In 1999, after 22 months of round tables and public discussion, the Ontario government announced Ontario’s Living Legacy (OLL) - a land use plan for the provinces’ industrial Crown forest (known in forestry circles as the area of the undertaking). The essence of the deal was that 88% of that land base would be available for industrial purposes like forestry and mining and the remaining 12% (6,000,000 ha) would be set aside as parks and protected areas. It was a remarkable accomplishment and it resulted in hundreds of new parks and conservation reserves being created.
Now more than 20 years later, most of the protected area plan has been achieved but there are a couple of noticeable problems that are the basis of Earthroots campaigns.
Wolf Lake, located in the south-western part of the Temagami region, contains the largest contiguous old-growth red pine forest in the world. Towering red pines – some close to 300 years old – quartz cliffs, and sparkling blue lakes dominate the landscape. The old-growth red pines found at Wolf Lake are part of an endangered ecosystem that is estimated to persist on only 1.2% of its former extent.
The area around Wolf Lake has been permanently protected by the creation of the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park. In 1999, Ontario’s Living Legacy (OLL) Land Use Strategy committed to the creation of the provincial park and to include the Wolf Lake old growth in the protected area. However, it was found that Wolf Lake forest overlapped with mining claims and leases and as a result, was instead designated as a “Forest Reserve”. Under such designation, mineral exploration and mining are allowed, while commercial timber harvesting and new hydroelectric power development are not. The area was put on a list of similar areas where mining claim conflicts were supposed to be resolved but that never happened and the Wolf Lake old growth has never been protected.
Despite the fact that old-growth red pine forests are a globally endangered ecosystem, mining activity is still allowed in the heart of Wolf Lakes’ ancient forests, and even on the lake bed itself. Allowing mining exploration in the area presents serious risks to the ecosystem. Wolf Lake must be included in the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park, otherwise this precious and irreplaceable forest may be lost in the short term interests of the mining industry.
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