Audit slams Whiskey Jack Forest management

Media Release

Independent experts verify Grassy Narrows’ concerns

Toronto - The independent audit of logging in the Whiskey Jack Forest 2004-2009 released recently by the provincial government paints a disturbing picture of a forest in decline.  “The audit team found significant issues with management of the Whiskey Jack Forest, both in planning and in on-the-ground implementation of the plan.” [p.ii] The report contains a staggering 21 recommendations to address material “non-conformances to a law and/or policy” and “a significant lack of effectiveness in forest management activities.” [p.2, p.ii]   The report states that “[f]orest sustainability… will not be achieved unless corrective measures are immediately taken.” [p.iii]

On the longstanding dispute between Grassy Narrows First Nation (GNFN) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) the auditors reported that fundamental differences “cannot be resolved without… relinquishing significant authority to the First Nation to manage portions of the Whiskey Jack Forest according to the desires of the GNFN community. The audit team further believes that the forest management planning process did not anticipate, nor was it designed to resolve the type of dispute currently being experienced on the Whiskey Jack Forest.” [p.5]

“This report is further evidence that the MNR is not ensuring that the forest is cared for in the long term interests of the people who depend on it,” said David Sone of Earthroots.  “The report is full of documentation showing that cutting corners and cutting costs have left the Whiskey Jack in a degraded state.  This kind of short term thinking leaves First Nations, workers, wildlife, and our environment shouldering the burden of a forest that has been managed into decline.”

The report notes that AbitibiBowater was chronically underfunding renewal efforts with MNR cooperation.   “In spite of MNR’s own information that indicated problems with the renewal program, MNR approved on two occasions during the audit term the company’s request for reductions in the FRT [Forest Reunual Trust] fund contribution rate for spruce, pine and fir.”  [p.16] Correcting this mismanagement of the program will “come at significant effort and cost” presumably at public expense. [p.16]

Of the 7 Management Units audited in 2009, the Whiskey Jack is one of only two whose audits were not released with action plans to meet the recommendations.


Contact: David Sone, Earthroots:  416-599-0152 x.13

 

All page references are from: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Forests/1ColumnSubPage/STEL02_167055.html

A sample of the shocking findings in the report includes:

Productive lands degraded

- “the company did not conduct a slash management program from 2007 to 2009.  If left untreated, this will effectively remove large areas of productive land from the land base, likely for decades.”  [p.14]

- “there are very obvious areas where trees are not regenerating naturally, due to compaction of soils by equipment. “ [p.32]

- “several harvest blocks were viewed where road rehabilitation should have occurred.  Road rehabilitation can provide a means to effectively return land to the productive land base as well as eliminate unnecessary and disproportionate loss of productive land where excessive road building has occurred.”  [p.16]

Conversion of forest away from natural conditions

- “a steady erosion of a conifer-dominated forest condition to one with significantly more mixed woods at reduced stocking can be expected with the continuance of this silviculture program.” [p.16]

- “little analysis and discussion regarding the historic forest condition and related management implications was presented in the FMP and the available information was not incorporated into the selected management alternative.” [p,12]

- the silviculture “program is inconsistent with the forest projected by the selected management alternative and is leading the forest even further away from the natural forest condition.” [p.ii]

- “the Natural Benchmark (NB) was again not a reflection of the natural forest as described in the Contingency Plan.” p12]

Degradation of wildlife habitat

- “In several cases, moose shelter patches had been harvested and had not been left as required.“ [P13]

- “The resulting forest stands will have a greater hardwood component and lower conifer stocking than projected.  This has implications for the achievement of wildlife habitat management objectives for species that rely on the development of conifer dominated cover types.” [p.ii]

Regeneration failures due to cost cutting

- “areas seeded to jack pine were generally not successful. “ [p.6]

- “Many areas that were seeded were not well stocked and will require fill plant/re-seeding to meet plan.” [p.14]

- “it appears that reducing silviculture costs, rather than adjusting operations according to actual field conditions, was the main reason for changing from preferred to alternate prescriptions in many cases.” [p.16]

- “The cycle of silviculture cost reduction started with selecting less intensive/costly options to implement in the field, building a surplus in the Forest Renewal Trust Fund (FRTF) and then using the surplus as evidence in the request to reduce contribution rates during the term.” [p16]

-“In spite of MNR’s own information that indicated problems with the renewal program, MNR approved on two occasions during the audit term the company’s request for reductions in the FRT [Forest Renewal Trust] fund contribution rate for spruce, pine and fir.” [p.16]

Eradication of some tree species

- “It was noted that there was no plan objective/target to maintain on the Forest (other than red and white pine) the presence of less common tree species such as white spruce or black ash.”

- “It was also observed that few white spruce, red pine or white pine were planted during the term.  The plan target to enhance red and white pine on the Forest will not be met unless treatments include these species on appropriate sites.” [p14]

Other management issues

- “Water crossing installations that were performed in winter were found to be inadequate or failing.  Erosion of winter road surfaces and unstable slopes were found at several water crossings.” [p.16, 17]

- “According to the 2009-2012 CP there had not been any significant changes to the land base since the

2004-2024 FMP was developed.  However, as early as 2006 forest managers knew that 87,000 ha

(12.5% of the Whiskey Jack Productive Forest) was infested with jack pine budworm.” [p.10]