Fight for your right to harvest timber

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Renfrew County officials are expressing continued concern over the province’s decision to extend the amount of land unavailable for forestry by almost 100,000 hectares.


The amendment to the Algonquin Provincial Park Management Plan was presented to the county’s development and property committee at its morning meeting this week by forestry services manager Jeff Muzzi, along with a copy of a letter drafted to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti from the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA).

“Committee will recall that the county responded to the posting of this proposal in 2012,” Muzzi reminded the committee members, “stating the position that any reduction in the availability for harvest land in the park has a negative effect on the forest economy of Renfrew County.”

For Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, the announcement smacks of the same preferential treatment that he has seen southern Ontario given by the government stretching back to when he was warden of the county.

“When I was in the warden’s shoes a number of years ago,” he said, “we had meetings right here in this chamber going over (the issue of the logging footprint in the park) and I was told very bluntly by the parks group that I had to understand that the people in southern Ontario needed to have a place to (go for recreation), and they had decided that was Algonquin Park and just to suck it up. I tried to express that they were damaging a huge industry here for a 10-day vacation for someone to come up and play.”

Sweet went on to report that he understood it to be an infinitesimal minority of park visitors that had any complaints at all about logging interfering with their recreational park experience.

“(There were only) 10 complaints out of a million visitors that were related to logging,” he told committee. “Logging is beneficial to the park; it’s not detrimental to the park. It’s sad that we see this reduction of the footprint to satisfy a number of things when there’s really no problem. Really there isn’t a situation there that you could put your finger on. Ten out of one million, and they’re still going ahead and doing this. It’s a sad situation.”

Current Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon told committee that his preferred response would be to voice their concerns directly to the powers that be.

“What I’d like to do is send a letter expressing our disappointment with the whole process,” he said. “Going through the information I had in the past, it didn’t look like this was going forward so this came right out of the blue. Two things need to be addressed: that it’s out of the blue, and then the second thing is the impact, the loss of jobs, the loss of inventory.”

Part of Emon’s wish is to try to highlight some of the underappreciated benefits that responsible, sustainable logging brings to a place like Algonquin Park.

“Also,” he continued, “I think one of the beneficial side effects of logging is that it opens up the area in the event that there’s a forest fire. If they don’t log it’s going to be too dense and there are going to be other issues around that. You can’t access it. Those logging roads are also used by people who are using the park for recreation. So if we could just highlight those things again and then just keep hammering away at it. I’m not sure there’s going to be any quick change to this.”

According to the OFIA letter, the province is either misinformed or wilfully ignorant of the level of impact that this reduction will have on the forestry industry.

“When MNR suggests that harvest levels under this amendment will be maintained at historical levels,” the letter reads, “they are using harvest levels from the recent recession years. Considering Ontario’s forest sector is already beginning to see signs of a positive rebound (new investment, etc) it is hard to believe that the Government of Ontario would support policy that limits the economic future of a region to recession harvest levels.”

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski sees still darker clouds on the horizon.

In a recent column in The Daily Observer, Yakabuski prognosticated, “now that the environmental lobbyists have succeeded in having the available area reduced, they will aim for their ultimate goal. Make no mistake folks, that goal is an outright, total ban on logging in Algonquin Park. Should they ever achieve this, it would spell disaster for our environmentally sustainable way of life here in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.”

Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

Twitter @PRyanPaulsen