The Boreal West Round Table discussion group meeting that I attended in Fort Frances on Sept. 11 prompted me to write this letter.
The session heard presentations from several interest groups concerned with the MNR’s new direction in forest management. The positions of each of the four main interest groups, brought forward by their concerned and well-meaning representatives, were essentially as follows:
1. More access to more wood in return for more dollars pumped into the economy was the position of the wood buyers; no doubt very important to all of us as in one way or another we rely heavily on this resource-based industry;
2. Tourism pointed out that its contribution to the local economy is significant, and that its survival as a second major industry here in the north also depends on wise and considerate resource management;
3. Anglers and hunters would like to see the roads created for logging left intact for their use to permit greater access to the lakes and rivers; and
4. Proponents of more land for public use wanted to see additional land set aside for provincial parks or for conservation reserves, which could incorporate the interests of the tourism industry as well.
All spokespersons presented the interests of their groups convincingly. However, I felt that the broader issue of the sustainability of the environment, upon which most of these interest groups depend, was not being addressed. If we are divided in our efforts to preserve the sensitive ecosystems which surround our thousands of lakes and watersheds in Northwestern Ontario, then all stand to lose.
The MNR’s new land deposition policy will see the responsibility for forest management planning transferred to the forest industry. While I do not take issue with sustainable logging practices and acknowledge the critical value of this industry, there is danger that an economically weighted focus will compromise ecological sustainability.
The Crown Forest Sustainability Act establishes guidelines for forest management, with provisions which prohibit cutting of forests rights to the shoreline of some lakes and rivers. However, because the protective policies are site specific, hundreds of lakes in the boreal region stand to slip through the cracks.
Yes, our forests are a “renewable resource”—but although the forest industry will be required to replant the cut-over areas, the plantation of same species tress can never replace the complex biosystems that presently border our lakes and river and sustain a diverse wildlife population. Once this delicate environment has been destroyed, it will be impossible to reconstruct this ecosystem in fibre farms.
It is therefore essential that these areas be exempt from timber harvest within proposed management units.
While the creation of national and provincial parks will guarantee a natural heritage for future generation, let us not neglect to wisely manage the park that is our boreal forest. There is too much at stake for only a few interest groups to be heard. It is imperative that concerned individuals express their views while the government still appears to be lending an ear via its “Lands for Life” consultation process.
Write or call your local MPP and the minister of natural resources now. Insist that the unique environment around our lakes and rivers be protected by mandatory shelter belts.
Send a copy of your comments and concerns to: Chair, Boreal West Round Table, Suite 221, 435 James St. S. Thunder Bay, Ont., P7E 6S8. Or phone 1-807-475-1251, Fax: 1-807-473-3023, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org