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Public outcry overturns logging plan


Abitibi-Consolidated has shelved plans to log the Reef Point Road-Hopkins Bay Road-Bay Road area for fire and shelter wood--plans which had sparked a public outcry last month.

“We can’t log there without adversely affecting the land values,” local mill manager Jim Gartshore said Monday. “The areas will be declared surplus and not logged.”

Concern over the destruction of a popular cross-country skiing area and increased truck traffic on the roads there prompted the company’s investigation and subsequent decision.

Steve Watson, planning forester for Abitibi’s Woodland Department, said the company had planned to harvest three blocks of fuel wood and two blocks of shelter wood from the area between April 1, 2000 and March 31, 2002.

“A lot of people thought there would be a lot of truck traffic but it would actually only be 50 truckloads--not a big harvest,” he noted.

“We thought a fair amount about our position,” he added. “But the decision’s been made. Unless the residents change their minds, we won’t be harvesting the area.”

“It’s a good example of the public being involved in the how the forests are managed,” noted Gartshore.

Diane Vella, a Rainy Lake area forester for the Ministry of Natural Resources here, noted that once a party is licensed to harvest wood, the company and ministry both must deal with public concerns.

She also explained the process for determining what areas will be harvested as fuel or shelter wood lots.

“The computers tell us what areas are available for harvest, what wood is ready to be harvested,” Vella noted. “Then we look at the area to see if it’s practical. Then we see what fits with the public.”

She also stressed the forest management program now being laid out won’t be implemented until April 1, 2000.

“Right now, we’re planning two years in advance. Built into the process is several opportunities for the public to come in [to the MNR office] and look at the information,” Vella said.

“We’re still in the consultation process,” she added. “Those blocks, regardless of who would harvest them, can’t be harvested until the plan is approved.”

Responding to some of the flak the MNR received from Watten area residents opposed to the proposed logging, Vella was glad to see such interest.

“They want to know what’s happening and that’s good,” she said. “We want discussion to take place before the plan is completed.”

Meanwhile, even though Abitibi has changed its mind over logging that area, both it and the MNR will have representatives at a public meeting slated tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Watten Fire Hall.

“We’re hoping to attend, and talk to residents and cottage owners and have their input into the situation,” said Vella.

“We’re planning to talk about why we made the proposal in the first place,” echoed Watson. “Then we’ll listen to their concerns.”

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