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County council defends Algonquin Park logging

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Established in 1893, Algonquin Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada.

Established in 1893, Algonquin Park is the oldest provincial park in Canada.

 

Challenged by another group attempting to stop logging in Algonquin Park, the County of Renfrew is enlisting Premier Kathleen Wynne's support of the besieged industry.

County council passed a resolution during their June monthly session requesting a meeting with the minister of natural resources as the region staves off a campaign from the B.C.-based environmentalist group Wilderness Committee, which has delivered a petition, backed by 3,500 letters, to Queen's Park demanding the end of logging operations in the provincial park.

Council strongly defended the sustainable forest management in the park as well as how critical it is to local communities. Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, chairman of the development and property committee, said the county managed to oppose the Environmental Commissioner's recommendation in 2014 to halt logging in the park and can make a solid case again for the industry. He pointed out the commissioner's panel studying the ecological footprint issue had to concede that out of the one million visitors Algonquin Park received only 10 filed any complaints about logging.

“We are not the least bit shy about taking on an organization from B.C.,” said Sweet. “Without logging it wouldn't be a park. We are proud that Algonquin Park is the best managed forest park in the province.”

The resolution also backs a letter from the Ontario Forest Industries Association. With 70 per cent of the county covered in forests, forestry contributes $10 million annually to the economy, but the park's logging generates some $1 billion. One of the municipalities that would be adversely impacted by any curtailing of logging is Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards. The township's mayor, Janice Visneskie-Moore, said she is more than willing to go to Toronto to lobby the provincial government.

“I just shuddered when I read this,” said Visneskie-Moore. “We have a lot of history on this. We have met every ministry and continue to tell them of the importance of logging in Algonquin Park.”

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which was later shortened to the Wilderness Committee, was founded in British Columbia in 1980. Their stated mission is to focus on researching, publishing and distributing information about threatened Canadian wilderness and wildlife in order to build broad public support for their preservation. Head, Clara, Maria Mayor Jim Gibson said that he had looked into the organization and discovered it is well funded.

“It is quite obvious they buy their ink by the barrel,” said Gibson, who suggested that every municipality in the county send their own letter to the province. “We have to take the time and effort to fight this on as many fronts as we can.”

Noting that the footprint for logging is only 46,000 hectares, Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said three production facilities depend on the park for their wood, while the mills connected with the park generate 500 well-paying jobs. He said the province should be more invested in defending the sound sustainable practices that the industry exercises in Algonquin Park.

“What is disturbing is they periodically place this on the environmental radar and they never do a socio-economic analysis,” said Emon.

In her letter which was presented to council for their review, Warden Jennifer Murphy asked the premier to contradict the false allegations surrounding this new anti-logging campaign. She noted that long-standing family-owned businesses have been operating in the park since the early 1800s adding the industry has done an excellent job protecting species at risk and other forest values. Murphy stated the wood volume from Algonquin Park represents 40 per cent of Central Ontario's wood supply. She noted that 2,774 people are directly employed through forestry activities in the park. Another 8,000 are indirectly affected by the park, the warden concluded.

SChase@postmedia.com