Northern forests at risk

By Moira Welsh
Environment Reporter


The old-growth forests of northern Ontario's Temagami region may fall victim to widespread clear-cutting if an Ontario government plan passes unchecked, say outraged environmental and tourism groups.

A draft forestry management plan for the next decade, released yesterday by the Ministry of Natural Resources, could also reduce the buffer zone around canoe routes and historical portage trails that make Temagami a sought-after destination, two environmental groups said.

"It would devastate the area in terms of recreation potential for at least the next 50 years," said Robert Olajos, spokesperson for Friends of Temagami and a local resident.

Especially at risk are old-growth forests – of white and red pine – that surround native spiritual sites, areas generally left untouched by forestry companies, says Mike McIntosh, spokesperson for Toronto-based Earthroots, an organization focused on the protection of Ontario wilderness and wildlife.

McIntosh said ministry documents show they are considering a massive increase in clear-cutting of old forests – up to 3,000 hectares in some places. Government guidelines have limited the majority of the cuts to 260 hectares. "These are bigger than the past plans and that is what has got so many residents upset," said McIntosh.

The Temagami region lies between New Liskeard and North Bay and is home to old stands of red and white pine, along with winding canoe routes, native spiritual sites and an ancient portage trail. While logging is a large industry in Northern Ontario, tourism also plays a significant role in the Temagami regional economy.

At issue is a document called the draft Forest Management Plan, published by the Ministry of Natural Resources. It sets out ministry guidelines for forestry companies for the years 2009 to 2019, essentially mapping the future of the region from a logging perspective.

McIntosh and Olajos said they know the intimate details of the plan because they sit on the local citizens' committee that oversees ministry proposals and gives input on the plan's direction.

Both men said the committee voted 6 to 4 against supporting the detailed draft plan they were shown this summer, because members could not agree with ministry plans. The specific issues they highlighted were not found in the ministry's 30-page draft summary released yesterday.

Among their concerns:

A reduction in the logging buffer zone around designated heritage trails – the old portage routes – to 30 metres on each side, down from 120 metres on each side. A similar buffer zone is being suggested for some canoe routes, Olajos said.

Clear-cutting close to Spirit Rock, a native cultural site. (Olajos noted that clear-cutting in Temagami, however devastating, is done in a way that it does not leave huge barren tracts of land because some stands of trees are left behind.)

Logging beside approved cross-country ski and hiking trails.

"This is an assault on recreation, tourism and the environment," Olajos said. "I have sat on this committee for 10 years now. We feel betrayed. We feel like all we are getting is government spin."

Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield downplayed the concerns, saying the plan is still in the draft stages, with 60 days for consultations, during which the government will listen to all groups with an interest.

"There are a lot of people who speak to these forest management plans, they take a lot of time to put in place and they are very carefully thought out today," Cansfield said.

"I say to them as I say to everyone, it is really your opportunity as a public to put your concerns forward and it is our responsibility as a government to look at those and see how they deal with the management plan."


To view the article on The Star's website please click here:

To review the summary of the draft forest management plan, please click here:

icon Temagami Draft Forest Management Plan (3.69 MB) 

Reprinted from Toronto Star, in the "Environment" section.

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