Sweeping New Forestry Rules for Ontario
Earlier this year, the McGuinty government introduced sweeping changes to the rules that govern forestry practices in Ontario. They include:
- the collection of woody debris off the forest floor to promote the biofuel energy industry;
The new forestry rules will review the closure of logging roads to permit access for biofibre harvesting for the biofuel industry. While the biofuel industry is currently being promoted as an alternative ‘green’ energy, it is no more advanced than burning firewood. In the natural world there is no such thing as ‘waste’. Organic matter is naturally recycled back into nutrients vital for soil fertilization. Strip mining the forest floor of its nutrients will deplete and erode soils and compromise future forest renewal.
- introducing selective genetic tree stock;
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ response to climate change generally falls into the categories of adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation means taking action to reduce the release of greenhouse gases and so lessen the related impacts of climate change. Adaptation means taking action to best adjust and cope with the expected effects of climate change.
The ministry has long argued that the cutting of mature forests mitigates the release of carbon emissions because once trees reach maturity they stop absorbing carbon and begin releasing it instead. The introduction of selective genetic tree stock will help forests ‘adapt’ to changing climate conditions.
The Ontario government is proposing to replace the natural forest state with a ‘new and improved’ forest composition by selecting genetic tree stock that will withstand the impacts of climate change. It may include more deciduous species and hardier genetic traits. Eventually as original natural forests are converted to manufactured forests, knowledge of forest ecology will be lost as will the ability to set a ‘natural benchmark’ for forest management planning.
- changing the definition of ‘sustainability’;
The new forestry rules have eliminated the requirement to establish a “Natural Benchmark” as a standard to compare a managed forest. In the past, the objective of a forest management plan was to emulate the evolution of a natural forest in the absence of human management. Without a ‘natural benchmark’, a major tool for determining forest sustainability has been removed. In the new rules, sustainability has been redefined to meet arbitrary wildlife habitat targets achievable within wood supply objectives; unrelated to natural wildlife populations.
- limiting public consultations in forest management planning.
The main objective of the new forestry rules is to streamline forest management planning. Part of this ‘streamlining’ is to limit the public issues resolution process. The Ontario government will continue to seek public input on new forestry plans but will limit the second stage of public engagement: the process the seeks to resolve outstanding public objections to forestry practices.
The national edition of the New York Times recently printed an article about tissue products, recycled fibre and how tissue product companies including Kimberly-Clark are trashing ancient forests such as Canada’s Boreal. This edition and the online version has a readership of 22 million.
Blog and comment about the article at this link.
Please link onto Ontario's Northern Boreal Forest: The Cries of The Lorax Have Never Been More Urgent for more action ideas.
To read background information on Ontario’s new forestry rules on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry, please click here.