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Battle lines remain unchanged in fight over northern forests.

Battle lines remain unchanged in fight over northern forests

It is hard to imagine any sort of compromise being reached by loggers and environmentalists over the forests of Northern Ontario.

Years of conflict and distrust appear to have created the potential for many more years of struggle.

"They won't be happy until they have all of Northern Ontario tied up," warned Judy Skidmore, executive vice-president of Northern Community Advocates for Resource Equity (Northcare).

Skidmore believes environmentalists do not seek any compromise solution.

They have already won a parks policy covering six per cent of Northern Ontario, a halt to some roads being built and the creation of three additional provincial parks, she noted.

Environmentalists are uncompromising because they don't have a stake in the resource, she explained. "They've got jobs in Toronto."

They are also not interested in hearing arguments from the other point of view, Skidmore stated. "There just seems to be an unwillingness to understand the issue."

She warned that, after Temagami, the environmentalists have targeted the sawmill in Field.

The conflict is a battle for the hearts and minds of Canadians, which the industry has been losing for some time, she explained. "We will never convince the zealots."

However, a spokesman for the Temagami Wilderness Society rejects the notion that environmentalists want to see a halt to all logging.

"We are definitely not against logging," said Dave Kappele, a society campaigner from Toronto. "We just believe you have to protect sensitive areas."

In fact, Kappele said he knows many environmentalists in various groups and has never heard anyone suggest that logging should be stopped completely.

However, he said environmentalists would like to see changes in the methods of logging, such as an end to clear-cutting.

And, in spite of what loggers may think, Kappele claimed environmentalists do understand the feelings in the north.

In the middle of the opposing views is government, which must protect industry in the north with an eye to environment-conscious voters in the south.

Natural Resources Minister Lyn McLeod thinks that to achieve good resource-management the level of confrontation must be decreased as much as possible.

"I think that's what we're trying to do in Temagami and I think we're looking for ways of doing that right across the province," she said.

McLeod said the ministry shares concern for the environment.

"The Ministry of Natural Resources is a conservation agency, essentially," she said. "We're concerned about the on-going wise management of our resources, so we have a great deal in common with environmentalists."

McLeod thinks it is essential that management of the resources is based on good scientific knowledge and good management practices.

"I think perhaps we haven't talked enough about the good things that we're doing in resource management and we need to make people much more aware of that so they work with us, rather than feeling as though there must be confrontation," she noted.

Federal Forestry Minister Frank Oberle points out that all environmentalists are not the same.

"I'm an environmentalists," Oberle stated.

However, he pointed out there are those who would simply shut down all industry and who believe people have no right to consider the human factor with the scheme of things. "Those are radical environmentalists and I don't share their view."

Oberle commented, "There are those who say a tree, if you leave it standing long enough, will eventually grow to heaven and we can all climb to our glory."

Public opinion is currently being shaped in an atmosphere of highly charged emotional debate, he explained. "Everything today is happening in a convulsive, revolutionary way, whether it's political upheavals in Eastern Europe, or whatever."

However, the minister said that it's part of the information revolution and people must learn to live with it.

"Everybody learns overnight that the planet is in peril and wants it fixed the day after tomorrow," he said. "That's not the way you can manage your forest. It takes a long, long time to shift the attitudes and adjust to the new realities, but we're making progress and we're making progress very fast."

Oberle said professionals, mill-workers and scientists must engage themselves in the public debate to make sure that the public forms its opinion with better information.

"The problem is that the industry has earned itself a reputation that they no longer deserve, and politicians are not listened to or believed," he said.

If words fail to solve the problems, there are signs of where the dispute could be heading.

Last year in the Temagami dispute, trees were spiked and forestry equipment vandalized or burned.

This year, the Action Committee to Save Temagami claims about 10 of its activists have spiked 2,000 trees in the Temagami wilderness area to discourage loggers.

The spikes are harmless to the trees, but can cause damage to saws and may injure loggers and mill workers. If a spike is hit by a big saw in a mill, scrapnel could be sent flying.

That sort of environmental protection is widely condemned.

"We have no time for that at all," said Kappele of the Temagami Wilderness Society.

McLeod said she doesn't condone any kind of tactic which involves either damage to the environment or potential injury to people.

"There's no question that spiking trees is an act of vandalism, potentially, tremendously dangerous, and I don't think that's the way in which people really concerned about the environment express their concerns in a constructive way."

PAUL BICKFORD Staff Writer
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Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Words:911
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