Right in the centre - Swatting flies with a sledge hammer


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

My first encounter with a government edict to eradicate something was in 1971 in my first year as an Ag-rep with the Manitoba Department of Agriculture (MDA). The enemy to be eradicated in 1971 was an old one, Leafy Spurge. I say an old one because, Leafy Spurge was introduced to Canada in the early 1800s coming into the country as a contaminant in imported seed. 

During the late 1960s and onward,  the MDA intensified their set up of local weed control boards and many still function today. The intent of the boards was to oversee the control of noxious weeds in Manitoba. The control methods included the use of herbicides, selective grazing and mowing. Most municipalities implemented road side spraying programs which, thankfully, has been replaced by roadside mowing. Nothing was much uglier that sprayed weeds, brush and even trees along the various roads.

In spite of well intentioned efforts, controlling Leafy Spurge may have had some success, but eradication is impossible. Leafy Spurge  is readily seen on a drive by basis across all of Manitoba. Efforts may have controlled it, but it certainly hasn’t been eradicated.

Fast forward to 2023-24 and the federal government has become very excited about Zebra Mussels in Manitoba waterways.  Clear Lake has been the object of the government’s latest mussel attention. One report says there are no Zebra Mussels in Clear Lake, another report says a “clump was found”. Zebra Mussels have been in Minnesota Lakes for 30 years raising concerns about effects on sport fishing.

Here’s what is said about the problem in Minnesota. “Zebra mussels encrust equipment, such as boat motors and hulls, which reduces performance and efficiency and is costly to clean and repair. Swimmers and pets can cut their feet on zebra mussels attached to rocks, docks, swim rafts and ladders.”

Various studies over the past 30 years show that in many cases, the walleye adapt and thrive, in some cases the fish don’t grow as fast. 

In Manitoba, the mussels can cause clogging of inlets at Hydro dams and can be very costly to clean out. Zebra mussels can be a food source to some fish apparenty as well.

My research has been far from extensive but eradicating Zebra Mussels isn’t possible and controlling the spread is very difficult. Sources say they number in the hundreds of trillions in the Great Lakes.

Mussels attach themselves to boats and that is one way they spread from lake to lake. My problem is that the federal government has taken a strange approach to Zebra Mussels in Clear Lake. They won’t let boats come into the lake except for Parks Canada boats. Two other boats are exempted but they never leave the lake anyway as far as i can see.

Some of the exclusions in the ban seem silly. Canoes, wake boards and paddle boards are banned. That means, so far, that even businesses won’t be able to rent out pedal or paddle boats etc . It makes no sense. These crafts could be cleaned off and if they never leave Clear Lake, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Parks Canada has a history of swatting flies with a sledge hammer and this ban is another example. Back in the day when Parks Canada did everything it could to destroy the Mount Agassis Ski Hill, they succeeded in doing so by making up rules that made no sense. They claimed that having skiers on Mount Agassiz was going to harm the environment somehow. Just down the road though, the old Kippen’s Mill historical site has been allowed to rot into the ground. The last time I was there a few years ago, the signage was bad and the old mill pond safety fence to keep out both animals and people was so broken down there was no safety at all. 

Parks Canada won’t allow selective logging in the park but they do conduct selective controlled burning. Trouble is, those controlled burns don’t always stay controlled and even if they do, thousands of small animals, birds and insects are destroyed in the fires. Instead of logging some of the very old or dead trees, they let the wind blow them down. I personally was at a family picnic at Clear Lake when a wind came up and several of the older trees came crashing down right beside us.

Many of the rules at Parks Canada are designed to spoil fun and destroy business, all the while pretending to be environmentally friendly. It seems that Parks Canada’s policies have been set up to keep the parks people free. If that is the case, then why don’t they just shut the parks down and save a lot of money?