Government Proposes Sweeping Changes to Forestry Rules

Toronto - Today, an alliance of environmental organizations rang the alarm about a series of dramatic changes the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) plans to make to the regulation of Ontario's forests. The alliance says that many of the 146 proposed changes will undermine the transparency and public oversight of forest management planning, while others threaten the sustainability of the forest.

Proposed revisions to the Forest Management Planning Manual, one of the Ontario's most important forest regulatory documents, will affect all aspects of forest management in the province for years to come. The revisions give insufficient direction on climate change, provide an inadequate definition of sustainability, and expedite the use of the forest for fuel without addressing the full range of environmental impacts. In addition, the new guidelines will reduce public participation, and the transparency of decision making.

Toronto - Today, an alliance of environmental organizations rang the alarm about a series of dramatic changes the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) plans to make to the regulation of Ontario's forests. The alliance says that many of the 146 proposed changes will undermine the transparency and public oversight of forest management planning, while others threaten the sustainability of the forest.

Proposed revisions to the Forest Management Planning Manual, one of the Ontario's most important forest regulatory documents, will affect all aspects of forest management in the province for years to come. The revisions give insufficient direction on climate change, provide an inadequate definition of sustainability, and expedite the use of the forest for fuel without addressing the full range of environmental impacts. In addition, the new guidelines will reduce public participation, and the transparency of decision making.

"The changes are widespread, from reducing the amount of time for important public input to determining management objectives to decreasing the amount of documents that used to be available for pubic review," says Lynn Palmer of Ontario Nature.  "It will become more difficult for the public to engage in the process and to find the information they need to participate in a meaningful way," Palmer adds.

Some of the concerns are fundamental. As former Dean of the Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment at Lakehead University, Dr. David Euler explains, "the manual uses a circular definition of sustainability that does little to guide planning. If the targets set by the planning team are achieved, then it is assumed the plan is sustainable. There is no verification of whether or not the set targets are themselves sustainable."

The groups argue that climate change is not sufficiently addressed in the manual.

"Aside from a small note there is no reference to climate change within the guide," explains Brennain Lloyd, of Northwatch.  "We need to see stronger direction from the Province on climate change; there needs to be direction to aid species adaptation and to reduce the release of carbon as a result of forestry operations, but the manual provides no guidance for forest managers."

"The Province seeks increased biofibre production in every region, but we see little within this manual to guide how that harvest of biofuels should move forward," says Trevor Hesselink of CPAWS Wildlands League.  "Without strong direction, our public forests could be mined of their nutrients, compromising future forest renewal."

For Earthroots Forest Campaigner, Carly Armstrong, "it is essential that we do not underestimate the damage these changes will do to the public's ability to influence forest development. Ontarians need to speak out and urge the Province to rethink many of these proposed changes while they still can."

Members of this Alliance include: Earthroots, Northwatch, Ontario Nature and Wildlands League.

For more information please contact Carly Armstrong, Earthroots Forest Campaigner This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To read background information about this issue on the Environmental Bill of Rights, please click here.