Earthroots pursues environmental assessment of Temagami Forest Management Plan

On April 2nd Earthroots, after exhausting all other avenues of appeal, called on the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to conduct an environmental assessment (EA) of the Ministry of Natural Resource’s (MNR) 2009-2019 Temagami Forest Management Plan. The MNR, after almost two years of prodding by Earthroots, has refused to revise unrealistic wood-demand forecasts, halt the logging of endangered old-growth pine, respect the sanctity of the Spirit Forest, safeguard the ecological integrity of provincial parks, sufficiently protect trails, portages and viewscapes, commit to road density targets, or even develop a climate change strategy.

Forest management plans in Ontario are exempt from the normal environmental assessment process; however, this exemption comes with conditions attached. Earthroots has made the case to the MOE that the 2009-2019 Temagami Plan fails to honour these conditions, and consequently deserves the second, much closer look, that an EA would entail.  

Earthroots has insisted that the Temagami Plan be submitted to the scrutiny of an EA for a variety of reasons. These include the Planning Team’s refusal to amend demand forecasts, despite a 15-year history of over allocation (the province’s worst record), the absence of adequate protections for certain types First Nations spiritual areas, and the destruction of hiking trails.

Also highlighted in our EA request was the MNR’s reluctance to confront the access control challenges posed by the proliferation of roads in an era ATV-mounted hunters. Roads have always been a concern for their myriad of ecological impacts, but the ATV has made them, more than ever before, an enabler of illegal access and hunting. It is clear that the time to establish strict road-density targets is now. Unfortunately, the MNR has insisted on dragging its feet.

Regardless of the MOE’s decision, Temagami remains under threat from expanding clearcuts, and a harvest policy which preferentially targets endangered old-growth ecosystems. There are 119 clearcuts planned for the next 10 years in Temagami and they range in size up to 3300 hectares (roughly the size of 10 Central Parks). Clearcuts, once the least cost means to liquidate the forest, today serve a much nobler purpose – natural disturbance pattern emulation.  The logic by which the MNR’s policy of natural disturbance pattern emulation justifies the clearcutting of enormous strips of Temagami’s forests is really quite simple: forest fires vary widely in size, therefore, clearcuts (the industrial analog of forest fire) should vary widely in size too. This policy, specious as it may be, has created an ecological basis for the destruction of enormous tracts of roadless, intact wilderness in Temagami, including the Solace Wildlands (see page 2).

The logger, rebranded as natural disturbance emulator, is now being asked to fill a wide variety of ecological functions in Temagami, including the maintenance of a “natural” age-class structure. Fire suppression, the story goes, has made Temagami’s forests too old, and the job of “renewing” them has been outsourced to a logging industry more than willing to turn our oldest forests into paper and 2x4s. Earthroots is working to ensure that it is ecology – not industry – that is the primary force shaping the future of Temagmi’s old growth forests.

A decision is expected from the MOE within weeks. Fortunately, the MOE has placed a moratorium on all operations within the Spirit Forest until an EA decision has been made.

Stay posted for updates on this developing story.