In March 1999, the provincial government announced Ontario's Living Legacy, a strategyfor expanding Ontario's system of parks and protected areas. The highlight of the strategy was the addition of 378 new parks and protected areas totaling 2.4 million hectares. This increased the amount of land protected in the province by a third, for a total of more than 9.5 million hectares.
Although the strategy is a provincial document, it was also another step in the realization of national and international conservation efforts. The 1992 Canada Forest Accord—signed by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, the forest industry (including OFIA), First Nations and environmental organizations—said the forest community would "work toward completing, by the year 2000, a network of protected areas representative of Canada's forests …" Our goal was to meet the United Nations standard for protection, which is 12% of the landbase. With Ontario's Living Legacy, this goal has been achieved in the Land Use Strategy planning area.
Provincially, Ontario's Living Legacy built on the Lands for Life consultation process, through which more than 65,000 Ontarians gave their opinion on the use of Crown lands. Forests are valued for many different reasons. They provide habitat for thousands of plant and animal species. They provide economic value through the forest, mining and tourism industries. They are important to anglers and hunters, naturalists and cottagers. Lands for Life was established as a way to determine how to allocate Crown lands to meet the needs of all concerned.
The forest industry was actively involved and viewed Lands for Life as a much-needed opportunity to identify which lands would be available for harvest in the future. Our industry is highly capital intensive, which means that in order to remain competitive companies must attract the large investments required to maintain their equipment and mills. To attract investment, they need a secure, long-term supply of fibre.
These objectives are being met through the different elements that make up Ontario's Living Legacy, including the Ontario Forest Accord, the Living Legacy Trust and the Land Use Planning Strategy.
The Ontario Forest Accord is an innovative document: an agreement between the Ministry of Natural Resources, members of the forest products industry and the Partnership for Public Lands (which includes the World Wildlife Fund, the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and the Wildlands League).
In keeping with the goals of sustainable development, the Accord focuses on both the environment and economy. The fundamental objective for everyone involved is the long-term health and sustainability of Ontario forest ecosystems. Through the Accord, parks and protected areas identified during Lands for Life are now being permanently regulated and mapped in detail.
Also through the Accord, commitments have been made to the industry, its employees and forestry-dependent communities. These include no net reduction in the fibre supply and no net increase in the cost of wood delivered to mills.
To enhance forest productivity, the Accord provides for the development and testing of intensive forest management practices, and the application of these practices on select sites. One idea is to choose sites that offer the best conditions for growing the desired species, and then to manage those sites in such a way that the trees grow faster (and fibre production is increased). Test pilot studies along these lines are currently underway.
In general terms, the concept of intensive forest management represents an opportunity. It has been practiced successfully for many years, both in North America and places like New Zealand, which have found ways to increase the rate of growth for certain species. But it must be noted that although Ontario has some very good forest research programs, there are still a great many questions to be answered in terms of both the science and economic viability.
Implementation of the Accord was overseen by the Ontario Forest Accord Advisory Board, which included representatives from government, the forest industry (including OFIA) and the environmental community.
Among other things, the Board developed strategies for making any additions to the system of protected areas, identifying areas for intensive forest management and addressing long standing issues such as forest management planning, tenure and stumpage.
"Room to Grow: the Final Report of the Forest Accord Advisory Board on Implementation of the Accord" was published in March 2002 and is available from the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Living Legacy Trust is a fund established in March 1999 to support implementation of the Accord over a five-year period.
Specifically, the Trust included $30 million. Of that, $21.5 million was provided to improve multi-purpose resource access, develop forest management opportunities in the far north (with agreement from and providing direct economic benefits to First Nations), enhance forest science (with a focus on intensive forest management), increase forest employment, encourage the manufacturing of value-added wood products, and cover the loss of use of existing forest roads and bridges.
Another $7 million was set aside to improve fish and wildlife resource planning and management, and enhance access to hunting and fishing. This part of the Trust is also being used to increase knowledge of fish and wildlife habitat and populations, and to fund habitat improvement.
For an update on Trust activities, please visit www.livinglegacytrust.org.
The Land Use Strategy is based on the work of citizen roundtables established for the Boreal East, Boreal West and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence planning regions. It covers 45% of the province—some 39 million hectares—and describes which activities are permitted on which sites.
The Strategy focuses on the four objectives established at the start of Lands for Life, and addresses each specifically.
Completing Ontario's system of parks and protected areas …
The intent is to make sure that the manyecosystems and natural features found in the planning region (including biological and geological features) are represented in the system of parks and protected areas. The Strategy divides the area into land use categories and describes the activities permitted on each. These include four Land Use Designations (provincial park, conservation reserve, forest reserve and general use) and seven types of Enhanced Management Areas (including natural heritage, recreation, remote access, fish and wildlife, Great Lakes coastal, resource-based tourism and intensive forestry). The Strategy includes the creation of 378 new parks and protected areas totaling 2.4 million hectares, in various categories.
Recognizing the land use needs of the resource-based tourism industry …
The Strategy identifies several actions that meet this objective, including the revision of existing forest management guidelines for the protection of tourism values and the creation of Resource Stewardship Agreements (RSAs). A framework for RSAs has since been developed, and Agreements are being negotiated between the forest and tourism industries. Specifically, RSAs will focus on issues such as the method and timing of forest management (including harvest, renewal and maintenance) and the location, construction, management and possible retirement of forest access roads.
Providing forest, mining and other resource industries with greater certainty …
For the forest industry, the certainty will come from knowing, once and for all, which lands will be available for harvest and which will be withdrawn.
Enhancing angling and hunting and other Crown land recreational opportunities …
Enhanced opportunities include increased fish production in provincial hatcheries, and regulatory changes that open more lakes to year-round fishing and expand deer hunting season. The Living Legacy Trust is also providing funds for improving fish and wildlife habitat, and increasing access to these resources.