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Ontario Forest Act

Posted by mhudema on July 15, 2008

Act will protect boreal forest

Jordana Huber

Victoria Times Colonist / Edmonton Journal / Regina Leader-Post / Montreal Gazette / Ottawa Citizen

TORONTO — Ontario will prohibit mining and forestry across a swath of northern boreal forest larger than the Maritime provinces, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday as part of a larger plan that will also include changes to the antiquated Mining Act.

Under a framework to be developed, McGuinty said 225,000 square kilometres — roughly half of Ontario’s boreal forest — will be protected and designated strictly for tourism and traditional aboriginal use.

The other half of the unspoiled forest will be subject to forthcoming changes to the Mining Act that will mandate early consultations and accommodation of First Nations, McGuinty said.

“Emerging economies are hungry for resources and their appetites are only going to grow,” McGuinty said. “It’s just a matter of time so that gives us time to plan for that development instead of just letting that happen.”

Scientists around the world have been calling on Canadian governments at all levels to protect the boreal forest which is under increasing pressure from logging, mining and oil and gas exploration.

The vast boreal region in northern Ontario represents 43 per cent of the province’s land mass and includes one of the world’s largest intact ecosystems.

McGuinty said it is also a “globally significant” carbon sink absorbing 12.5 million tones of carbon dioxide emissions annually from the atmosphere.

Steve Kallick, director of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign of the Pew Environment Group, heralded the province’s announcement as “one of the most significant conservation commitments on Earth.”

“This sets the new standard for Canada,” Kallick said. “Premier McGuinty’s landmark commitment brilliantly answers the call of over 1,500 of the world’s top scientists.”

Later this year, McGuinty said the province will meet with representatives from the resource sector, First Nations and scientists to develop a framework for the preservation plan and to begin the 10-15 year process of creating local land use plans.

The province will also introduce changes to the Mining Act in the fall to require early consultation and agreement with local First Nations. He said the province will create an incentive for communities to allow exploration by ensuring they get “a piece of the action” by way of resource benefit sharing plan.

Ontario‘s mining sector generated nearly $11 billion in 2007 and is growing at a “healthy clip,” McGuinty said.

“We don’t want to compromise that but we do want to ensure that our mining efforts in the Province of Ontario are respectful of Ontarians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said he was encouraged the province would make changes to the Mining Act to provide “clarity” as development is pursued on traditional territory.

“We are not against resource development, but we want to be consulted and we want to have meaningful input into the decision-making process,” said Beardy. “It is critical that any development of natural resources in the far north must respect aboriginal and treaty rights while supporting an environmentally sustainable economic future for our people.”

While environmental groups applauded the government’s announcement, opposition critics and industry spokespeople decried it as short on details.

Progressive Conservative natural resources critic Jerry Ouellette described the plan as “bad policy masquerading as good public relations.”

“The lifeblood of the north is the mining and forestry sector and they just took a couple of severe cuts today,” Ouellette said.

“This haphazard approach will create years of uncertainty at a time when stability is needed most.”

Peter McBride a spokesman for the Ontario Mining Association said Monday’s announcement was not “encouraging” for companies thinking about investing in northern development.

“People aren’t going to put their money down in the future thinking something might not be resolved for 10 years,” McBride said.

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