It came down to dollars and cents as industry reps tried to stake claims on Crown land when the Boreal West Round Table held a public meeting at the Legion Hall here last Thursday.
A dozen speakers, representing the forestry and tourism industries, as well as anglers, hunters and conservationists, addressed a standing-room only crowd on what Crown land should be used for in the future—and what they didn’t want the provincial government to do with it.
The big concern was that the province will delegate more “park” area, and take away productive land. And that has those in the forestry business afraid it may impact their harvest.
Steven Briggs, log yard co-ordinator at Voyageur Panel in Barwick, said the OSB mill would have a $7.7 million payroll in 1998. But to keep up production, it needs an annual wood supply of 551,000 cu. m.
And Bob Cox, woodlands manager with Abitibi-Consolidated here, noted the Fort Frances mill required 1.4 million cu. m annually to run.
Dale Kaemingh, of Manitou Lumber west of Emo, said with their harvest operations, they contribute more than $1 million in payroll to the local economy.
He also noted they contributed $10,000 in donations, with the province getting more than $300,000 in stumpage fees.
But already they’ve lost 30 percent of their red and white pine harvest, and Kaemingh stressed the sawmill can’t afford to lose any more land to parks.
“We’ve accepted what our volumes are going to be of the red and white pines," he said. "We’ve accepted it and moved on. We’ve looked at other ways of providing, which is going to alternate species.”
Meanwhile, Dee VanDrunen brought the impact of the forestry industry home as she recalled her life as a single-parent before being hired at Voyageur Panel, and earning enough to support her family.
While they agreed establishing parks wasn’t the answer, both Chuck Mosbeck and Larry Adams stressed land also had to be set aside for the tourism operators.
“Access is our greatest problem,” Mosbeck told the panel.
Remote tourist camp operators are issued a maximum bed capacity based on what they’re told the lake will sustain.
"Now when you have access opened up to the lake, and let’s say 25 more people go into the lake a week—or even five—it’s over the capacity of what they figure is sustainable on that lake.
“And they’re not doing anything about it,” charged Adams.
Mosbeck noted he no longer owns outpost camps in the Fort Frances district because of the access problems, noting he’s moved further north.
There is an opportunity to rehabilitate these lakes, he added, but it would take a certain amount of changes in the fisheries regulations.
Most agreed the process pitted the industries against each other. Pat Sayeau, acting chairman of the Round Table, noted many presenters were looking for security but the perception was they weren’t willing to grant it to others.
That became clear when Dale Callaghan, a Thunder Bay resident who owns a cottage on Rainy Lake, wanted assurances no other expansion would be permitted to disturb the privacy of the lake.
“I think each industry’s scared of each other because none of them want to have one get more that the other,” Adams explained.
“Right now it does [pit industries against each other]," agreed Kaemingh. "Hopefully it won’t but you can see it right now. You can see the panel has already taken sides.”
And it was the comments of some panelists (member Paul Jewiss outlined before the speakers started that the panel was to ask questions only if it required further clarification on the information presented) that spurred some to question the fairness of the process.
Some felt speakers were “attacked” while they were at the microphone. Panelist Bruce Peterson questioned Kaemingh on whether southern Ontario ideas shouldn’t be part of the process since the province belonged to everyone.
Kaemingh agreed but argued he didn’t feel people in southern Ontario should be making decisions that didn’t affect them.
And after hearing VanDrunen praise the local forestry industry, panelist Bruce Hyer asked her if she felt the local employment opportunity base shouldn’t be more diversified so her children would have more of a choice.
That issue came up again when Peterson questioned Fred Brown, a local logging contractor, on how the industry could be diversified so people didn’t have to rely on natural resources.
Brown threw the question back at Peterson, asking him how local communities could attract other industries.
Hyer also asked Cox if he could produce a history of the harvest, as well as employee figures to coincide with that. And Sayeau wanted Mosbeck to tell how serious the outcry would be from local anglers and hunters if access roads were restricted.
Despite their own views, Sayeau was confident the Round Table would be able to come up with recommendations that reflect the consensus of the group. And he stressed it was working together very well.
“Everybody brings their own expertise and their own background to this process. That’s why they were appointed," he explained. ”But they also bring with them the scars, if I can put it, from many battles when they’ve been involved in attempting to find the conflict solutions.
“And that’s why they’re here.”
Sayeau also felt they were going about it the right way, getting public input even before the Round Table started formulating its recommendations.
Public meetings are slated to end next month, with the group to make its final recommendations to Northern Development and Mines/Natural Resources minister Chris Hodgson by the beginning of April.