Following Earthroots' submission to Stage Three of the consultation on the Algonquin Forest Management Planning Process, we received a response back from the MNRF forester regarding our submission . We know that the policy perspectives on the nature of forestry done in a provincial park diverge substantially between Earthroots and the MNRF, so we didn’t expect that we would sway them to alter the plan but we had to try. Somewhat shocking was the claim they made about forest management planning and ecological integrity.
Recall that in our original submission we acknowledged that the Algonquin Forest Authority had a legal right to log the park due to the exemption granted in Section 17 of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA). Our point was that this exemption does not remove the responsibility of the MNRF to ensure that ecological integrity will be the first priority in the management of the park (Section 3 PPCRA). So, Earthroots suggested that the forest management plan be sensitive to that “first priority” and consider modifications to the plan that would maintain the ecological connectivity between the larger protected natural areas.
In their email denying our request they made the following statement: “The policies that direct protected area management and forest management planning in Ontario provide the necessary tools to maintain ecological integrity as identified in the PPRCA …“. This clearly is not true and that is the reason the Act bans commercial forestry from all other parks. But, the shocking aspect of this statement is the implication to the management of those other parks and the state of mind of the ministry responsible for protecting our parks. If, as they say they believe, that our forest management process can protect ecological integrity as defined by the PPRCA, then why don’t we allow logging in all the parks? Is that what they will propose next? We hope not.
The problem is that the MNRF continues to view Algonquin as a giant forest management unit with some pockets of protected lands that they have to stay out of. That is a wrong vision. Algonquin is a Provincial Park and must be managed as such in its entirety. The first priority must be ecological integrity and forestry must yield and respect that priority.
Comments will be open for Stage Four of the planning process in early March.
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