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Photo: ice hole on Lake Temagami, 2003

APRIL 22, 2003

Ice thinning

This morning, Gerry Reid measures one foot of blue ice at island 984 in the Hub of Lake Temagami. Dave Reid reports that travelling conditions on the ice are excellent. There is no water on the ice, but some white slush. With the ice pulling back from shore, it is "just a little tricky getting on and off the ice," he says.

  More photos

Photo: Dave Reid


APRIL 16, 2003

The silence is deafening

There were 344 arrests in 1989 on the blockade of the construction of Red Squirrel Road extension. It made Canadian history for the most arrests on a road blockade.

This extraordinary event followed two court decisions, an environmental assessment, public hearings, aboriginal opposition and an international Threatened Area-designation by the IUCN, a UN-affiliated group. The Red Squirrel campaign was backed by a coalition of tourist operators, youth camps, property owners, canoe outfitters and assorted northerners. Bob Rae, then Leader of the Opposition, was arrested on the first day, a year before he became premier of Ontario.

The sitting Liberal government, in a face-saving move, finished the road and drove a truck the length of it (resulting in the discovery that a section had sunk into a bog). A few weeks later, leading up to the 1990 election (which the Liberals lost to Rae's party), the government declared the road dead. And it has been abandoned ever since.

Last month MNR released its second draft of the timber plan for the next five years. In it the Red Squirrel Road extension will be re-opened for logging, much of it old-growth pine.

Did you hear the outrage?

Did you hear anything?

Has the public abandoned Temagami? Well, okay, you do have to lead a horse to water.

So did you hear the outrage from the environment groups? Well, did you hear them say anything? Actually, we haven't heard much from them lately about anything specific to Temagami. Earthroots is involved in the lawsuit over the logging road through the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve, but that's where it ends.

And where are the Indians? Back in the 1980s they opposed the road purely as an issue of native rights. They and I am speaking of the official bodies, and not of all individuals wanted to stop the road to gain leverage in their land claim. However, they allowed themselves to be cloaked as environmentalists as it served their interest. And the environmentalists encouraged it, because it served their interest. But don't expect to hear from the aboriginal groups now, unless they see a way to leverage it again.

Some will find this state of affairs refreshing. For others, it will be disturbing.

One thing is for certain, I now don't have to get in my canoe to find silence.

Brian Back

  BACKGROUND: Proposed logging plan  

                         Blockade map  

APRIL 11, 2003

Logging road goes to court

Judges today listened in a Toronto courtroom to arguments for and against a controversial logging road through the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve.

Lawyers for Sierra Legal Defense Fund, arguing against the road, said that the law explicitly forbid "commercial forest harvest" or "other industrial uses" in a conservation reserve, and the road was intended to move harvested trees. The movement of timber was a harvesting activity.

Ontario argued that the law did not explicitly exclude a logging road from a conservation reserve. It only excluded commercial harvesting, which would not take place in the reserve, but south of it.

One judge asked if there were separate licenses for moving the timber on the road and for logging it. The judge was told there was one license for both, thereby linking them.

Famed lawyer Clayton Ruby, arguing on behalf of Sierra Legal, said that a conservation reserve has a higher level of legal protection than a park. The law governing parks allows some industrial uses to be introduced, whereas the Public Lands Act does not allow them in conservation reserves.

Ontario expressed concern that logging south of the reserve (in an area known as the Spirit Forest) would not be possible without the road. But this was countered by the other side, saying that this road was not the only possible access to the area.

The Ontario Divisional Court decision on whether to permit the road is expected within the next two months.

Updated: April 14

  BACKGROUND: Legal challenge to logging road in reserve

  MAP:  Roads, logging and conservation reserve  

APRIL 10, 2003

Bob Lake Road goes to court tomorrow

Tomorrow three judges will listen to arguments for and against a controversial logging road through the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve.

The suit was brought by an environment group to stop a road through the protected area west of Sharp Rock Inlet, near Lake Temagami. The road would allow logging of old-growth spruce and jack pine near a Nishnabai sacred site.

The Sierra Legal Defense Fund will be arguing against the road on behalf of environment group Earthroots. Ontario will be arguing for the road through an area protected by Ontario.

The case will likely be precedent setting.

The hearing is scheduled for the Ontario Divisional Court at Osgoode Hall on Queen Street, Toronto, at 10 a.m.

  BACKGROUND: Legal challenge to logging road in reserve

APRIL 8, 2003

New 21-day Crown land camping rule

The ambiguous 21-day-maximum camping rule on Crown land in Ontario has been changed.

The limit of 21 camping days per year for all Crown land has been removed, which theoretically limited canoeists to a three-week trip. Henry Wallace of MNR said there was no means to track campers.

A 21-day limit in now in place on a campsite. After 21 days in a calendar year, a camper must move at least 100 metres. This had been a controversial issue as many campers in popular areas were monopolizing sites for entire seasons, or simply moved within a site to avoid the old rule.

These rules apply to residents of Ontario. Non-residents must follow different rules (follow link below).

Is 21 days still too long? And will it be enforced?

  BACKGROUND:  Camping Rules & Restrictions

APRIL 8, 2003

Ontario giving away our forests to logging industry

Last year MNR gave responsibility for a heritage corridor to a timber company, as reported in the story below. Today one of Temagami's ancient nastawgan is gone.

Grant Forest Products of Englehart, one of the world's largest oriented-strand-board makers, hired an archaeologist who did not recommend saving the trail. Then Grant clear-cut over the trail, the same trail documented in an Ontario government publication. 

No trails experts were hired. No public notice was given. No public hearings were held. And the archaeologist's report is not available to the public, according to MNR, because it is the property of Grant Forest Products.

The whole episode raises alarming questions. Can someone hired by a logging company be independent? Can the logging company be independent? Why did Ontario give away a priceless heritage site? Whose forests are these?

Grant's mill in Englehart consumes over a 100 truckloads a day of timber. Saving the trail with a minimal 60-metre reserve would have been a spit in the bucket.

This is disturbing proof that Ontario's relentless effort to give our forests to industry is a disaster waiting to happen. The fox is entering the hen house.

Public-interest groups have been warning the public, and now their worst doomsday predictions are have started turning to black reality.

Temagami is one of the last management units in Ontario that hasn't been turned into a private tree farm, known as a Sustainable Forestry License (SFL).

Conventional wisdom says that when the land-claim negotiations are completed, Temagami will be annexed to the existing SFL to the north.

This Friday a public comment period on Ontario's effort to gut forestry rules for the benefit of industry will expire.

"These changes," Chris Henschel of the Wildlands League says, "represent a return to a dangerous and outdated 'timber-first' approach to management of public forests that Ontario has been moving away from for close to a decade."

The Wildlands League has called for public support to stop the changes.

  MORE INFORMATION:  Save our Forests

APRIL 7, 2003

Plane crashes in front of Loon Lodge

A small, private plane nose-dived into Lake Temagami in front of Loon Lodge about 10 this morning, near the end of the Mine Road.

The force of the crash, from an estimated 70 metres after taking off, broke the ice. The cockpit of the Bush Hawk XP, built by Found Aircraft of Canada, was submerged preventing any possible rescue.

Pilot Mark MacLeod and Kim Renaud, both from Temagami, were on board the ski-equipped plane. The bodies were removed by late afternoon.

The ice road had to be routed around the crash. MacLeod had recently begun operating NorAir out of the Hub of the lake.

Map: nastawgan (portage) destroyed by logging between Aston and Eagle lakes, 2003

APRIL 6, 2003

Priceless heritage trail destroyed by illegal clear-cut

An ancient, aboriginal portage was destroyed by an illegal clear-cut, Ottertooth has learned. Without public notice, the 3.2-kilometre trail between Aston and Eagle lakes was logged by Grant Forest Products of Englehart this past year with the approval of MNR.

"These things are priceless," said trails expert Craig Macdonald, the author of Historical Map of Temagami, the definitive guide to the area's trails, or nastawgan, and published by the Ontario government.

The nastawgan are travel routes created by aboriginal people, and many are still in use today as canoe routes.

MNR does not have a policy to protect heritage trails. Temagami forester Kevin Rankin said the company hired an archeologist who did not recommend saving the trail because he couldn't locate it. MNR declined to provide a copy of the report, saying it was the property of Grant Forest Products, which paid for it.

Macdonald, a highly regarded trails expert, said he was not contacted that the nastawgan was going to be clear-cut nor was he asked to show the trail to the archeologist. "Trails don't just disappear," the frustrated Macdonald said. "The tread of moccasins leaves a groove. This was a trail across soil so there will be evidence of the treadway."

Hap Wilson, author of Temagami Canoes Routes and a local trails expert, said he had not been contacted by MNR or the archeologist and was not aware of the trail's destruction.

"To arbitrarily remove any trail without public participation," Wilson said, "clearly sends the message that the Ontario government refuses to acknowledge the importance of the cultural, spiritual and historic integrity of this internationally respected travel network."

The 398-hectare clear-cut, known as block 21, exceeds the legal limit of 260 hectares. These illegal clear-cuts across Ontario have been under attack by environmental groups.

Refusal to preserve a known trail sets a bad precedent for all heritage sites.

  BACKGROUND:  Nastawgan

APRIL 3, 2003

Dispatch from Alex

on Obabika Lake north end

There is about a foot of snow in the bush. Here around my cabin where the sun gets in, the ground is bare. There is still 22 inches of solid blue ice on the lake and three inches of slush ice on top. I think the ice could go out between April 25 and April 30.

If we get a fresh snowfall at the right time, it speeds up breakup. That's because the snow melts easier than the ice and the water then trickles down and creates candle ice. That marks the end.

Usually the kingfisher is the first to arrive. I haven't seen any on the river yet, but there are robins around and a great blue heron. It showed up on March 22, the earliest I've ever seen one. It's going down to minus 12 and with those long, skinny legs it's going to be cold.

The bears should be coming out of their dens during the warmth of the day. They lie about then go back before night.

I put out an otter carcass on the ice and two bald eagles came to feed. My live entertainment.

Alex Mathias

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