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Battle brewing over forest: environmental assessment sought by naturalists' federation.

A confrontation brewing in the Chapleau area has the makings of a land-use battle similar to the one previously fought in Temagami, according to one Ministry of Natural Resources official.

The confrontation was sparked by the Ontario Federation of Naturalists, which has called for an environmental assessment of the 8,250-square-kilometre Superior Forest Management Area. The Crown forest is managed by Superior Forest Management Ltd., a division of Green Forest Lumber of Toronto.

However, the ministry official, who refused to be named, believes that an assessment will fail to satisfy the federation because the issue concerns land use, not the environment.

"It's in the same league as Temagami. It's about land use," he says.

The Superior Forest is located at the head waters of Missinabi River and contains the Chapleau Crown Management Game Preserve, several provincial parks and remote tourist operations.

Three Chapleau sawmills also depend on the forest for their timber supply. Chapleau Forest Products, A & L Lafreniere Lumber Limited and Pineal Lake Lumber employ more than 400 people in mills, woodlands and forestry operations.

According to the federation, the Superior Forest's timber is being harvested at unsustainable rates, and large areas of logged land are not being regenerated into productive forest.

"In flying over the area the interesting thing was the level of cutting. The emphasis of the (forest management) plan is based on the production of fibre," charges Marion Taylor, the federation's chief environmentalist. "There is no question they are certainly not maintaining the forest to maintain yellow birch."

"We are not opposed to cutting or business. We are concerned about sustainability," she adds.

"This land is sustainable," responds Doug Howell, the Ministry of Natural Resources' district manager in Chapleau. "This forest is in good shape compared to some, and for the company (Superior Forest Management) and us to be beat up by somebody suggesting we are doing something wrong is wrong."

Taylor counters that the forests' white pine stock will be exhausted within 15 years at the current rate of harvest.

The white pine is being cut by Pineal Lake Lumber, a small specialty mill which supplies raw material to parent company Mason Windows of Pickering, Ont.

"The decision was made not to have a sustained yield for white pine, but we have told Bob Mason (Mason Windows) to seek wood supplies outside of the Superior Forest to stretch out as long as possible the supply, and that is what he has done," responds Howell.

The federation's request for an environmental assessment is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Environment.

Howell, meanwhile, considers the request the beginning of a second round of negotiations between the MNR, Superior Forest Management and the federation. The first round involved the federation's request for a three-kilometre buffer zone around Missinabi provincial park.

Gord Wilson, the general manager of Chapleau Forest Products, says the industry is very concerned about environmental assessments being launched against timber management plans.

"They (the environmental groups) see this as the last-bash to have things controlled. It concerns us. It is like the timber management plan process is not working," he explains.
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Title Annotation:Crown forest; Ontario Federation of Naturalists
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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