I received this note today from some paddling friends. They opened up a sustainable, eco-friendly business near Sudbury a few years back and made a success out of it...until now. Seems the land they developed their business around isn't as protected as they thought.

Have a read and help them out if you can.

****


Dear family, friends, past clients of Sundog Outfitters, and anyone who finds peace and enjoyment in protected wild spaces,

We are writing today to share some distressing news about the possible future of our beloved backyard. As you may be aware, the Sundog Outfitters basecamp is surrounded by protected land under the banner of the Dowling/Fairbank Forest Reserve (Vermillion River Delta). A recent proposal has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry to re-designate four Forest Reserves in the Sudbury area (including the Dowling/Fairbank) to General Use Area or Enhanced Management Areas. This essentially means they are being reverted back to regular crown land and these forests will no longer be protected from forestry (i.e. logging).

When Forest Reserves were created in 1999, these areas still held active mining claims but once these claims lapsed, it was the intention to create parks in their place. Unfortunately the Provincial Government does not want to keep the Forest Reserve as a land designation - they saw it as only a temporary thing - even though they were working just fine in protecting the forest while allowing for continued mineral exploration. The 'disentanglement initiative', as they are calling this elimination of forest reserves, plans to eliminate any overlap of active mining claims with these 'recommended' protected areas, and responds to concerns that forest reserves potentially discourage investment in mineral exploration and development (i.e. junior mining companies). Unfortunately, being in the Sudbury area, mining claims don't seem to lapse that often and 100% of the claims in the Dowling/Fairbank Forest Reserve belong to Vale Inco, who, apparently, never give them up. However, I would definitely NOT consider Inco a junior mining company!!

In the meantime, the local forestry industry is currently writing their forest management plan for 2010 - 2020 and we have been told by both the Sustainable Forest License holder (a consortium of companies that have access to cutting the forests in the Sudbury area) AND the Ministry of Natural Resources, that they would like to include these forest reserves as part of that plan. This could mean the chain saws may be in there as early as next year.

And there's more...this proposal was first posted in 2006 but a decision was deferred due to the amount of public opposition regarding the proposed re-designation. Thank you to those of you who supported us back then! Now, it seems the 'dust has settled' so they're trying to put it forward once again. . We are asking you now, once again, for your support in opposing this proposal and asking the government to retain the status quo land designation of the Dowling/Fairbank Forest Reserve.

To make it easy for you to provide feedback, we have attached a form letter that you may send in to the MNR, or we have listed below reasons why we oppose this proposal. You may pick and choose from this list as you see fit and include them in your comments if you wish: When Forest Reserves were created in 1999, there was no indication that these areas would be eliminated from the protected areas of Ontario. In fact the opposite is true: these areas were promised to eventually be fully protected parks. There was a reason for this protection - the Dowling/Fairbank Forest Reserve holds a large and excellent representation of unique vegetative landforms. To lift this protection and allow forestry practices would be irresponsible - especially in a city (Greater Sudbury) that has been scarred by environmental devastation for over a century. The largest of several designated Forest Reserves in the Sudbury area, this 1185ha protected area has been created to protect significant natural heritage values including a provincially significant wetland and unique uplands forests, all creating important habitat for a diversity of wildlife. Life science inventories completed for the area concluded that this Forest Reserve contains representation of vegetation landforms found no where else in eco-district 5E-4.

Business owners Jenny Martindale and Jim Little made a significant investment, purchased their property and started their business Sundog Outfitters adjacent to the Vermillion River Delta because it was a protected area and offered many opportunities for ecotourism programming. Removing this protected area will jeopardize their business, and reduce the quality and quantity of programming offered by Sundog. Since 2001, Sundog Outfitters has introduced hundreds of people to this beautiful wilderness area. Introducing logging practices will essentially eliminate any backcountry programming that they have established in the area. Over the past 8 years, local high schools, Cambrian College and Laurentian University have utilized the Forest Reserve as part of their outdoor education, nature-based tourism, winter camping and biology curricula. Several trails exist within the uplands portion of the reserve. These are used for hiking, snowshoeing treks and winter camping outings by Sundog Outfitters, by commercial bear outfitters in the late summer and by local moose and small game hunters in the fall. We can therefore conclude that this forest reserve is an excellent example where several recreational and educational uses presently occur within a land base with little to no user conflict. There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping the status quo and maintaining the Dowling/Fairbank Forest Reserve designation for the long term. It has been working fine with no issues for 10 years. Especially in this case where Vale Inco holds 100% of the claims (and not a junior mining company). Maintaining this small piece of protected land will not affect investment and development at Vale Inco. The Ministry of Natural Resources has excluded the public during this exercise entirely. There has been little to no explanation as to how the proposals came to be and what was discussed at the table behind closed doors. Those that were at the table should realize that they were negotiating the fate of others without even being aware of it. Comments should be sent to: Scott Dingwall, District Planner, MNR Sudbury District Office, 3767 Highway 69 South, Suite 5, Sudbury, Ontario, P3G 1E7. Email: scott.dingwall@ontario.ca. Please note that the deadline for comments is July 11, 2009 (less than a month!). If you would like to copy other politicians, we have included their emails below.

Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield: donna.cansfield@ontario.ca Nickel Belt Member of Parliament France Gelinas:fgelinas-co@ndp.on.ca and fgelinas-qp@ndp.on.ca Mayor of Greater Sudbury John Rodriguez: mayor@greatersudbury.ca Ontario MNR Regional Director (Northeast) Eric Doidge: eric.doidge@ontario.ca Ontario MNR District Manager Ed Tear: ed.tear@ontario.ca

We thank you in advance if you choose to submit comments and are deeply grateful for your concern regarding this matter.

We'll keep you posted on the final decision. Let's hope the trees and forest critters win!

Sincerely,

Jenny & Jim, Sundog Outfitters
Plan your next great adventure with explore!
Off the beaten path locations, tips and tricks, interviews with intrepid explorers and more.