Will 2020 bring a clarity of vision?

We can hope so! But at what point does proactive vision and hope fail?

Just what kind of vision does our world need now?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it is nice to have a quiet afternoon to contemplate some questions such as this, some of the struggle of this past year, and look ahead to the future year.

This year marks 40 years as an accommodations destination, promoting backcountry winter adventure and all the lovely skills of sport that facilitate enjoyment. Although ostensibly a business that generates income, the real value of what we do is more of a “follow our beliefs and feed our souls” sort of reward!  By being able to live by example, and educate public and political interests about ways to live within an ecosystem of land without destroying it, is our best private joy.  We have built community around our sport and can trace the links in the chain of everything we do that makes this a good model of environmental stewardship, and we hope, inclusivity for community and those who find us.

Sadly, we have not been as successful with the political will as we have been with the personal. After 40 years of constant cooperation and community involvement with our local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, (MNRF)…it is painfully obvious that stakeholders in Crown forests have no ability to change the mindset of an archaic and industry-led corporation.

As members and original instigators of a citizens committee who supposedly have a legislated active voice in timber management,  we have responsibility in identifying, promoting, and preserving tourism and recreational values. Our business depends on these values and our participation supports several other local partner organizations with the same interests. Other examples of users that have a larger provincial or regional platform includes ongoing events such as Crank The Shield  Race, local independent users in all seasons and the proposed Sault Cycle Club bicycle access trails and plans.

We advocate for better Areas of Concern (AOC) for vulnerable species and activities, and better harvesting logistics, the lack of which is often underscored by public fact-finding information sessions such as workshops which come from the provincial legislation such as the recent Forest Desireabilities and Benefit Values Workshop, undertaken for non-timber forest products.

During that workshop, the “Objectives” board we all worked on resulted in tourism and recreation values as the most agreed upon priority objectives, to be recognized and implemented in the 2030 Timber Management Plan (TMP).

In the TMP process, the area maps are highly accurate, of very high quality, and constitute a legal document once approved in the TMP. The planning process of mapping the areas, and accessing the information of all users is invaluable and is all pertinent within the legal document of the final TMP.

However we had serious issues with the implementation of the 2019 Annual Work Schedule within Block 75 on Bellevue Mountain, Vankoughnet Twsp., an area we have had paid fees for on an annual basis for 30 years as part of an existing and planned further expansion trail map.

In the recognition of values, i.e. existing trails, the MNR was immutable in modifying the present AOC’s, quoting “legal reasons”, and they refused our request to set aside a small part of the allocation that our trail ran through.

Clergue Forest Products recognized the forest trail values, and agreed on a non-disturbance implementation of harvest, but without any AOC, and a promise of best practices.

The follow-through was very disappointing, and we feel betrayed by our local MNRF and the people we have worked to educate for 30 years. They chose to use us as an example of what kind of reaction to expect if you ask for considerations of other forest users. Many mitigations could easily have been arrived at –  the harvest could have been a winter harvest, as in the adjacent management unit, and/or the harvesters could have waited until wet weather conditions cleared, to allow minimal disturbance. What did happen was that our minimal trail on Bellevue Mountain was used as a skidder trail in extremely wet conditions, and an entire hillside has been destroyed, and many far reaching impacts such as siltation of a wetland, and massive erosion.

The only reason the forestry companies even insisted on this cut was to make an example of us, and insist on business as usual just in case anyone else out there saw a better value in a chunk of forest rather than a few loads of pulp and waste wood.

Even if the harvest was warranted, the severe rutting of hundreds of yards in the existing trailheads, and in the landing areas could have been prevented, by adherence to the rules laid out in the bible of Ontario Forestry Standards, the Stand and Site Guidelines,  Section 5.2.c – in particular, 

1.Guideline #4, Criteria for Work Stoppage to Mitigate Impacts

2. within Best Management Practices, Item #6 – Selection of Season

3. within Table 5.2.d, under Erosion, Best Management Practice, Item #7, Rehabilitate areas where soil has been deposited etc.

Considering the amount of work that went into the implementation of the harvest with the assistance of ALL the users and the protocols that were available to be applied to the actual harvest, it is very disturbing that such a situation has resulted in the final outcome of this block. It has been denigrated for all other users, and will need serious remediation and many years to repair.

When looking at examples such as this I feel increasing despair about ANY clarity for the planet. How is it we can’t even work cooperatively on a tiny area of crown land that is supposed to be available to all users – and  30 years of intent and effort, annual fees and many hours and weeks of time that went into the creation of the activity on that land base, and the education of the why and how ….. all gets thrown out the window in a pissing contest about who has the right to use the land.

It is becoming increasingly obvious even to the children that the wild spaces we all thought were self perpetuating are a fallacy and fable. The corporations own it all and we as humans are tossed about on the waves of greed like so many plastic cups in the ocean.

Perhaps the hope of clarity, and information on how to positively impact the future of our dear diseased planet is only available once we see the limitations – and the last pieces are fenced and sucked dry.  I guess my 2020 vision is not being assisted by rose coloured glasses – but by the reality of experience; our own attempts to make it work on a community level, and the reality of trying our best to educate and lead by example and cooperation, and failing.


New Years Day, 2020


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