Biodiversity Strategy Under Development for Ontario
MNR Drops Proposed Wood Supply Amendment
LCC Snapshot: White River Area Co-Management Committee
Proposed Management Strategy for Ontario Wolves
Forestry by the numbers - Northwatch Holds Workshop on Forest Modeling
Independent Forest Audits - A Check on the Forest Management Planning System
Updated Planning Schedule
The concept of maintaining biodiversity is a simple one - 'Keep all the parts'. The threats to biodiversity may be easy to identify - habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, over-harvesting, and climate change - but it's neither simple nor easy to maintain biodiversity with the constant and increasing pressure on our natural resources.
In early December 2004, the Minister of Natural Resources posted a notice on the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) internet registry that a "consensus based strategy' on biodiversity is to be developed, with public consultation to be done through postings on the Environmental Bill of Rights electronic registry and talks to government and public groups. The "Ontario Biodiversity Strategy", to be completed this spring, will contain a 5-year action plan to be implemented following the strategy's approval. A draft of the Strategy will be posted for public comment prior to its finalization.
A 60-page workbook, also
available online, provides background material related to the strategy
from sources such as the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995), the Canadian
Biodiversity Strategy, Natural Resources Canada (1997), and A Framework
for Sustainable Forests, Ontario Government (1994). It's a good review,
whatever the reader's level of familiarity with the topic of sustainable
use of biological resources. The workbook asks 61 questions, most of which
are about strategic directions, vision, goals, and principles that are
meant to challenge respondents to "anticipate and manage for change."
Biodiversity and Sustainable
Currently, bioiversity is given some consideration in the development of a forest management plan. For example, the maintenance of biodiversity is written into statements of management objectives, strategies are developed, and foresters set targets, choose indicators and develop predictive models intended to maintain or even restore biodiversity.
In the current exercise to develop a biodiversity strategy for Ontario, Section 5.2 of the workbook focuses on Sustainable Forest Management. The section includes a description of the scope of the discussion of biodiversity in forest management borrowed from the 1995 Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, a discussion of Challenges, Issues and Opportunities from the Canadian Forest Service's 1997 Three Year Action Plan to implement the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, and a set of Goals, Objectives and Strategies from the 1995 Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and Ontario's 1994 Policy Framework for Sustainable Forests. The Section closes by posing three questions for reader response:
Ontario made a commitment in 1996 to use the Canadian Strategy to guide its actions for conserving biodiversity and providing for sustainable use, including creating new parks and protected areas, protecting species at risk, providing for the sustainable management of Ontario's forests, supporting stewardship on private lands, and taking measures to conserve Ontario's fish and wildlife.
Ontario's new biodiversity initiative will, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, further "guide, strengthen and integrate Ontario's policies and programs related to biodiversity and will be used to set priorities for collective action over the next five years."
To provide input, visit the Ontario Biodiversity Strategy website: http://www.obs-sbo.ca or visit your local Ministry of Natural Resources office for internet access or a print-out.
The Ministry of Natural Resources
has withdrawn a proposed amendment to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act
which would have removed the requirement that new mills show sustainable
supply is available before being licensed.
A decision posted on January 20th states that "negotiations in the softwood lumber dispute seem to have experienced an impasse. As such, it has been decided that the proposed amendment to the CFSA is unnecessary at this time. The proposed amendment was withdrawn from Bill 106 on December 8, 2004." Sixty-six comments had been received, and were described as "not supporting the proposed amendment", citing mostly environmental concerns.
The White River Area Co-management Committee (WRACC) is a large, diverse, and active group. There are 14 members, (not including MNR and industry reps.) and they are passionate about the issues that affect their forest.
The 600,000+ ha White River forest contains six provincial parks and 130 cool or coldwater lakes, supports remote and road based tourism, trapping, and cottaging, and shares a 70 km boundary with Pukaskwa National Park. Five First Nation communities are located in or adjacent to the forest unit. The White River sawmill is the major industry in the area.
Dino Tarini, WRACC chairman, says he depends on the advice and experience of other LCC members when dealing with the ongoing issues that affect forest management. Tarini represents the prospecting sector and, like many other members on the LCC, he is very familiar with the forest.
Although members cite problems that have affected the plan - communications between the Planning Team and WRACC, failure to become involved at the beginning of the issue resolution process - they are working to improve things.
An audit conducted in 2004 had 25 recommendations for improvement to the plan and was, as one member puts it, "a good one. We look forward to it being acted on."
Members point to an MNR training session in 1994 as being a pivotal point in "opening up their eyes" to the realization that they had a right to know in advance how the forest would be managed. WRACC members recognize the importance of being at the table, of paying attention to details, and of their right to a voice in the process of developing and implementing a forest plan.
The White River FMP completed by Domtar and approved by the MNR in 2003, has had 11 'bump-ups", many related to new road construction near the Pukaskwa Park boundary that could impact an isolated and unique wolf population. Mike Furniss, who represents the Forest Industry Trade Union, indicated that bump-ups "make planning a nightmare. " Forest harvesting proceeded for the first 6 months under 'contingency' and has continued in non-contentious areas since that time under 'concurrence' with the parties involved. The access issue has been a hot topic here as it is in many forest units.
WRACC members feel that by participating in management planning they have made a big difference in representing user groups, and the community at large. They are keen to continue enjoying fishing, hunting, camping and other recreation and tourism opportunities provided by the forest. The strong sense of ownership is summed up by Marg McMillan municipal representative on WRACC: "It's our forest; we're the stakeholders."
Recently, the MNR announced its intention to "implement a proper wildlife management program for Ontario wolves". The primary objectives of the proposed wolf management strategy are to ensure sustainable wolf populations, to provide for social, cultural and economic benefits based on sustainable populations, to increase public awareness and understanding about the role of wolves in natural functioning ecosystems, and to ensure their conservation in Ontario.
Thirteen strategies address such things as developing policy and regulations to support wolf conservation, conducting population assessments, enhancing wolf population research, and increasing public awareness and understanding of the role of the wolf in the ecosystem.
Initial conservation actions (EBR posting RB04E6012) related to harvest mortality (Strategy 8) include considerations to implement wolf (and coyote, as they are difficult to distinguish from wolves) harvest controls such as: separate licences/seals, use of closed seasons, harvest limits, and mandatory reporting of wolf/coyote hunting activity in specified management units.
A 56-page companion piece, "Backgrounder on Wolf Conservation in Ontario", provides a starting place to understand the biology and ecology of wolves, their habitat requirements, their value, and the many acts, regulations and societal views that will most likely affect implementation of management strategies.
The backgrounder notes that, "wolves are not generally restricted to specific habitat types, but rather their presence on the landscape is more often based on the habitat needs of their prey and the degree of harvest by humans. As such, landscape level habitat planning that operates under the premise of providing for the spatially explicit habitat needs of resident ungulate and beaver populations and considers road densities, should provide an adequate supply of quality wolf habitat. There is however, some evidence that a fine filter approach may be warranted around active wolf den and rendezvous sites."
For the Proposed Regulation RB04E6012 see website at http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envregistry/023668er.htm.
Generally, forestry models are designed to be mathematical representations of reality. Most models use computers to enable foresters to combine forestry data with knowledge about forest processes to build a 'decision support system'. A variety of models are used in forest management plans -each with different data needs, inputs and outputs. While these models enable forest planners to analyze complex forest management scenarios, the process and outputs of models are often hard to understand for the average person interested in forest management.
This past November, a one day workshop on forest models titled "Forestry by the Numbers" was organized and hosted by Forest Project staff. 25 participants attended, most represented LCCs from across northeastern Ontario as well as Ontario Parks staff, First Nation tribal councils and post-secondary students.
The workshop, designed and led by Dr. Dave Euler, encouraged participants to ask questions about models and expect clear answers. Dr. Euler presented basic concepts of models and using the example of the relationship of warbler habitat with white pine stand characteristics, demonstrated to participants how to build a simple model.
Expert insights into modeling were provided by a panel composed of MNR and industry foresters. Brian Naylor (MNR Southcentral Science Section), Sarah Bros (consultant) and Norm Cottam (R.P.F. and Plan Author for Nipissing and Vermillion SFL's) reviewed principles of modeling with workshop participants and explored questions from workshop participants.
Northwatch will be developing the "Forestry by the Numbers" workshop for local delivery and will be available upon request by spring/summer 2005
Forest management operations must meet a variety of legal obligations. The job of the Independent Forest Audit is to verify compliance with provincial requirements and determine whether the Sustainable Forest License should be renewed.
Audits are performed on a five year cycle, with the reports of these independent assessments made available to interested members of the general public. One criticism of the audit reports relates to their technical language and the complexity of the scientific outputs involved. If audits are to serve as an assurance to the public that forest management operations are sustainable, the audit results must be presented in a manner that can be clearly understood. A second criticism is that the audit reports are not seen to be readily available by most of the interested public. Without effective communication and ready access to the reports, the general public cannot comment on the adequacy of the program or benefit from the conclusions of the compliance monitoring programs.
Audit team selection and the team reports are designed to be independent of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the company being audited. An arms-length Forestry Futures Committee of Ontario selects the firms to conduct the audits but also reviews final reports, provides funding for the audits, and makes recommendations to the Minister of Natural Resources on the auditing process.
The purposes of the audit include:
Forest management practices, compliance with provincial laws and the sustainability of management activities are assessed by the audit team. The eight guiding principles for each audit include: commitment, public participation, forest management planning, plan implementation, systems support, monitoring, achievement of management objectives and forest sustainability, and contractual compliance. The audit process revolves around these principles, each with its own set of criteria that complements the purposes of the audit. The SFL holder and MNR must develop a mandatory Action Plan that addresses concerns identified in the audit. Action plans identify who is responsible for each required action, deadlines, and a method to evaluate progress.
Additional independent assessments of the sustainability of forest management activities are performed through third-party certification processes where SFL holders voluntarily request the assessment. Approximately 8 million hectares of forest operations have been certified to date.
Last year, Minister Ramsay announced that the all 47 SFLs in Ontario will be required "to be certified to an accepted performance standard"by the end of 2007. Three major certifying bodies are recognized by the Ontario government: the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) system, which was developed by the American Forest and Paper Association and is generally considered the least rigourous, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) system. Although certification bodies such as FSC were created in part out of the perceived failure of the government to ensure sustainable forest management, we may soon see an integration of the independent forest audit process and certification processes.
Every forest management unit in Ontario has been audited at least once since 1996. Published copies of the independent forest audits can be obtained by contacting:
Betty van Kerkhof, Coordinator,
Forest Practices Evaluation
Forest Evaluation & Standards Section, Forest Mgt Branch
Ministry of Natural Resources, 70 Foster Drive
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 6V5
Telephone: (705) 945-6619
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