Coun. Douglas Judson publicly responded to Rainy River First Nations' (RRFN) concerns over the town's position about access to wood fibre during Monday evening's council meeting here.
“They suggest this could pose a threat to jobs at some of the existing businesses in the region or the viability of those businesses,” he explained.
“I think it's important to be clear that their interest in the forest is long-standing and should be respected and certainly I welcome their comments and participation in this process,” added Coun. Judson, a mill working group member.
However, there were some areas of concern he'd like identified.
“First, we know and we've all been consistent that the forest in the region supported more mills in the past than exist now and there are numbers tell us that it could do so in the future,” Coun. Judson noted.
"Second, I don't think that anyone expects the province to take action which will jeopardize an existing business. That would be bad policy and very bad politics on their part.
“But what we do expect the province to do is to make sure that when our forest transitions to the new Enhanced Sustainable Forest License (ESFL) framework, there remains a clear and fair pathway for a new entrant to secure access to wood,” he added.
Coun. Judson said the ESFL model needs to include a mechanism for a wider wood basket outside of the Crossroute Forest to factor into that analysis and be allocated accordingly in order to allow a business to succeed.
“I do continue to be troubled by statements by the MNRF that the transition to the ESFL is contingent on Resolute's voluntary consent to do so,” he remarked.
“The forest is publicly-owned, it is not owned by a private corporation. And certainly when I view our recent experience on this file, I think the community is right to be concerned about a circumstance where we are farming out public rights over publicly-owned natural resources to a private corporation as a gateway to what is suppose to be a pubic interest license and process for the forest,” Coun. Judson charged.
“I don't think the people of Ontario should have to lend that veto to an industry that really exists by the grace of access to publicly-owned resources.”
The mill working group will continue to speak out about this issue, Coun. Judson noted.