Orazietti defends Whiskeyjack forestry plan as its implementation looms

By Alan S. Hale, Kenora Daily MIner and News

Friday, March 28, 2014 12:50:59 EDT PM


Ontario’s Natural Resource Minister David Orazietti is defending the province’s new 10-year forestry management plan for the Whiskeyjack Forest which is set to come into force on April 1. The plan has been the source of a protracted conflict with local First Nations, especially Grassy Narrows, which seem to be against any logging inside the forest, unless they can have direct control over how it is allowed to proceed.


Orazietti said the province is trying hard to bring First Nations like Grassy Narrows on board, address their concerns with the plan and ensure that they too will benefit from development of the Whiskeyjack. But their efforts have been met with little success.

“The Ontario government has been working with Grassy Narrows First Nation on forestry-related matters for many years and we have made significant efforts to build a positive, productive relationship. We have explored ways to move forward that would provide opportunities not only for Grassy Narrows First Nation, but for other communities in the Kenora area who use the Whiskey Jack Forest,” said Orazietti in a recently released statement.

“Grassy Narrows has received significant provincial funding, and has worked with MNR on various working groups, to explore numerous aspects of forestry in the Whiskey Jack Forest as part of a multi-year process that was mediated by the Honorable Justice Frank Iacobucci. MNR deferred the completion of a new forest management plan for five years to allow for Grassy Narrows to apply these practices; unfortunately little progress being made during that time.”

Grassy Narrows activist Judy Da Silva, who was one of the architects of her community’s decade-long blockade against forestry operations, said the forest cannot support more logging industry. She pointed to the disappearance of moose from around Grassy Narrows since the 1990s, the ongoing effects of mercury poisoning, and the large amounts of small trees where the forest is trying to regrow after decades of logging as evidence that the Whiskeyjack Forest is not in a position to be harvested.

“The forest cannot take any more logging industry destruction, even if that means there are not jobs. If mainstream Canadian society were to come to the forest and see it in the state it is in at the moment they would understand,” said Da Silva.

“The way the forest is going, it can’t replenish itself to its natural state … we need to let the land heal itself because it’s been logged constantly since the 1950s.”

Orazietti said that since 2009 0.075 per cent of the Whiskeyjack’s forested area has been logged each year, and under forestry management plan that would be increased to 0.1 per cent for the year 2014-15. But he said no trees would be touched during that time within 60 kilometers of Grassy Narrows.

“However, the approved forest management plan does allow for harvest opportunities within Grassy Narrows’ self-described traditional land use area should the community, or a community member, wish to pursue forestry ventures,” said Orazietti

Da Silva said she is skeptical of those numbers, but even if they are correct, the constant logging does damage to the forest even if the Ministry of Natural resources doesn’t realize it.

“We’ve already ha 9,000 kilograms of mercury spilled in the forest and there is research showing that the logging industry helps contribute to the build-up of mercury. If this is going to continue on, then we are going to have a bleak future in this forest,” said Da Siva.

“People need to wake up from the thinking that we can just cut and cut, and cut, and cut and there’s no damage. Kenora residents need to realize that we are not the enemy, and I think we need to change the way we use the forest.”