The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Despite reassuring words from provincial politicians, the forest industry still faces a massive reduction in wood volume due to caribou conservation efforts being proposed in this region.
“On the Abitibi River Forest, it’s a disaster because they have not changed the long-term management direction one iota,” said Cochrane Mayor Peter Politis. “The existing long-term management direction sees about a 65% volume loss in 25 years which will devastate towns right from North Bay to Hearst.”
This is a marked change in tone from two months ago. Industry and municipal politicians were hailing Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources when it formally acknowledged the Crown Forest Sustainability Act fulfils the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
However, the decision to harmonize these acts hasn’t made any difference to the caribou conservation efforts being implemented on the Abitibi River Forest.
“What the MNR is doing, they’re trying to recover caribou all over the place, all the way down south of Lake Abitibi where they don’t exist right now,” said Politis. “That’s what’s causing the problem.”
Jamie Lim, president and chief executive of the Ontario Forest Industries Association, said there have been some positive statements made on an political level but it is not filtering down to the ministry officials who deal directly with industry.
“At the high level, the work they did on the Endangered Species Act and getting us a five-year window to look into integrating it with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act was really positive,” said Lim. “But at ground zero, there is still caribou policy that is being brought forward by the MNR.”
The potential reductions in wood volume come at a time when the Ontario forest industry is on the verge of taking advantage of a major opportunity.
After the US housing market collapsed, B.C. began diverting a larger share of its wood supply to China. Now, with a US economic recovery on the horizon, B.C. still has commitments to Asia plus a reduced wood supply due to the massive forest damage caused by the mountain pine beetle. Ontario and Quebec are in a position to swoop in and supply a larger share of wood to the US.
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