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FEBRUARY 27, 2004

Blueberry Lake trail cut is a compromise

A threatened portion of the Blueberry Lake old-growth hiking trail, slated for logging, was preserved in a last-minute compromise by the logging company.

Goulard Lumber reduced the size of its four-hectare cut by half and left a 250-metre buffer along the Charcoal Trail after last-minute objections from Cassels and Adjoining Lakes Association (CALA). The group represents local property owners.

CALA launched its effort after a story was published on Ottertooth.com on November 7. In it, ecologist Mike Henry of Ancient Forest Exploration and Research raised concerns over the planned logging of the rare pine-forest burn site.

The section was selectively logged (as opposed to clear-cut), in January. One and a half hectares were requested preserved, but Goulard saved two.

"I could have harvested it all, but I was asked by CALA, and it wasn't that much wood," said Claude Goulard of Goulard Lumber. "It was also an opportunity for me to let people see the difference between a fire and a selective cut."

The cut had been opposed by local property owners, canoeists, tourist operators, hikers and environmentalists. "I put in a submission to MNR against it five years ago," said Sloan Watters, a former logger and trapper.

But MNR did not keep it out of the timber management plan and allocated it to Goulard. Once in the plan, the company was obligated to log it.

"MNR could have said we were in noncompliance and told us to go back and harvest," said Goulard. But when Goulard said he wanted to reduce the cut, he was given permission.

"There will be an audit in five years and they [MNR] will have to justify the change in the plan. The plans are not easy. The binders we have to follow are thicker than my two arms spread out."

The popular Blueberry trails are located on Blueberry Lake, a single portage east of Cassels Lake, near Temagami village. They pass through stands of old-growth red pine, white pine and white cedar.

  RELATED STORY:  Trail threatened

FEBRUARY 18, 2004

Call for environmental assessment of logging

An environment group has called for the Minister of Environment to do an environmental assessment of the recently approved logging. Earthroots found the forest management plan failed to get a grip on roads and will create conflicts in the area.

MNR has been criticized in its recent audit and in an independent review over its loss of control of the continually expanding logging-road network. Earthroots said the plan only perpetuates this loss of control. The consequence is "habitat degradation from ATVs, poaching and fishery depletion," said Victor Lorentz of Earthroots.

Earthroots also found logging in conflict with the Temagami Land Use Plan, which governs activities in the forest, including recreation, which is a local industry.

"The land use plan, one of the most comprehensive in Ontario, is clear and logging has totally failed to adhere to it," said Victor Lorentz of Earthroots.

The Minister of Environment has 45 days to respond to the assessment request, also known as a bump-up.

Temagami is the canary for the rest of northern Ontario. If these issues cannot be resolved here, under constant public scrutiny, then the rest of Ontario will follow the same path.

The MNR is haunted by the prospect of an environmental assessment in Temagami. One of Ontario's most famous assessments, and the only significant one of a specific logging activity, was on the Red Squirrel logging road extension between 1985 and 1986. It resulted in blockades and brought turmoil to the ministry.

  BACKGROUND:  Logging audit (three-part series)

                          Failure of road closures

                          Logging increase approved  

FEBRUARY 16, 2004

Nishnabai elder speaking in Guelph

Alex Mathias of the Temagami First Nation will be speaking at the University of Guelph on his struggle to save his homeland from the chainsaw. Mathias is the last member of his people still living on his family's traditional territory.

Date: Tuesday, February 24

Time: 7:30 - 9 p.m.

Location: University of Guelph, University Centre, Rm 103

Contact: ed.macpherson@sympatico.ca or 519-763-1253

FEBRUARY 14, 2004          PART V of V

Will fees alter canoe traffic?

Some people will clearly avoid the area to avoid the fees. But canoeists will still come. Temagami is too attractive, too diverse and too accessible. And the fees are still less than the other major canoeing parks Algonquin and Quetico.

For who are not going deep into Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park, the largest park block, many will look over their maps and plan routes to avoid the cost of overnight camping park-side.

A number of the area's busiest canoeing lakes are park-enclosed, yet others aren't. Diamond, Wakimika, Willow Island, Sucker Gut and the lower basin of Lady Evelyn Lake are all in parks. Obabika (except the very north end), Lake Temagami, Anima Nipissing and the upper basin of Lady Evelyn Lake are perimeter lakes outside of the parks.

Will overnight camping be diverted to the lakes outside the perimeter? 

It is easy to imagine those canoeists paddling the Temagami-Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika route deciding they can avoid the cost of overnight fees, and the hassle of making payment, by simply dashing through the parks, and camping just outside on lakes Temagami and Obabika. Will there be traffic jams in the morning and evening at Sharp Rock Portage and on the Wakimika River?

(Any traffic congestion clustered on Lake Temagami would be resolved if the proposed Lake Temagami Park is created and fees apply there.)

Will the routes within the parks get less traffic?  Probably not Diamond and Wakimika, which are main routes between areas, but maybe on the Trout Streams.

Will canoeists going up the Streams believe that the rangers will not spend much time that deep in the backcountry? After all rangers are public-service employees, subject to statutory limits on the hours they work, subject to days off, subject to hours of rigid training courses that keep them off duty, subject to limits on the physical burdens demanded of them, subject to the proverbial budget restrictions. Will canoeists believe they will be easy to spot off in the distance so they can be avoided in their conspicuous standard-issue lifejackets?

Will there be less traffic and, therefore, solitude deep in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park on Florence Lake, a lake the largest non-road-accessible in the region that has become too busy for many canoeists?

There are sure to be some surprises awaiting us all when we are on the water in the coming seasons, some pleasant and some not so.

  RELATED STORY:  New campsite and portage signs

Last in a series.

See parts I - IV below.  

FEBRUARY 12, 2004          PART IV of V

Who pays and who doesn't?

There are questions that should be asked over the way the burden of park fees will be shared or not shared.

Lodges with permanent camps located within the parks these exist on Lady Evelyn and Diamond lakes or those that send in customers for the day from outside the park, will not pay fees. Even if the camp is on public land possessing a land-use permit or land lease to do so its customers, when they venture into the parks, will not pay fees.

Private individuals with private camps on public land within the parks such as on Diamond and Solace lakes will not pay park fees. 

Anglers going in for the day will not pay fees. Snowmobilers will not either, even if they camp overnight.

Logging companies have exclusive use to the gated Red Squirrel Road that crosses the Obabika River Park in three locations. They won't pay fees.

Two local groups the First People and the youth camps will be levied fees when both were here before the parks.

For thousands of years in the case of the aboriginals, and nearing a hundred years for the youth camps. The First People created and maintained the portages until the last century. If they are using the park for spiritual or cultural reasons, they will be exempt, but must pay if there for recreation.

The youth camps have had active maintenance programs of campsites and portages, though they never advertised their stewardship. Neither group ever charged fees to my knowledge.

The province of Ontario may justify it all with the position that it will go easy on charging fees this summer (which the park superintendent has said will be the policy in 2004), but that doesn't clear up the issue. The burden appears to be anything, but fair and balanced.

Over the next few years, the fee system will be tested. Its public acceptance will hinge on the effectiveness of parks management to maintain portages and campsites (though the campsite issue is a little overblown), and the ability to maintain park integrity against illegal motorized traffic, mining exploration and the incessant pressure of logging roads.

These remote parks with their twisted boundaries (see map), cannot simply be gated with a ranger standing their collecting fees. It will largely be an honour system. And honour systems are only as effective as the faith and trust they enjoy from the public.

Updated Feb. 16

See parts I, II and III below.

FEBRUARY 11, 2004          PART III of V

Fee Shock

They were coming. They were always coming. Parks have fees, period. But Temagami was an exception. It has had remote parks since the Lady Evelyn Wild River Park was created in 1973 (incorporated into Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park in 1983). They just sat there, protected from logging and mining (though not from logging roads), but otherwise identical to the surrounding Crown land.

And just as free to use. No fees, no reservations, no portage signs, no campsite signs, no limits on party size, no garbage-pack-out rules, no firewood restrictions. This helped maintain its wild image.

The other major canoeing areas in North America Algonquin Park, Quetico Park and Boundary Waters Wilderness are all parks with fees and rules. And this all contributed to Temagami's bargain-basement popularity.

Now that we have fees, and typical park restrictions are looming over the horizon, we can play taps for the ultimate freedom of the Temagami woods. Ah, curse those parks, but without them those lands would have been carved up by roads, logged and left to the ATVs hauling boat trailers. Not a pretty picture.

The harsh reality of this 24/7 dollar-driven world is that all Crown land has a permanent open season for logging, roads and mining. If you want to protect areas (and, yes, protection is a relative term in Ontario) then they must go into parks. 

It's time to move on. We have parks and we have fees. Thankfully we still have a little wilderness. Many canoeists will go elsewhere. And many canoeists will rejoice in their departure because it will mean more solitude and silence for those who stay.

See parts II and III below.

 

Map: Temagami's backcountry parks, 2004

Backcountry parks where fees will be charged and rangers will patrol. Excluded are Temagami River and Chiniguchi River parks.

FEBRUARY 10, 2004    PART II of V

Park rangers coming

Operations in the backcountry parks will begin this summer with the addition of two backcountry rangers. One will be a warden and have the authority to issue fines, evict and arrest.

The rangers will patrol the backcountry parks (see map), enforce park rules, educate park users, and cleanup campsites and portages.

They will be marking campsites and portages with 6.5-in by 4.75-in diamond-shaped signs yellow for portages, orange for campsites.

Camping in the parks is restricted to designated campsites. These are marked in the Temagami Canoes Planning Map published by Ontario Parks. An updated version will be published this summer.

When approaching individuals the rangers will identify themselves. They will patrol in marked motorboats and canoes and wear Ontario Parks uniforms blue pants and taupe shirt. They will not have

 

the authority to patrol outside of the parks on Crown land or conservation reserves.

Among the rules they will be enforcing will be the motorized access prohibition in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park. Past problems have been ATV access at Anvil Lake and motorized access on land and water behind the gate on the Liskeard Lumber Road at the north end of the park.

There will be no controls or restrictions of travel on the busier routes or campsites.

See Part II below and more above.

 

FEBRUARY 9, 2004             PART I of V

Park camping fees coming this summer

Get ready to pay an overnight camping fee if you use any of Temagami's backcountry parks:

  Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater
  Obabika River
  Solace
  Sturgeon River
  Makobe-Grays River

Fees will not apply to Crown land (public land outside of parks) and conservation reserves.

Fees will apply to everyone who stays overnight in the parks (this excludes those who stay on land-use permits, land leases and private property within park boundaries). There are no fees for day use. Anyone coming in for a day trip, even if they stop at a campsite and erect a tent, will not pay a fee.

Overnight fee per person per night, April 30 to October 31:

 

Age

Regular

Ontario seniors

Ont persons with disabilities

  6-17 4.00 na 2.00
  18 and over 7.50 6.00 3.75

There have never been fees in these parks, all created since 1983, though sought after by the park superintendent to allow enforcement of park rules and to maintain campsites and portages.  Until this year, there has been a superintendent virtually in name only, who has only had the financial resources to react to acute issues.

"We want to begin actively managing the parks," said John Salo, superintendent of all Temagami parks, including Finlayson and Marten River, both on Hwy 11.

Fees collected, said Salo, will not go into general funds, but into a special-purpose account for Ontario Parks. This is an unusual accounting procedure for Ontario, similar to that for hunting and fishing fees.

Salo expects that as fee collections rise each year, more funds will go into Temagami.

There will be no reservation system for the parks, and permits, this season, will only be available at Finlayson Point Park near Temagami village. In coming years, permits will be also be available at outfitters and tourist operators.

Temagami parks are not the only parks adding fees this year. French River will also.

There was no announcement of the fees. Last week, the 2004 fee schedule was added to Ontario Parks website, and Ottertooth forum moderator Ed MacPherson noticed the Temagami parks were included. 

Posted: 11:55 a.m. Updated 1:00 p.m. 

See more in the series above. 

FEBRUARY 5, 2004

Freak of nature creates freak snowrollers

  CLOSEUP:  Great Temagami snowrollers 

FEBRUARY 2, 2004

Court denies appeal on logging road

The Ontario Court of Appeal will not hear an appeal of August's lower court decision that permits a logging road through the Bob Lake Conservation Reserve. The decision is likely to set a precedent for the conservation-reserve system by eroding its protection and, in the process, exposing it as more political slight-of-hand.

Earthroots and Sierra Legal Defense Fund had challenged Ontario's plan to permit a logging road, known as the Eye Lake or Bob Lake road, to bisect the conservation reserve.

  Map: Eye Lake Road 

Conservation reserves were first created in 1994 as a streamlined method of establishing protected areas in Ontario. This was partly in response to pressure in Temagami to protect more while avoiding the p-word "park" which upsets mining and logging interests. The Harris government took advantage of these reserves in 1999 when it promised, on the eve of the election, to set aside 2.4 million hectares in 378 new parks and protected areas. Over half of that area was to go into more than 300 conservation reserves, increasing the total provincial area in them over ten fold. 

Areas that should have been included in the better armored park system, were tossed into these reserves. Harris got a quick environmental trophy for the elections. The public got a red herring. The protection was a loosely worded regulation that couldn't be upheld in court.

As sad as that is, it's not the worst of it. Even if these groups won the Bob Lake decision in court, the regulation could be changed by the Ontario Cabinet without having to go anywhere near the Legislature. Cabinet could have undone any court decision overnight and the judges knew it.

The road will open up to logging the area south of the reserve near Spirit Rock, a sacred aboriginal site close to Obabika Lake, and adjoining the proposed Lake Temagami Park, near Sharp Rock Inlet.

"We are disappointed," said Victor Lorentz of Earthroots. "There are no other legal actions we can take."

  Background: Decision appealed

                        Court allows road through reserve

 

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