| Jun 24, 2010

At the back of the Barrie Hall, in Cloyne, there is a small office space that is rented by Mazinaw Lanark Forest Incorporated (MLFI).

MLFI is a company that owes its existence to the Harris Conservatives. Until the mid 1990s, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources was responsible for planning all forestry activities on Crown Lands. But when the department was substantially downsized, all the planning around forestry and forest management was privatized to the forestry industry. In the bulk of the northern forests in the province, large forestry companies were able to do the work themselves, subject to MNR oversight, but in Lennox and Addington, Frontenac and Lanark counties the forestry companies are generally small family businesses. So, Mazinaw Lanark Forest Incorporated was established. It is owned by 19 family-run companies as well as Norampac, the mill that is supplied by most of them.

MLFI has the major responsibility for developing a 10-year cutting plan for the Crown forests in the three counties, forests that are mainly located in Addington Highlands, North Frontenac and the western portion of Lanark Highlands.

The 10-year plan is part of a longer-term forest management plan that has been developed in consultation with user groups, MLFI members, and the MNR. “Our members are family businesses that have been in business for up to six generations,” said MLFI Manager Tom Richardson, “their goal is to harvest the forest and maintain it in a healthy condition for future use.”

According to Tom Richardson, there are three cutting plans employed in the region.

About 45% of the cutting uses a cyclical selective cutting practice, which involves “removing up to a third of growing stock in a regular cycle, which works well on maple stands” said Tom Richardson.

Another 41% of the cutting uses what is called a “shelter wood harvest”. “Basically this involves the removal of most of the over story of the stand over a period of two to three harvests, in a period of 15-40 years. This is employed for White Pine and Red Oak. “In the first cut, we try to preserve the best quality trees, and get rid of the poorer quality, undesirable trees to promote natural re-generation. The better trees are cut later on,” said Richardson.

This leaves about 15% of the cutting, which employs what Richardson calls a “final harvesting” method, also popularly known as “clear cutting”. The term is a misnomer according to Richardson because not everything is cut. “Final harvesting” is used in Poplar and White Birch forests, which are species that “won't come back if there is a forest cover” he said.

Of the 305,000 hectares of Crown Land in the MLFI catchment area, 44%, (135,000 hectares) is eligible for forestry operations; 18% is made up of parks and recreation areas; 11% are non-forested areas; 9% are rock and swamp, and another 18% are areas that are either set aside for old growth, and areas of natural and scientific interest (ANSI), or areas where there are not enough trees to support a harvest.

For a variety of reasons, including the size of the operations and the selling price of wood products, MLFI members only harvest about 1/3 of the trees that are included in their work plan. “The MNR would like us to cut more,” said Tom Richardson.

MLFI has gone about its business quietly for over a decade, but during the process of public consultation for their 2011 - 2021 plan, it has become the subject of attention of lake associations. Concerns have been raised over the way the process has been publicized, and over plans to cut in the vicinity of some lakes, particularly near Jacques Bay of Skootamatta Lake and in the narrows between Skootamatta and Sheldrake lakes.

Mary Johnston, who lives on Jacques Bay Road near Cloyne, expressed her concerns in a letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources. She complained about the promotion and format of an open house about the plan, which was held in Cloyne on June 12. She said that a formal public meeting would have been a better forum. “Given the enormous impact of the logging plans to our residents this smacks of evasiveness and an intentional downplay of what would likely evoke a strong reaction,” she wrote, … “the chosen format of an open house versus a public meeting, in my opinion, is flagrantly transparent as it attempts to diffuse information, collective response and potential controversy.”

As concerns Jacques Bay and the narrows, Johnston argued that the lands include locations that are adjacent to public beaches, are “routinely used for hiking, day trippers, campers etc. and have been voluntarily maintained by lake residents over many years.”

Opposition to the planning process has sparked the associations from Skootamatta, Mazinaw, Weslemkoon, and Ashby Lakes to hold meetings and begin talking about common interests in dealing with logging and unrelated matters as well. Steve Smart, President of the Mazinaw Property Owners’ Association (MPOA), echoed some of Mary Johnston’s concerns about communication. “This sort of came upon us without anybody really being told directly that it was happening. We are all concerned about logging near the lakes, because of the impacts on the lakes from a tourism point of view,” Smart said.

There is an advisory committee to Mazinaw Lanark Forestry that includes representation from five First Nations, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and members of the general public, but Smart said the committee is insufficient.

For his part, Tom Richardson said that the process of developing the 10-year plan is still in its preliminary stages.

The June 12 Open House is followed by a 60-day comment period. A draft plan will be developed, which will go to another Open House. After that a final plan will be developed, which will as well be brought to the public. Once the plan is adopted, it is subject to an appeals process should anyone want to take that step.

The plan is slated to be in place by April 1, 2011


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