Caribou protection hampers [northern Ontario] forestry upswing – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – February 5, 2014)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – At a time when the forest industry in this province is predicting a major upswing, Cochrane could end up losing jobs in this sector because of the impacts from government policies to protect caribou habitat.

Jamie Lim, president and chief executive of the Ontario Forest Industries Association, said the industry is looking at a “recovery hat-trick” which includes a rise in U.S. housing starts, changes to the Canadian building code next year which will allow the use of timber frames in higher-rise construction, and the global trend towards “green” or renewable building materials which favours wood.

However, she expressed concerns about limited gains being be made in forest-dependent communities like Cochrane where the new Abitibi River Forest Management Plan predicts “less economic benefits” due to a reduction in available harvest volumes.

The existing long-term management plan calls for a 65% volume reduction over the next 25 years. “The lower volumes translate into reduced manufacture of primary products, less taxes and less employment opportunities,” according to the analysis on Page 204 of that plan.

“All the mayors have been fighting so hard to permanently protect the wood basket in this area because they know that even if you’re not using the industrial wood basket today, they know the building code could change tomorrow and the demand for wood could go through the roof,” said Lim.

“That’s why the OFIA and the mayors have been working hand in hand to lobby the government and ensure public policy doesn’t shrink the fibre basket.”

In a written presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in North Bay last week, Lim said the concerns surrounding the Cochrane-area forest reflect an unresolved problem with the Endangered Species Act.

The OFIA provided the government committee, comprised of members from all three major political parties in the province, with a list of recommendations designed to help the forest industry maximize the benefits of an improving economic landscape.

Among the recommendations, Lim urged the province to make changes that would “fix this flawed act.”

It was also recommended the government conduct a “full review of the Caribou Conservation Plan” and to conduct “open and transparent socio-economic impact assessments on all legislation, regulations and policies that could reduce the province’s renewable fibre supply.”

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