who want to pick them for their mothers or wives.
I thought people should see what all the fuss is about.