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, email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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