March

 

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MARCH 31, 2004

Ice hut deadline today

A sign of spring is the March 31 deadline for removal of fishing huts from Lake Temagami. Failure to do so, or even leaving trash on the ice, could result in a fine. 

MARCH 21, 2004

Weather radar of Temagami & Muskoka

Environment Canada has added an animated view to its website of precipitation over Temagami and Muskoka. 

  WEBSITE:  Weather radar

MARCH 20, 2004

It's the politics, stupid

It has become almost regular fare, since 1990, for there to be a "bump-up" request for a full environmental assessment on the timber management plan in Temagami. This year was no exception.

In mid February, environment group Earthroots requested a bump-up over the failure to address access on logging roads and failure to address affected recreation and tourism. The minister of environment will likely respond around April 5.

What would be accomplished by an assessment? Environmentally, almost nothing. Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act has always been a toothless tiger with little if anything to do with environmental protection. A reading of the Act reveals little more than a set of vague instructions on how to prepare an assessment with no standards for environmental protection. Almost all decision-making is handed over to the minister of environment (leaving little recourse in the courts), virtually guaranteeing a politically driven conclusion.

An environmental assessment asks the question: should the logging go ahead or be cancelled as it is too environmentally damaging? Wrong. Under this Act it asks: what changes need to be made that on the surface overcome public objections? (In the Red Squirrel Road environmental assessment of 1986, the no-road option was not allowed into the process and MNR manipulated the results so DELCAN, the respected independent consultant, quit, refusing to allow its name on the report.)

Why the act? An environmental assessment provides defensive cover for the government, which can continue with its plans while hiding behind the perceived independent, rigorous and fair assessment. A cynic would label it the Environmental Whitewash Act.

But, in cases where there is an organized and motivated citizenry, it can delay environmental degradation, sway political decisions, and increase the public profile of an issue. The Red Squirrel Road environmental assessment stands as a model for citizen action.  

Will the minister grant the request? Between 1994 to 2001, MNR reports there were 98 bump-up requests across Ontario. Not one was granted.

In fact, there has only been one environmental assessment ever granted on a forestry plan in Ontario history. That was for the Megisan Lake (north of Sault Ste. Marie) plan granted in the early 1990s kicked into motion by the Peterson government. This may not come as a surprise, but it was never conducted on the impact of logging on the environment. The minister only permitted it to look at the impact of logging on tourism.

MNR stands in fear of bump-up requests. Not because it expects to conduct an assessment, because it doesn't. It simply dreads the increased paperwork involved in responding to the requests and the logging delays, until the minister waves it on, that may result.

"A bump-up request can be submitted by any one person or group," said Rick Calhoun of MNR in North Bay, "and merely indicates dissatisfaction on their part with some aspect of the proposed forest management plan. A bump-up request means that MNR has been unable to address this dissatisfaction."

MNR's response to a bump-up mirrors the substance of the Act. It's the politics, stupid.

  BACKGROUND:  Call for environmental assessment

 

Images: new Temagami park signs for campsites, latrines and portages.

MARCH 11, 2004

New park signs

Starting this summer, park rangers will be posting these signs on designated campsites (orange), portages (yellow), and latrines (blue) in five remote parks. These are shown at about two thirds actual size.

It will take several years before all campsites and portages are marked.

The remote parks are Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness, Makobe-Grays, Solace, Obabika River and Sturgeon River.

Designated campsites are identified on Ontario Parks' Temagami Canoe Routes Planning Map.

 

 

 

MARCH 5, 2004

Lessons of the past

The eleventh-hour compromise over the Blueberry trail, although not a total victory, or a big victory, was a victory no less. Three important factors weighed on the outcome.

  BACKGROUND:  Blueberry trail compromise

The trail defenders had strong northern participation. In this case, the nearby property owners represented by the Cassels and Adjoining Lakes Association (CALA).

Protection had wide public support outside of the north, led by Ancient Forest Exploration and Research, an ecological research institute.

A recognized citizens' group took the lead and pursued its goal with determination CALA.

These same three factors can be found in every successful effort large or small to protect the area in the past twenty years.

Consider a few. In 1983, Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park was created, in part due to the campaign by the Alliance for the Lady Evelyn Wilderness.

Logging near Solace Lake and a bridge over the upper Sturgeon River were quietly shelved after an unpublicized 1989 meeting in North Bay between the Temagami Wilderness Society and a representative of MNR's Sudbury district (where the logging was administered from).

Logging plans were cancelled in 1989 in the Wakimika Triangle's old-growth pine after a campaign led by the Temagami Wilderness Society.

Both the Society and the Alliance were broadly-based groups founded in and led from the north, but with strong outside public support.

Of course, these elements don't guarantee success, but history has shown they are necessary. And you know that old saw about those who forget the lessons of the past.

MARCH 1, 2004

Northeast Arm yesterday

Photos by Andy Stevens, taken at O'Connor Island on Lake Temagami.

Photo: winter on Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami Photo: outhouse in winter on Northeast Arm of Lake Temagami

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