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OCTOBER 30, 2002

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OCTOBER 29, 2002

Earthroots going to court to stop planned logging road through Bob Lake Conservation Reserve

Earthroots filed suit late yesterday to declare the proposed Bob Lake logging road illegal. The road would be used to access blocks 30 and 46 from the Red Squirrel Road by crossing the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve.

Ontario's Public Lands Act explicitly forbids "commercial forest harvest" or "other industrial uses" in conservation reserves. Earthroots brought the lawsuit after attempts to resolve the issue with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) failed. MNR manages the conservation reserve and issued approval for the road to the road builder, Liskeard Lumber. 

Liskeard Lumber has received timber allocations south of the reserve and must cross the reserve to get to them. The only means of accessing the timber by road without crossing a park or conservation reserve is from the south, but this longer haul would make the cut uneconomical for the north-bound timber. If the case is successful, it would mark the end of immediate efforts to log these blocks.

Although road construction is approved and was expected to be going on now, Thursday's destruction of a bridge by arson will delay it (see Oct. 28 story below). 

Sierra Legal Defense Fund is representing Earthroots and expects to go before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in December.

Precedent-setting case

The MNR justifies the road with the argument that 'prior commitments' exist and can be met with existing roads in conservation reserves.

First, a road is needed. The proposed road will follow a narrow recreational trail, which is an overgrown logging road that was used over twenty years ago. The MNR has long contended that this is still a logging road, even though it is no longer passable by on-road vehicles, making it difficult to call it a road by any reasonable definition. The ministry contends that the 'road' was there before the creation of the conservation reserve in 1994. 

The ministry argues that the 'prior commitment' that existed before the reserve creation is commitment of timber to Liskeard Lumber (which is south of the reserve and must be accessed by crossing it). 

It is in the ministry's documents, written after creation, that the prior commitment appears. They state that 'prior commitments' survive creation of the reserve and this gives the right to use of an existing road crossing to meet the timber commitment. Again there is no mention in the Act of the principle of 'prior commitment.' This unilateral assertion by MNR establishes for itself a bureaucratic law-making authority that supercedes the Ontario Legislature.

This is just the beginning for Temagami. Over the next five years, MNR is planning to re-open all of the Red Squirrel Road extension, crossing the Bob Lake Reserve in at least three other locations. Will the Pinetorch Lake Conservation Reserve be next?

The ministry has made these and similar arguments for permitting industrial use and roads in conservation reserves all across Ontario.

This case will likely be precedent setting.

             Posted: 8:55 a.m. Updated: 9:55 a.m., 10:50 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

   MAP:  Roads, logging and conservation reserve 

OCTOBER 28, 2002

Red Squirrel Road bridge burned, road closed at gate

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are investigating the Thursday burning of the Eagle River bridge on the notorious Red Squirrel Road. The bridge is one kilometre east of and outside the Barmac gate, and the road is now closed at that point. 

Police are calling it arson and have made no arrests. They learned of the mid-day fire through a phone-in tip. "No one has taken responsibility," says Bill Deverell of the Temiskaming detachment of the OPP.

The destruction of the bridge, which is 29 kilometres west of Highway 11, has not disrupted any public use, including access to Camp Wanapitei and Sandy Inlet, because it is so close to the gate. No logging is taking place inside the gate. The only logging in the area is outside (east) of the gate and it is accessed by the Eagle Lake side road.

The creosote-soaked wooden deck, ignited with gas, burned leaving the supporting steel I-beams. Greg Gillespie of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) says there will be an engineering analysis of the damage performed before winter, but he cannot estimate at this time a repair schedule. Any work is complicated by spawning season in the stream now, and the approach of winter. 

The bridge is owned by MNR, but normally bridges are maintained by logging companies that use them. It is unclear who will undertake and pay for the repairs.

The only company with a permit to operate behind the gate this winter is Liskeard Lumber, which has the controversial blocks 30 and 46. It did not intend to go in before spring, except to do road maintenance and construction. That is now on hold.

Dogged by controversy

The Red Squirrel Road just can't stay out of the limelight. The infamous road beyond the gate is being upgraded by Liskeard Lumber to permit logging between Obabika Lake and Lake Temagami on blocks 30 and 46. Natives, environmentalists and canoe outfitters oppose the logging.

The gate was erected to prevent public motorized use from April 15 to November 15. Beyond the gate, the road remains open for logging (except June 15 to September 15) and government traffic. Vandalism and vehicles skirting it have characterized the gate's existence since the 1980s.

In 1989, 344 natives and environmentalists were arrested blockading road construction (see map). 

A series of similar bridge burnings on logging roads in 1996 were never solved. 

     Updated: 11:15 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 10/31 9:15 a.m.

  Related stories: Red Squirrel Road grading 

                             Controversial logging

OCTOBER 22, 2002

500-year-old cedar found on Lake Temagami

A stunted, bonsai-like bush found in Temagami this summer is a 500-year-old white cedar tree. This is the oldest tree ever found in Temagami, and possibly in northern Ontario.

The scraggily ancient tree was found on the shore of an island in the Hub of Lake Temagami by ecologists with the Temagami Islands Biodiversity Study.                                F U L L   S T O R Y 

OCTOBER 21, 2002

Nastawgan Trails announces speakers for annual dinner meeting

Presentations on area hiking trails and sea kayaking on Lake Temiskaming will made at Nastawgan Trails annual general meeting and dinner on November 23.

Authors and veteran hikers Vicky and Murray Muir will present on hiking, and Les Wilcox will present on his kayak trip on Lake Temiskaming this summer.

The nonprofit group has an ambitious goal of expanding and promoting the network of four-season, non-motorized-use trails in the region, including the hiking, backpacking and cross-country-skiing trails. 

Nastawgan Trails (NTI) was founded in 1999 and has been steadily increasing its activities. It organizes hikes and anyone can join as a member. Membership information is available on their site.

Location: Temagami Shores Inn, Temagami

Date/Time: Nov. 23,  7:00 p.m.

Dinner cost: $25

Contact: Les Wilcox lwilcox@onlink.net or 705-569-3102

  WEBSITE:  Nastawgan Trails 

OCTOBER 16, 2002

Spirit Rock logging not likely this winter

Blaming weak lumber markets, Liskeard Lumber has postponed cutting blocks 30 and 46 this winter. 

This is not a cancellation of plans, just a delay. Work on roads into the area will continue, says Jeff Barton of Liskeard Lumber. He notes that the company still has Ministry of Natural Resources' approval to log and the company's postponement could be lifted at any time. 

Logging in the area between Temagami and Obabika lakes is opposed by natives, environmentalists and canoe outfitters. Old growth and aboriginal sacred grounds are in the timber allocation.

Poor markets for forest products have hit other regional operations this month. Tembec's Mattawa sawmill will cut half of its employees and Weyerhaeuser will close its Sturgeon Falls corrugated paper mill (see October 8 story).

   BACKGROUND:  Logging in Temagami

OCTOBER 11, 2002

Red Squirrel Road graded for logging

The Red Squirrel Road was graded this week, west of the gate, as far as the cutoff to blocks 30 and 46. The work was done in preparation for construction of a second road through the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve to block 30. 

The blocks will be logged over the next 16 months, says Jeff Barton of Liskeard Lumber, and be completed by the March 30, 2004 deadline, the end of the current forest management plan.

OCTOBER 8, 2002

Sturgeon Falls paper mill closing

The paper mill that built Sturgeon Falls and once had a huge influence over Temagami, which is still felt today, will close in early December. Weyerhaeuser, the mill owner, announced today it was closing the corrugated cardboard producer due to overcapacity in the market, and the inefficiency and age of the plant. 

Photo: Sturgeon Falls paper mill, 2002

Sturgeon Falls paper mill. Photo: Brian Back

The mill is the largest and oldest employer in the one-industry town, and has been the mainstay of the economy since its original construction as a pulp and paper mill in 1898. 140 employees will lose their jobs, but about six will remain to operate the hydro-electric dam on the site. The dam will contribute electricity to Ontario Hydro's grid.

The effect will be felt throughout the region as Sturgeon Falls is not only the hub for West Nipissing, but the hub for the section of Temagami reached from highways 805 and 64 to the south.

The mill has slipped in and out of receivership and operation throughout its life and seen many owners, including Abitibi Paper and MacMillan Bloedel. Employment has shrunk from 500.

Impact on Temagami

Its historical influence on Temagami cannot be understated. In 1898, the Sturgeon Falls Pulp Company, the first mill operator, obtained logging limits to pulpwood along the Sturgeon and Temagami rivers. (The rights excluded pine and pine areas, and Lake Temagami.) It was the only major block of cutting rights in the Temagami Forest Reserve, when it was created in 1901 to protect the pine. In 1991, the mill stopped using wood and became a paper recycling operation.

In an effort to control and maximize water flow through its power dam at Sturgeon Falls and for spring log drives, the north end of Lake Temagami was quietly dammed around 1899, setting the stage for permanently directing all outflow south down the Temagami River. 

A control dam was also erected, without approval in 1900, at Temagami Falls where Lake Temagami emptied into Cross Lake. That began the permanent control of the water level on both lakes. Although the dam did little to raise the water level, it did affect the discharge and therefore the normal speed of change in water levels. A replacement dam was built in 1918 at its current location at the bottom of Cross Lake, thereby flooding Cross Lake.

OCTOBER 4, 2002

Block 30's pine regeneration will be lost in logging

Portions of an area scheduled for logging are showing "incredible white pine regeneration," but logging will end it, says scientist Michael Henry of Ancient Forest Exploration and Research (AFER).

"It makes me wonder if it makes sense to clear-cut it right now and presumably annihilate most of this white pine regeneration, when in return they will mostly be getting spruce and jack pine," says Henry who inspected block 30 recently.  

Block 30, located near Spirit Rock northeast of Obabika Lake, is scheduled for logging this fall. "Potentially, if left alone, this is a stand with a good pine future."

AFER is a Powassan-based research institute that specializes in ancient forest ecosystems.

    WEBSITE:   Ancient Forest Exploration and Research

OCTOBER 2, 2002

235-year-old red pine found in area to be logged

A team of scientists, while doing an ecological inspection of block 30, found a 235-year-old red pine. The scientists with Ancient Forest Exploration and Research (AFER) found the ancient pine in the middle of the northern half of the block.

They were not doing a comprehensive survey nor were they looking for the oldest trees, but did random coring of trees to learn their ages.

Block 30, located near Spirit Rock northeast of Obabika Lake, is scheduled for logging this fall.

AFER is a Powassan-based research institute that specializes in ancient forest ecosystems.

   BACKGROUND:  Logging in Temagami

OCTOBER 1, 2002

Pinetorch route cleared from Wakimika to Nasmith

Members of Save Wilderness Canoeing have cleared the six portages between Wakimika Lake and Nasmith Creek of deadfalls. The route stretches from Wakimika to Ames Creek and Bluesucker Lake. 

Working for two days, Jay Morrison and Tom Angelakis chainsawed their way through six portages totaling almost 4,000 metres. "We have reduced the travel time from Nasmith to Wakimika by an hour or more and most importantly, greatly reduced the level of effort needed," says Morrison. 

To accomplish their feat, they lugged in a 15-pound Stihl chainsaw and 20 pounds of gas, oil, boots and chaps.

They had hoped to get farther. "There were more windfalls than I had remembered from my trip through in July," says Morrison. 

"Hopefully, this will encourage more people to do this remote and interesting route."

   WEBSITE:  Save Wilderness Canoeing


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