If a tree falls on Harris...
By Medija Muslimi
While visiting Burlington's Bronte Creek Provincial Park in February this year, Ontario Premier Mike Harris announced the creation of 27 new provincial parks and protected areas.
Now, the government has introduced the "Provincial Government Land for Life A Commitment to the Future" program aimed at further protecting Ontario's natural resources and ensuring a legacy of wilderness in the province.
The program announced Sept. 12, which is still in its preliminary phase, has two main thrusts. The first will regulate the existing land particularly in the north of the province, said Brian Huis from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Included in the program is the ecological use of unplanned lands, designation of new parks, as well as the allocation of resources for mining, recreation, tourism and others, Huis explained.
The second aspect of the program deals with the already existing parks and protected areas. Huis said the Ministry and some of its partners are examining the conditions of the land, especially in the south of the province where most land is privately owned.
Huis said in other cases the province will look at other options, like putting the land under the supervision of non-governmental agencies or directly under provincial supervision.
The Ministry also wants to regulate issues surrounding land ownership in the province, said Rob Savage, spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Toronto.
Savage said Ontario has needed an initiative like this for a long time, adding the previous government was criticized by the World Wildlife Fund for the poor conditions of the Ontario parks.
After the new plans were reviewed in the regular report card published by the WWF Canada for each province, the plan got major support, he said.
"It is our goal not only to protect the parks, but also to help the remote tourism industry as well," Savage said.
The Ministry has created special bank accounts for the provincial parks, in which all revenue raised from the tourism activity in the parks will be spent on their respective maintenance and benefit, he added.