| Feb 04, 2015

Crowded into a tiny office tacked onto the north end of the Barrie hall in Cloyne are the small offices of the six staff members who make up Mazinaw-Lanark Forest Inc. (MLFI), a private company that works year round managing the Crown land forest in Lanark and Mazinaw.

The land they manage covers a huge swath totaling 305,000 hectares in an area that stretches west to Marmora, east to Carleton Place, north to the Madawaska River and south to Tamworth.

The company, which started up in 1998, is owned and funded by local shareholders including 13 independent logging companies, seven sawmills and one pulp mill. The company operates under a sustainable forest license and its primary role is to prepare forest management plans, site-specific prescriptions and annual work schedules, while simultaneously meeting forest renewal obligations, plus all government reporting requirements, and ensuring that all operations comply with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The act aims to “manage Crown forests to meet the social, economic and environmental needs of future and present generations”.

Prior to the late 1990s the management of Crown land forests was performed by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), after which time and under the Harris government that management was transferred to the private sector. The MNR still retains the overall responsibility of making sure companies operating in the Crown forests comply with current legislation, which the MNR achieves by requiring management companies (like MLFI) to provide them with regular audits, inspections and reviews. They also are required to seek MNR approval for forest management plans.

Because these local forests have for generations been logged by small family businesses, it was deemed in their best interest to hire a small team of professionals to carry out the management side of their businesses. Trying to manage the boots on the ground and the blades to the bark is enough to keep these small companies busy year round, so the shareholders hired MLFI to do the management side of their business.

A big part of that management deals with in-depth immediate, short and long-term planning. Jan Smigielski has been working as a silvicultural forester with MFLI since 2000 and his job is to develop site-specific forest operation prescriptions showing exactly how particular blocks are to be prepared for harvesting. Smigielski said that the most challenging part of his work is also what makes it the most exciting: dealing with the natural complexity of the area. “The natural bio-diversity of this area challenges you in such a way that you can not do anything uniformly. You have to develop prescriptions on a very small scale. First you have to identify the different patches of eco-systems and address them accordingly,” he said.

The companies working with the MLFI supply mostly maple, oak and poplar to a variety of local buyers within a 100-150 km radius and they primarily sell pulpwood, firewood, and saw logs.

Matthew Mertins, who is planning and operations forester with MLFI, said that he is currently working on a forest plan for April 1, 2016 through to March 31, 2021, a plan that will detail all of the operations that will happen during that period including the locations of the harvesting blocks and renewal areas, and that will also include the various types of protections put in place for wildlife and other natural features, which the public want to see protected. “The whole idea behind the planning is to make sure that we know where we are doing the forestry operations while having the appropriate safeguards in place to make sure that the operations have no negative impacts on human activity and enjoyment and wildlife. The whole idea behind forest management is that you can run sustainable forestry operations while other things are going on around it. Cottaging and wild life can occur simultaneously as long as you strike the right balance,” Mertins said.

According to recent statistics put out by the MNR, 450 people are directly employed by forest operations on the MLFI's management area, proving that the industry is a large employer in the area.

Staff said that in an effort to keep the public informed about the current MLFI plans and operations, they are in the process of launching a new website that should be up and running by the end of this week. The site will include information about the business, its staff, its operations, along with profiles about the shareholders, and information about the local businesses working with MLFI with links to their websites as well as links to the MNR's forest management plans for the area. You can find the new website by googling Mazinaw Lanark Forest Inc.

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