Members of the local chapter of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters are worried designating land in Northwestern Ontario as parks will directly affect those people who fish and hunt in this area.
“The government was getting flak on how they were managing their resources so they set up 'Lands for Life,' which is going to decide how we manage Crown resources for the next 20 years,” said Shawn O'Donnell, president of the Fort Frances Sportsmen's Club.
“The decision is going to affect forestry, tourism, anglers, and hunters," he added. ”[But] many people don't think of all the money [anglers and hunters] kick in.
“From a recreational standpoint, local users live here in Northwestern Ontario because they don't want to live in a city, and they like the opportunity to be able to hunt and fish,” he continued.
Rick Socholotuk, also a member of the local sportsmen's club and OFAH, complained vehemently that “environmental groups” want to designate Northwestern Ontario solely as park land.
That, he said, is a prime example of a “whole pile of people [in southern Ontario] who don't have a clue as to what's going on” in Northwestern Ontario.
“They have no idea how vast of an area we live in," he argued. "[And] that's what 'Lands for Life' was set out to be—a balance.”
Henry Miller, also a member of both clubs, agreed, saying “the government wants a vast change here but they don't understand the country we live in.”
He said he also has heard the rumour that environmental groups have approached “Lands for Life” about designating large tracts of lands for parks.
“Lands for Life” is a planning process established by the provincial government last June with the intention of bringing together people from a wide range of groups, including environmentalists, tourist operators, aboriginals, recreational users, the forest industry, and resource-based industries in three different regions—Boreal West, Boreal East, and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence.
Boreal West stretches from south of Algonquin Park to about the 51st parallel and west to the Manitoba border.
In total, Crown lands encompass 46 million hectares, or 94 percent, of Northwestern Ontario.
“Lands for Life” was designed to help the government resolve conflicts between forest product companies and those that want to sustain the land for recreational and environmental uses.
But O'Donnell warned recreational users may get the “short end of the stick” when the three round-table committees present their reports to the minister of natural resources by the June 30 deadline.
The original deadline was set for next month but has since been extended due to the substantial interest and input derived from the complexity of the process.
The public was invited to voice its concerns at 14 different meetings in communities across Northwestern Ontario—including Fort Frances back on Sept. 11.
More than 600 people have attended the meetings, with more than 200 presentations being made.