“Our understanding of the way the natural world works – and how our actions affect it – is often incomplete. This means that we [must] exercise caution, and special concern for natural values in the face of such uncertainty and respect the ‘precautionary principal’. ” – Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, 1991 The History of the Forest Forests have long been recognized as having vast power, both through their potential and how it has been viewed by humans, as well as through their effect on humans in sometimes subtle ways.
The inherent properties of wood have always ade it attractive as a versatile resource but there are other, more subtle ways in which it affects people. The tropical rainforests, responsible for producing most of the earth’s breathable air, have been given the lofty title of “lungs of the Earth,” and as stated by the Canadian Encyclopedia Plus ’93, “forests provide an additional, although intangible, benefit: the opportunity for renewal of the human spirit” (CAN ENCYC).
Once humanity accepts these facts, we open ourselves up to profound responsibilities regarding their protection. Unfortunately for both ourselves and our environment, we have long deigned to houlder these responsibilities, seeing only the obvious potential of the end product of wood; overall, humanity has always managed the forests very poorly, even before forest management became an issue. Since earliest civilized times, wood has been coveted as a resource for its ability to burn, as well as its pliable nature. With the discovery of fire, came hand in hand the need for fuel.
Fortunately, trees have always been abundant in all reaches of the earth, which has made living in harsh climates easier, greatly increasing our already rapid rate of expansion. Eventually electricity replaced wood as a source of energy, but the uses for wood have expanded over time to include building material and paper, and to the present day trees remain important to industry on a global scale. Unfortunately, humans have always had a poor reputation in regards to their environment, the forests being no exceptions.
We have always looked upon resources as something to be exploited – used to the fullest, then forgotten. Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn how clear-cutting of forests has become the norm, even knowing hat the forest will likely not recover fully for generations after clear cutting and countless animals will die in the process. It should come as no surprise to learn of the appallingly large quantities of tropical rainforests destroyed each day merely to make room for resorts or temporary farmland that will eventually become desert land.
It is not highly surprising to learn of these and other such facts, yet they are still terrible to behold, especially knowing that they continue to be true today and will most likely continue to be true in the future. The Forests of Canada The forestry industry has always adopted a “cut and get out” philosophy, which has been accepted and most often encouraged by land-hungry industrialized populations who view trees as little more than an obstruction to growth. ENCARTA) Such philosophies mean in simple terms clear-cutting large tracts of land and running as quickly as possible, leaving behind nothing but slash, a slowly eroding landscape and animals searching for lost habitat. For a long time forestry was no more than trying to reap maximum profits, clear maximum land in minimum time and get out quickly. We have indeed come far since those times. Clear-cutting is now a thing of the past and strict measures are in place to ensure that logging is done in a sustainable manner.
That can be assured . . . can’t it? No, not so readily as it may seem; that we have come a far way already is evident but in which direction? Clear cutting, as will be shown, is not a thing of the past and as to the regulations in place… we shall see. These question, and many others besides, can be answered by looking at the case study of Temagami. The word Temagami has become inextricably associated with terms like old-growth”, “protest”, “forestry”, “environment” and many more.
However the actual Temagami issue has always been shrouded in an impenetrable fog which has only lifted at two times in its history as a potential logging and mining site. Behind the fog, a great many things were going on but the focus on Temagami herein will be the two times it surfaced as a genuine concern. “Red Squirrel Road” and “Owain Lake” have become commonly heard phrases but the questions, those which will be examined herein, are more apparant; what do these key phrases mean?
And more importantly, what have they to do with the law? Temagami is a prime example in determining the relationship between the environment and the law – both natural and positive. Forestry is a major issue in Canadain society. There are many fundemental problems with the industry and accociated attitudes as stands today but how can the situation be changed for the good of all concerned? This difficult question will be answered herein to a great extent and perhaps some light will be shed on a murky but important issue.
Although not all aspects of the issue can be covered, this essay will, through the case study of Temagami, ocus on the legal perspective of forestry – the laws which are in place, those which have been changed or should be changed, as well as those laws which are being broken by either side of the controversy – and outline some methods by which conservation can be acheived through our legal system. Part One: The History of the Logger “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish?
Son of man you cannot say, or guess, for you know only a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, and the dry stone no sound of water. –T. S. Eliot The Canadian Forestry Industry Forestry has been longstanding as an industry in Canada; in some ways it was the first real industry – as European settlers found a land of endless forest, they realized that lumber would be the prime resource.
Today, approximately 300 000 Canadians are directly employed in the forestry industry – almost 15 percent. (Can Encyc. “Forestry”) In practice, forestry means much more than merely cutting trees. Forestry is defined by Encarta ’95 as “the management of forestlands for maximum sustained yield of forest resources and enefits. ” This may seem a simple definition, however the wording of it deserves further attention. First, forestry means management; management means looking after the forests rather than adopting a ‘slash and burn’ attitude.
Second, forestry attempts to attain maximum yields; this appears to support the ‘slash and burn’ attitude, rather than a conservationist approach. However, the word ‘sustained’ is the catch; when added it means that this maximum yiled must be available year after year. Therefore, in theory, forestry is sustainable management, as the definition states. Past practices have strayed greatly from this definition. In North America, the first foresters were interested in only exploiting forests, worrying little about management and even less about sustainability.
This view, which has persisted well into the 20th century, has always been supported by settlers who have viewed the immeasureable number of trees as an inconvenience which had to be removed before farms, houses, towns and roads could be built. (ENCARTA) As more and more settlers came to North America, agriculture began to expand, roads were built, and trees were cut and burnt more for room than for se as a resource. Such activity became common throughout the United States, as well as the lowlands of Canada where early settlers found the best soil for farmland.
Unfortunately, once the majority of trees had been cut down, previously lush soil would begin to erode as rain and wind pounded on the unprotected earth. Under reasonable, small scale farming, such would be of little consequence, however when huge tracts of forest are removed at once, it becomes almost impossible to keep the farmland from turning to wasteland – one has only to look t ancient nations such as Mesopotamia, once a heavy agricultural area and now a vast desert, or the ever expanding Sahara desert to see the devestating effect of soil erosion. CAN ENCYC) After a time, people began to understand this, at least in a crude sense. Forestry, it seemed, must be more than simply cutting down trees.
The forests must also be managed to ensure more cutting in the future. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century, with the signing of the British North America Act in 1867, that forestry was considered important under Canadian law. It was written into the act that “The Management and Sale of the Public Lands belonging to the Province and of the Timber and Wood thereon” would be assigned to the jurisdiction of the individual provinces. CAN ENCYC) Although this gave the forests some protection under the law in regards to supposed ‘sustainability’, there remained – as there still remains to an extent to this day, a greed which, for the most part, overpowered any thoughts of conserving for the future.
The Ontario Forestry Industry The year 1893 marked the beginning of a somewhat dubious ecological rotection program in Ontario with the establishing of the Algonquin National Park as a “public park and forest reservation, fish and game preserve, health resort and pleasure ground for the benefit, advantage and enjoyment of the people of the Province. (GRAY 92)
The purpose of the park was the logging of the tall pines, rather than for any conservationist motive. Scattered parks were established on a purely ad hoc basis throughout Ontario for almost eighty years, during which exploitative logging grew and forests were destroyed. Eventually, starting in the 1960s and spreading in the 70s, people began o notice the forests dissapearing, began to see parks as more than merely recreational; more and more concerns were being voiced regarding “uncontrolled development, uncoordinated land-use planning, and the corresponding loss of wilderness. (GRAY 91)
One of the outcomes of these protests was that the Ministry of Natural Resources developed the Ontario Provincial Park Planning and Management Policies – titled “The Blue Book”. (GRAY) The blue book, which is still in use today, is perhaps the closest thing to forest protection in Ontario. It allowed a comprehensive park system to be created with six classes of park hich could ensure some measure of protection to these areas.
More parks were created but it was becoming apparant that these parks were doing little to stop the great change being forced on the landscape of Ontario. Writers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) state that “over the past 200 years Ontario’s natural landscape has been changed on a scale greater than any other since glaciation. ” (GRAY 92) Most old growth (120+ yrs) pine forests have been cut and replaced with alien monocultural trees – to make future harvesting easier; the land of the Teme-Augama would come under dispute due to fear of such.