Ontario's resources must be sustained
Re: The Lands for Life process
To the Editor:
Just recently, final recommendations concerning the Lands for Life process were submitted to the Minister of Natural Resources, John Snobelen. The Lands for Life process is one in which a government initiative coordinated by the Ministry of Natural Resources is attempting to decide what to do with 46 million hectares of publicly-owned Crown land located in Northern and Central Ontario. This planning region encompasses almost half of Ontario and includes most of the province's forests, including the vast majority of our remaining old-growth ecosystems.
Over the past several months, round table committees have been visiting locations throughout Ontario to obtain public feedback on how to allocate the Crown land for protected areas, forestry and tourism. The round table's mandate was the commitment "to establish a system of protected natural heritage areas, representing the full spectrum of the province's natural features and ecosystems." (OMNR Nature's Best, Feb. 1997). Unfortunately the round-table committees have not been holding true to their word.
Indications so far show that protected areas have been the focus of the round table's agenda. So far: (a) no new wilderness parks have been established; (b) over half the last remaining old growth red and white pine stands in North America will be logged (only one per cent remained before this recommendation); (c) the Algoma Highlands will be lost; (d) mining will occur in all major watersheds with no protection to key head waters; (e) round table options include logging, mining and hunting in new protected areas and there have been proposals to allow these activities in existing parks as well.
On Aug. 7, the recommendations concerning Lands for Life were presented at an MNR provincial forum. Unfortunately, these recommendations have not been made available to the public due to the political agendas.
Scientific research indicates that at least 15 to 20 per cent of the planning area must be protected in order for natural processes and biodiversity to be maintained. At the moment, only six per cent are protected and from prior indications and this percentage will not increase significantly if the round table recommendations get their way.
The Ontario Government must realize that in order to reap the benefits of natural resources, one must go about it in a sustainable way. Allocating public lands to resource extraction companies will give them an opportunity to log areas with little regard to sustainability. In regards to employment through logging, the rate at which cutting has occurred has increased 24 per cent while the employment rate has decreased by 15 per cent from 1989 to 1994. This is due to increased efficiency in woodcutting through mechanization.
Through scientific research, the Ministry of Natural Resources has found that there must be a reduction in the rate of logging whether or not protected areas are put aside or there will be a crisis in wood supply. An alternative to logging is tourism, with eco-tourism rising fastest in popularity. Through eco-tourism, Ontario can use natural areas in a way that is beneficial to them, while at the same time protecting the natural heritage of this country.
Our voices must be heard! Our leaders need to know our thoughts concerning the Lands for Life process. We have until October to convince the Minister of Natural Resources that unsustainable practices on the lands in question will result in a negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem and residents.