For release, Thursday, February 27, 2003
Ottawa Today the Sierra Club of Canada released its review of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) State of the Forest Report, entitled: The State of Ontarios Forests: A Cause for Concern.
Things in the woods arent looking so good, remarked the Sierra Club of Canadas Executive Director, Elizabeth May and recognizing this comes at a crucial time, as the fate of our forests is currently being determined through the Timber EA process. The Timber Class Environmental Assessment Act (Timber EA) is a set of legally binding rules for forest management on public land that is currently under review by the Ministry of Environment. A declaration order by the MOE is expected in the near future.
The MNR submitted suggested revisions for the Timber EA last July. Their proposed changes would weaken their obligations to create strong forest policy for roadless areas, and call for the development a wood supply strategy that could undermine environmental protection measures. They are also requesting an evergreen renewal for the Timber EA that would close the door for public input.
There are many alarming trends documented in the State of the Forests Report stated Rachel Plotkin, forest campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada, and to weaken the MNRs legally binding obligations at this point not only rewards them for poor performance, but poses a grave threat to Ontarios forests in the future.
A Cause for Concern notes information such as the MNRs estimation that habitat for the American marten, which is shared with 30% of Ontarios forest dwelling species, is predicted to decrease by 28% over the next 20 years. Marten rely on mature, intact forests. It also highlights the MNRs failure to monitor shifts in species composition, by applying a scope that only observes trends over five years, and a lack of comprehensive road strategies for Ontarios forests, which is especially troubling since the MNR predicts that roads are expected to increase slowly in the north as forest harvesting expands into previously unharvested areas.
Not all of the findings of the Sierra Club of Canada are critical, however. A Cause for Concern does commend the MNR for the extensive amount of information collected, and for some of the MNRs findings, including a conclusion that highly forest-dependent communities are less resilient than communities with more diverse economic bases.
The report really hits it home, concluded Plotkin. MNR needs tighter regulationsnot looser ones. I hope that the Minister of Environment, Chris Stockwell, takes note of the real state of our forests, and doesnt let the MNR walk away from its obligation to ensure that the integrity of our forests is maintained for the long term, said Plotkin.