A Personal Message about Conservation

Hi, I'm Doug Collicutt. I've been a wildlife biologist in Manitoba for 30 years. Among other things, I operate NatureNorth.com and I'm the one that put together the SOS website. I've worked with many government biologists and officials over the years, as well as many private agencies and individual land owners. I think I've been around long enough to do some spouting-off about conservation and protecting Manitoba's natural heritage. So, the stuff on this page is from me. It's not "government approved", and I certainly don't intend to be seen as "speaking for the government". It's just me, raising some issues about landowner's rights and privacy as they relate to protecting skinks, one of my favourite little critters, and to the SOS website in general.

Endangered Species on My Land?

Uh oh, there’s an “endangered northern prairie skink” on my land. What now?

As an endangered species in Canada the northern prairie skink is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is not yet listed under Manitoba’s Endangered Species Act, but likely soon will be. You can visit the Species at Risk Act and Manitoba Endangered Species Act websites and read the text of these acts if you like. There's some tough-sounding statements in these acts, but you may notice that just about everything in this legislation is "subject to the discretion of the minister".

Now, there’s “legislation” and then there’s “policy”. No one in Manitoba should worry about “the government taking their land” or “telling them what they can or cannot do with their land” just because an endangered species is found there. It just doesn’t work that way in this province. There aren’t the resources available for an “Endangered Species Police Force” and there certainly isn’t the will. All Manitobans know that conservation is better served by the offer of a “carrot” (cooperation, incentive, compensation) rather than the threat of a “stick” (restrictions, expropriations, legal action).

Then why have endangered species legislation at all? Good question. I guess like all legislation, it’s good to have “the stick” if you really need it. But we all know “the carrot” will get more done. Perhaps the greatest value of endangered species acts is that by listing certain species as endangered it provides greater opportunities to allocate funding to conservation efforts directed at those species. Endangered species become the “squeaky wheels” that get “the grease”. Hopefully, a listing as an endangered species makes it easier for conservation efforts to be enacted. And work to protect one endangered species always revolves around protecting the larger ecosystems that provide habitat for those species.

Helping skinks means protecting areas of our dwindling mixed grass prairie, but it must also involve finding ways to help landowners, farmers and ranchers make a living off lands that make a living for skinks.


Still worried about having an endangered species on your land? Don't worry, be happy! You have the opportunity to help protect a precious piece of our natural heritage. I just hope you'll take that responsibility seriously. Remember, it’s an endangered species. We should be worried about its continued existence in our province, not scared of how it’s presence may affect us.

Privacy and the SOS website

The goal with the SOS website is to help individual Manitobans to protect skinks. To protect the skinks and the rights of private landowners all information collected by this project will be released only to authorized conservation agencies or researchers. Any researchers seeking to follow up on this information and visit sites on private land will contact the landowners to obtain permission to do so.

Landowner information or precise locations of skinks will not be displayed on the SOS website. We hope to develop some broad scale maps displaying general areas where skinks have been sighted, but we think it’s in the best interests of the skinks not to have precise locations posted at this time.

We hope to eventually have some sort of online forum that will allow individuals working towards skink conservation to communicate amongst themselves, but this will likely be done under a password protected directory. Only registered individuals will be granted access to the forum. There will be lots of opportunities on the SOS website for the general public to view information about skinks, but certain information should be kept private.

This project will respect the privacy of individuals contributing information about skinks and respect the rights of private landowners. You have my word on that.

A Personal Plea

I don't have any grandchildren yet, but when I do I'd like to be able to take them out and show them a wild Manitoba prairie skink. I hope that skinks and the rest of Manitoba's wildlife means as much to you as it does to me. I hope to do what I can to help protect Manitoba's natural heritage for the rest of my life, but none of us can do it alone, and we can't rely on our over-stretched and under-funded government Conservation agencies to do it all. You can get involved and you can make a difference. Please do.

Make room for wildlife, your grandchildren will thank you.

Doug Collicutt

Learn More  
Biology Conservation
Biodiversity Biogeography
How to Help  
Sure it's a skink? Report a sighting
Monitoring Helping skinks

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