Temagami back on the chopping block

Groups Enraged over MOE Approval of Logging Plan

(Toronto).  Ontario's Ministry of Environment (MOE) has failed to modify a 10 year logging plan for Temagami, despite numerous concerns raised by four different environmental and recreational groups about the damaging effects of the plan.  Environmental groups from across the province had hoped the MOE would extend an olive branch to the area's forests and ecotourism operators by requiring amendments to the forest management plan.

"The MOE's decision gives carte blanche for the current approach to logging in Temagami, one that prioritizes harvest volume over sustainability," said Mark Kear, Forest Campaigner for Earthroots.  "The Ministry of Environment's decision does nothing to alleviate the tension between conservationists, tourism operators and logging companies, but only exacerbates it."

Alarm has been growing amongst Ontario environmental groups about the erosion of the public's ability to affect forest policy.  Over the past year the Ministry of Natural Resources has made sweeping changes to Ontario's forestry rules in order streamline the planning process.  Such streamlining efforts are increasingly leaving the public out of the loop, making the MOE's oversight role more important than ever before.  
According to Earthroots, the MOE's decision on the Temagami plan is indicative of deep problems at the MOE and with the Environmental Assessment process.  "The trend at the MOE is to approve development regardless of the concerns raised by conservation groups and citizens.  The Ministry is failing to serve its critical oversight role in forest management planning."    

These observations reflect statements made by Ontario's Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, in his 2008 Annual Report.  The Commissioner's Report concluded that, "Ontario's Environmental Assessment process is broken.  Since 1996, more than 95% of individual Environmental Assessments conducted by the MOE have resulted in approvals."  

The MOE's decision to forgo an individual Environmental Assessment of the Temagami plan leaves little recourse to members of the public still concerned about the impacts that logging will have on the community and the forest.  Outstanding issues include the location and size of clearcuts (some 10 times larger than New York City's Central Park), the logging of ancient forests, and the lack of protection of aboriginal canoe routes which have been used in the region for thousands of years.

Temagami is home to half of the world's remaining stands of endangered ancient red and white pine forests, and contains 4,700 kilometers of First Nations canoe routes and trails. "If there is any area of the province where logging deserves the scrutiny of a sober second look from the province, it is Temagami," said Kear.