The role of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests – MNRF) with regards to Ontario’s forests is, as stated on their webpage here, to “act as stewards of this resource.” One task associated with this role is overseeing and monitoring the Forest Management Plans submitted by commercial forestry companies involved in harvesting timber. We have concerns about how effectively the MNRF plays this role. See more on our Forest Management Plans webpage.
In 2011, the Ontario Government produced the publication Biodiversity – It’s In Our Nature. The mandates of various branches of government are outlined in its pages, including that of the MNRF:
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is the steward of Ontario’s provincial parks, forests, fisheries, wildlife, mineral aggregates, petroleum resources and the Crown lands and waters that make up 87 per cent of the province. MNR’s mandated activities include: biodiversity management; natural heritage and protected-areas management; Crown land, water and non-renewable resource management; renewable energy; forest management; and emergency and forest fire management. The Ministry fulfils its mandate through a broad range of laws and programs that reflect its diverse responsibilities. Role in Biodiversity Conservation MNR envisions a healthy and naturally diverse environment that enables and contributes to sustainable development in Ontario. As such, the Ministry is committed to the conservation of biodiversity and to the associated management of the province’s natural resources in a sustainable manner. MNR supports the Ontario Biodiversity Council and works to champion Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy, 2011 within the OPS and broader society. A key organizational goal supporting the long-term vision and mission of MNR is the maintenance of healthy, resilient ecosystems.
The Ministry works with numerous stakeholders and partners to promote stewardship and manage Ontario’s natural resources in a manner that sustains and restores healthy, resilient aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, thereby safeguarding human health and quality of life for Ontarians. MNR represents Ontario on national, bi-national and international working groups and committees to advance the conservation of biodiversity. Since the passage of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and the approval of the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995), MNR has led efforts to integrate biodiversity conservation principles in Ontario’s natural resources management framework and legislation including the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, the Endangered Species Act, 2007 and the Far North Act, 2010.
This document is based on Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy 2011, which sets out many worthy goals in the pursuit of maintaining and fostering our heritage of biodiversity. We scanned through the Strategy hoping to find more detail on the MNRF’s role in maintaining our forests for future generations, but instead only found this simple statement regarding the government’s role, tacked onto the end of a paragraph about natural resources in general:
The legislative and policy framework for the management of Crown forests also ensures their sustainable harvest.
Unfortunately, we did not find in the pages of these documents any inquiry into how effectively the MNRF performs the role set out for it. Rather, we are presented with empty platitudes such as the one just above.
As citizens, we are far from reassured that a “policy framework” is ensuring the sustainable harvest of our forests. We have witnessed practices that appear far from sustainability-promoting. The reforestation of previously deciduous areas with conifers, supported by toxic herbicide spraying, cannot possibly be in the best interests of sustainability or biodiversity. The possibility of significant mercury release from the soil of clear-cut areas surrounding lakes and waterways is another great concern, especially when these lakes are fished. When we then see the documents such as those above, sunnily presented to the trusting public, we feel embittered.
However, we are not powerless as long as more citizens learn the truth of how our forests are being managed, and speak out.