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Quetico Wilderness Park – wilderness protection eroded

Quetico Provincial Park is classified as a wilderness park. Wilderness Parks are large protected areas where the natural environment can fluctuate through natural forces with little or no human intervention. They are the most ecologically significant protected areas in Ontario.

The new proposed Quetico Park Management Plan begins a downward spiral in wilderness protection.

Quetico Park Management Plan Review Ignores Hydro Development Along Quetico Boundary
The Quetico Provincial Park Management Options document has been released as part of the ongoing review of the Management Plan for Quetico Park. Surprisingly, it fails to even mention three hydro electric development proposals along the Namakan River which forms the western boundary of the park. The Namakan proposals represent the most important threat currently facing Quetico. They are equally important for the future of two other nearby large protected areas – Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness – as the Namakan forms a direct ecological linkage between Quetico, Voyageurs and the Boundary Waters.

The Management Options document can be accessed from here.

The Options document clearly states that “Ontario Parks is committed to an ecosystem approach during park planning and management” (page 22) and that “Park managers will consider potential impacts on park values and features from activities occurring on adjacent lands” (page 23). Therefore, it is disturbing that the document fails to inform the public about the Namakan hydro projects and their potential effect on the ecological integrity and wilderness canoe routes of Quetico Park, the effect on ecological connections to other nearby wilderness parks, and the effect on species at risk such as the Namakan’s threatened lake sturgeon population.

More details concerning the Namakan hydro projects are provided here:
Quetico Wilderness Park - Scientisits Speak Out
Environmental Impacts of Small Hydro Projects

There is no point in having a public Park Management Plan review process where key issues that will affect the Park are not presented for public discussion.

Please send an e-mail, FAX or letter to the Quetico Park Superintendent at the address below and ask that the Options document be reissued with a discussion of the Namakan hydro projects added.

The deadline for comments is October 15, 2010 but if you miss this deadline please send your comments anyways because developing a park management plan is an ongoing process. The Environmental Bill of Rights Registry Number PB06E2023 should be indicated in your letter.

Mr. Robin Reilly, Superintendent
Quetico Provincial Park
Management Plan Review
108 Saturn Avenue
Atikokan, Ontario P0T 1C0
FAX 807- 597-6185
E-mail: queticoplan@ontario.ca

Topics discussed in the Quetico Management Options document
Although the critical issue of hydro electric development along the Namakan River is ignored, the Management Options document does discuss several other topics. Please address these issues in your letter to the Park Superintendent.

Topics 1 and 2 (Commercial aircraft lands): Commercial aircraft landing are currently permitted on several lakes within the park. There is a proposal to eliminate commercial aircraft landings on some or all of these lakes. Commercial aircraft landings are not appropriate in a wilderness park such as Quetico. The Peaceful Parks Coalition supports the elimination of such activities. In addition the Coalition recommends a flight ceiling over the park, similar that in place for many years in the adjacent Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota..

Topic 3 (Threshold Wilderness Zone): There is a proposal to develop a new type of zoning called a ‘Threshold Wilderness Zone’ in an area of the Park that is currently designated as Wilderness. The aim of the new designation is to permit activities such as mountain biking and commercial dog sledding that would not be permitted in a Wilderness Zone. This goes against the intent of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, which establishes Wilderness parks as place where such activities are prohibited. The new zoning designation poses a threat to Wilderness parks and Wilderness zones across the Ontario parks system.

Topic 4 (Campgrounds): The Dawson Trail campgrounds predates Quetico’s designation as a wilderness park. There is a proposal to add more campsites, enlarge some existing campsites to accommodate larger (over 32 foot) RVs, and increase the number of electrical campsites. Given that Quetico is a wilderness park, increasing the size of the campgrounds, campsites or number of electrical sites is inappropriate.

Topic 5 ( Mechanized ski trail grooming): This activity currently occurs in an area focused within several kilometres of the Dawson Trail Access Zone. Quetico is a wilderness park. Mechanized activities should be prohibited. The Peaceful Parks Coalition supports the use of mechanized trail grooming only within the Access Zone.

Topic 6 and 7 (Development of long distance backcountry trails): There are proposals for new long distance hiking trails either in the Natural Environment sector of the Park or anywhere in the park. Given that Quetico is a Wilderness Park, current recreational use is already sufficiently high along the Park’s system of canoe routes.

Topic 8 (Travel and campsite restrictions): There is a proposal to require visitors to travel only on designated canoe routes and camp only at designated campsites. This proposal is not consistent with the wilderness nature of the park or with visitors’ wilderness experience.

Topic 9 (Pickerel Lake dam): The Pickerel Lake dam, which has been in place since the logging days, is deteriorating. There are alternative proposals to either repair the dam or permit it to continue to deteriorate until the lake returns to historical water levels. Dams are not appropriate in a wilderness park.

Clearly Green Design