NEW! The FOW is strongly advocating for buffers and protections for Armstrong Forest Canoe routes. These new comments are for the tw0-year forest plan, which is to be followed by a ten-year plan. We know the MNRF is considering our detailed points. Your Conservation Committee and especially FOW President Vern Fish have spent hours pouring over the proposed road building and harvest plans.
The proposed roads and harvest are pushing deep into the corners of this forest, which are bounded on three or more sides by Wabakimi and other Provincial Parks. Read full comments and see photos here! A few key points we made:
The FOW Conservation Committee has contributed comments to the current Forest Management Plan (effectively, for 2021 to 2033) and, more recently, to the document known as the LTMD (Long Term Management Direction) Summary, which describes main aspects and impacts of the plan. Our full comments can be seen here: FOW COMMENTS ON ARMSTRONG FOREST LTMD.
One of our main concerns is with road-building associated with timber harvest. In particular, a primary road extension is planned to allow harvest of a block (AB-3) on the Wabakimi Provincial Park boundary south of Whitewater Lake. The road option that seems to be preferred by the Armstrong Forest Local Citizens Committee (LCC) is an extension of Dalton Road running generally north, to the east of Caribou Lake, then to the west, over the top of Kellar Bay of Caribou Lake. Such a route would cross four canoe routes that are mapped to the east and north out of Caribou Lake (See FOW Map Volume 5).
We expressed our concern that best practices be followed, so as not to obliterate the portages, which are also entered on the Values map that forest planners utilize. We also requested that, should such a road go in, access for canoers be allowed (that is not a given on those primary roads, which may be open only to logging operations and First Nation persons). If there is possible lemonade to be made from this, it could be for allowing access to the Crown Land canoe routes in that area, some of which connect into Wabakimi Provincial Park. For more detail, please refer to the above link.
While timber harvesting is key economic driver for the area economy, we posit that recreational canoeing, wilderness exploration, fishing and appreciation of these natural values also has economic and social value to the area economy that’s not adequately recognized in the proposed Long Term Management Direction Summary.
These comments were developed by the Conservation Committee and approved by the Board of Directors and submitted prior to the July 30, 2020 deadline.
Conservation Committee: An Overview and Recent Activities
The Conservation Committee of FOW consists, at present, of Ray Tallent (chair, firstname.lastname@example.org) Shawn Bell, Doug Blount, Mark Dandrea, Vern Fish, Amy Funk, Dave McTeague, Randy Trudeau and Terry Isert. Any FOW member who is interested can participate on the Conservation Committee (you can express your interest at https://www.wabakimi.org/membership-interactive-site.html ) or email email@example.com. Our focus is on gathering and sharing information on environmental issues in the Wabakimi Area, and in communicating our concerns and positions to the ministries that oversee activities in the area. For FOW, this most closely relates to the value of the area in its wilderness features and as a canoeing destination, and our involvement reflects these priorities. The ministries also take into consideration the views of stakeholders who have different priorities.
The Wabakimi Area, as circumscribed by Phil Cotton and delineated in every volume of Canoe Route Maps, includes Provincial Parks, Conservation Reserves, and other Crown Lands under management as Forest Management Units. Management of the Parks and Conservation Reserves falls to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), whereas the Forest Management Units are managed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). So, the Conservation Committee is involved with two different ministries, depending on the area of concern. A main contact person for the parks and conservation reserves is Shannon Lawr, the Park Superintendant for Wabakimi Provincial Park. FOW President Vern Fish has had a number of conversations with him, and we intend to stay actively involved as the Park Plan for Wabakimi progresses.
There are about five Forest Management Units in the Wabakimi Area. The MNRF develops and oversees management plans for these units, following guidelines set up by the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) and – in the case of areas like this with ‘continuous’ woodland caribou distribution – the Dynamic Caribou Habitat Schedule (DCHS; please note: there will be a mandatory quiz over acronymns at the end of this article :<). Each management plan covers about one decade, and there are subsequent plans scheduled out to well over one century.
Part of this longer term perspective is to plan any harvesting in such a way as to mimic fire cycles (at about a 100-year rotation in any one place) on the area and to maintain enough mature forest at any one time to support the woodland caribou. In the plan discussed below, for instance, about 9% of the forest unit area is slated for harvest over a 12-year plant period. It should be noted that the plans for Crown Forest lands attempt to balance “biological, social, and economic objectives” (LTMD – Long Term Management Direction --Summary). These lands tend to see more extractive activities and more human-related disturbance on the landscape than do the parks and preserves.
One way for stakeholders to participate in the Crown Forest management plan process is via a Local Citizens Committee (LCC) that offers input and comments to the planners. Shawn Bell and Vern Fish are FOW’s LCC participants on the Armstrong Forest (Wabadowgang Noopming) that surrounds Armstrong and the Whitesand First Nation and forms much of the eastern border of Wabakimi Provincial Park. This particular forest unit is well over 600, 000 hectares (over one million acres) in size and forms much of the eastern border to Wabakimi Provincial Park.
Submitted by Ray Tallent, FOW Conservation Chair
FOW engages with Armstrong Forest Planning
Recently FOW President Vern Fish was accepted as our representative to the Armstrong Forest Local Citizen Committee (LCC). Board member and Thunder Bay resident Shawn Bell was accepted as our Alternate. They replace Phil Cotton who was appointed shortly before he passed.
Volume 5 Canoe Routes. There are many canoe routes in the Armstrong Forest which The Wabakimi Project improved and documented in FOW Maps Volume 5 as well as several major points of entry into Wabakimi Provincial Park. Logging and road development in this Crown land forest will impact the area’s habitat and canoe routes.
Vern attended his first meeting on May 27th. This was the LCC’s first online meeting, a change which greatly helps our involvement. The Armstrong Forest is currently revising the next ten-year Forest Management Plan (FMP). Vern reported:
New Logging road. The dominant issue was the location of a road to haul logs out of the northwest corner of the Armstrong Forest. (See the Dalton Road Extension map. The logging company refers to the road as the Dalton Road Extension but the locals refer to it as the Big Lake Road.) Here's the full report in our June newsletter. We'll report further soon our questions to MNRF staff and their responses.
Armstrong Forest Planning Process
Going forward, the Armstrong Forest is going to be managed separately from the current Nipigon Forest unit. At stake is a ten year plus management plan for forest harvesting, associated roads, habitat and wildlife conservation and addressing the needs of the area communities and recreational interests.
The FOW recently responded to the Armstrong Forest Desired Benefit Survey. Protecting historic canoe routes, and essential wildlife and habitat is the essence of our response. We don’t want more roads into the wilderness, but access to canoe routes is desirable if there are developed roads. (FOW Survey Response & Letter)
The Conservation Committee recommended this response after reviewing critical documents, such as:
the “Forest Management Guide for Boreal Landscapes”
the “Stand and Site Guide” for Conserving Biodiversity at the Stand and Site Scales.
Another important guide is the Woodland Caribou Recovery and Conservation Policy: https://www.ontario.ca/page/range-management-policy-support-woodland-caribou-conservation-and-recovery.
See also the recent article by Wabakimi Park biologist Shannon Walshe: http://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/wabakimi-caribou/
Raymond River Route Letter
Recently, we let MNRF know about concerns specific to the Raymond River route (including Hollingsworth, Raymond and Scallop Lakes) in the NW section of Armstrong Forest. This route was mapped and cleared in 2018. A proposed road could impact this route. (View Letter )
Forest Plans and Maps
In the current forest plans there are different maps with lots of detail and maps about tourism (canoe routes, outposts), cultural resources, and forestry operations. There are significant forest harvest management areas in all five forest units to the east, west and south of the provincial park. These can be found by going to ontario.ca/forestplans.
Protecting Crown Land Canoe routes and surrounding habitat was an important reason Phil Cotton started the The Wabakimi Project.
“Wabakimi is quickly becoming an island of wilderness, despite being over 890,000-hectares-huge. Our wanton destruction of the boreal forest for lumber, pulp and minerals is partially to blame. Crown land usage outside of Wabakimi is further confounded by the fact that four separate Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) districts manage the land according to a non-uniform series of regulations. One of my objectives in identifying old canoe routes has been to convince MNR and park managers that the wilderness values of the Crown land outside of Wabakimi’s boundaries should be preserved – for the sake of both canoeists and wildlife. I hope that in making MNR aware that these historic waterways still exist they will be protected and continue to act as corridors to and from Wabakimi’s interior.”
“Uncle” Phil Cotton, as told to Ontario Nature in 2009
Phil’s 2014 treatise on ONTARIO CROWN LAND CANOE ROUTES is essential reading for his deep understanding of the issues facing the unprotected area around the Wabakimi area provincial parks. Phil also made a strong call for linking up with a broad range of public interest organizations to advocate for the Crown Land forests, “There is an urgent need for a single, unified voice to represent recreationalists who value and enjoy the province’s wilderness canoeing opportunities and to speak for the protection and preservation of all existing Crown land canoe routes.”
FOW Conservation Committee
We’ve had several meetings on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. CST, (8:00 p.m. EST), by Skype. If you’re interested in participating or learning more; drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ray Tallent is our FOW Conservation Director. (See Ray’s article on Feather Mosses in our Dec. 2019 newsletter).
Other issues we’d like to explore in the future are: