By Chris Marchand
Members of the public got a first look at a proposed 10-year plan for forest management in the Wabigoon Forest, Feb. 20.
The recent information session at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Centre hosted over 80 residents who came to pore over piles of maps and discuss the plan’s direction with Domtar Inc. forestors and officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
“This was a first look at us trying to develop the best plan to put forward for the 2019-29 time period,” said Steve Young, Wabigoon Forest SFL Forestor for Domtar Inc. “It’s a snapshot of 10 years worth of operations.”
Young says that it’s never been more important for stakeholders to develop a relationship with forest management planners as they’re beginning to feel constraints around their ability to continue to defer harvesting in areas where there is certain degree of interaction with residents.
“What we’re finding now is that because we’ve made a lot of those decisions (in past plans) and deferred a lot of those areas, now we’re coming into a situation where we are essentially going to have to choose which stakeholders and interest groups we’re going to be interacting with. We may be a little bit closer than they are comfortable with at times, but we’re still confident that going forward we have a good practice and that we can find ways that everybody can benefit from what the industry is doing.”
One of those relationships is with the Dryden Ski Club who over the next 10 years plans to re-route a portion of its Nordic ski trails, with the help of Domtar, to accommodate harvesting. The trail system has seen significant salvage activity in recent years since a blowdown event flattened a large swath of mature timber. The incident is a bit of an apt example of why land managers like to keep options open, even in areas with high recreational values.
“Over a series of plans you make the decision, ‘we’re not going to cut here and here’. Eventually, the disturbance will have to happen in some way shape or form. Forestry is a very friendly environment to deal with in terms of a disturbance. At least with harvesting we can determine the best time, the best location and how to protect your interests and values. whereas if you’re faced with a natural disturbance like a wildfire or blowdown you may not have those choices and the economic consequences could end up being devastating to your interests.”
Local naturalist Darlene Salter says there is much in the proposed 2019-29 Forest Management Plan of which the general public should be aware.
In particular, she’s concerned with plans to push new road corridors and harvest an area near the west arm of Eagle Lake, the site of a large forest fire in 1974.
“They’re proposing to put a primary road into that area, which is just 45 years old right now,” said Salter. “I just feel that so much of the forest in the Dryden area is just this huge network of roads. It’s looking more like a tree farm. That area is a very important tourism area.”
On her radar, the ski club trails as well as areas around Winnange Lake and Eagle-Dogtooth Park — listed among the top-ten canoe and kayak destinations for visiting Manitobans.
Salter says she’s long been frustrated by a land-use planning approach that she believes places resource extraction above values like tourism, recreation and species at risk.
“Right now there’s a big push for protected areas. Our federal government agrees that there should be at the very minimum 17 per cent protected lands including marine areas,” said Salter. “Here, in the Dryden District Forest, it’s 7.6 per cent. We need more protected areas for species at risk and for recreation.”
The FMP process is ongoing and Domtar’s Steve Young reminds residents that there will be an additional information centre coming up around the draft forest management plan in August. To review and comment on the proposed plan, appointments can be made at the local MNRF office by calling 223-3341. Comments on the proposed plan must be received by April 21, 2018.