View topic - Ontario MNR doesn't know logging's effects on wildlife - ECO

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2012, 11:21 am 
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Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller points out negligence, serious and illegal shortcomings in MNR's wildlife monitoring program, relative to logging and forest management... in place for 18 years with "nothing to report".



More info here:

http://www.eco.on.ca/

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2012, 12:33 pm 
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sadly true of most Provinces, not just Ontario!

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2012, 7:53 pm 
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I am not trying to defend anything or anybody here - just providing a bit more information. One thing that Gord Miller specifically mentions is the monitoring of wildlife "populations", or lack thereof. I don't know exactly what the precise EA requirements are, and frankly am too lazy to look it up, but what has been happening in the preparation of forest management plans (and reported on a regular basis) is the monitoring of wildlife habitat "area" on each management unit rather than populations - i.e. the amount of area suitable for a certain number of wildlife indicator species. The thought being that it would be impossible to monitor every single species out there, so certain species are selected and used as indicators for many more species. Marten habitat is monitored for example, to provide some indication as to how much area is on the landscape to provide for all species that depend on similar habitat types (e.g. older growth mixedwoods with mesic conditions). Similarly the habitat areas suitable for kestral habitat is monitored for species that depend on much younger forest.

I am not suggesting that evaluating and reporting on wildlife habitat area is as good as monitoring wildlife populations (I'm not qualified anyway), but it's not as if nothing is being done. Regardless, I wouldn't have a clue as to how you or the MNR could possibly monitor populations for so many species out there and over such a vast expanse of area. There are many, many indicators of sustainablility that are used on a regular basis, I personally don't consider Mr. Miller's finding too threatening to the state of affairs.


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PostPosted: October 9th, 2012, 8:53 am 
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I'm not enough of a wildlife biologist to be able to comment with any certainty either... fuzzy memory and from the ECO's comments, during the nineties when the Crown Forest Sustainability Act came into being, there was also a class environmental assessment order requiring MNR to monitor wildlife, province-wide and over the long term, to ensure that the new law governing forestry did not result in large-scale damage.

Again IIRC, many MNR foresters were eliminated after the CFSA came in and the forestry companies were free to manage themselves in a self-assessing sort of way... something like directing land developers to assess the effects of their developments on their own, not exactly the most disinterested parties when it comes to making statements on whether damage has been done.

To prevent negative impacts on wildlife habitat resulting from the CFSA, an environmental assessment order required that the Provincial Wildlife Population Monitoring Program monitor the large-scale, long-term trends, while the private companies did their self-assessments in their individual areas.

The ECO's problem is that the EA order, a legal requirement linked to the CFSA, is not being carried out, and the Ministry of the Environment is not taking the legal action to enforce the order. The forestry companies are policing themselves and they may be acting in their own interests rather than the well-being of the wildlife in the landscape being logged.

I might have some of this wrong since this started in 1994, eighteen years ago. I do remember MNR forestry positions being eliminated at that time and the management responsibilities being handed over to private forestry companies.

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2012, 9:43 am 
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Interesting, so the self-management policy may have resulted in a negative impact on wildlife! To be sure and then make things right, we should check the results of the assessments done by the Province.

Oh, wait a second - we don't have any results from the assessments! This Miller guy is making nothing but trouble....

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2012, 8:21 pm 
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Very helpful Erhard, thanks. Was Mr. Miller suggesting that there has been a negative impact on wildlife populations or habitat area? My take on his concern was that there was no wildlife population monitoring plan. Assesment of available and future habitat supply is undertaken during FMP preparation and has significant involvement of the MNR. It's not as self-managing or self-policing as one might think. Similarly, other assessments are made in various annual reports that require MNR endorsement. I could be wrong but I thought that the State of the Forest Reports covered some of this stuff (perhaps not).

Regardless, in my humble opinion it's all a question of priorities and available funds. The MNR and the business of forest management has come a long way since the Class EA, struggling to meet most of their commitments (developing and reviewing new guidelines, three versions of the FMP planning manual, the incorporation of the Species at Risk Act and other regulations, silvicultural effectiveness monitoring). And all the while being criticized or being subject to sarcastic jabs from the "caring" public and oftentimes costly defense efforts from some ENGOs. It's not as if there are MNR staff that don't care - it's about money and it's priority setting. Look how many people are upset over increased park fees. You tell me how everything is supposed to get done to everyones satisfaction. Something has to give.


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PostPosted: October 10th, 2012, 6:19 am 
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I have paddled through areas that have been cut twice now during my existence. I probably won't be around for the next cut. Wildlife does come back in cutovers, often with a vengeance. Certain marker species, such as caribou, are impacted negatively. Other species, such as deer and moose flourish. If a FMP is well planned, and tries to cater to everyone, nobody ends up happy. That's why canoeists need to press for special recognition. Go to the Open Houses, look over the maps, ask to be included in the plan, adopt a few routes. Forestry is starting up again in my neck of the woods. I'm happy about it, maybe some actual jobs will result this time. Maybe our school will be full again, and I will have more kids in my canoe club. Canoe routes can be protected in the plans. Go to your next Open House and ask them what they are going to do about portages in between lakes. Press them to protect them. Work on the routes. The wildlife will re-establish itself, just like the trees.


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PostPosted: October 10th, 2012, 9:21 am 
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Rob, sure wildlife will come back quickly in logged-over areas but the forest community there and the wildlife in it favors early-stage succession species. The wildlife that characterizes later succession phases and old growth may be missing (woodland caribou being the most publicized in the popular press).

In this area, the oldest old growth, hemlock forest, is disappearing and the wildlife habitat and benefits are going with it. Boreal old growth forest in spruce and fir where you are, can persist for a long time and the wildlife there may be distinct from recently cut areas. The problem with logging generally is that it can prevent the establishment and persistance of later stage communities and this may be occurring over large areas of Ontario that the proposed monitoring plan was set in place to detect.

A professional wildlife opinion on the need for large-scale monitoring would be great here (I'm not qualified as I stated earlier on)... the ECO is supposed to be unbiased in providing criticism, and no doubt relies on information from outside wildlife consultants, but some will see bias, treehugger, greenie, etc, being used in dismissing the ECO's advice. Likewise, environmentalists will refer to professionals employed by the forest industry as corporate shills, biostitutes and worse, their statements being made to keep those paychecks coming in.

I don't disagree with the need to petition for canoe routes (and let me add my thanks for your work done), since that brings support in from the non-consumptive side.



JF, the ECO identifies lack of funding as a reason why the monitoring plan isn't working. Only a small fraction of the intended funds was allocated and so after 18 years there's nothing to show for it.

I'm more familiar with something similar with the Great Lakes restoration efforts going since 1978 with laws being passed, and the underfunding there has meant that there still are large-scale problems that need to be dealt with.

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PostPosted: October 10th, 2012, 9:36 am 
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I second the advice RHaslam offered. There are 43 forest management units (FMU) in Ontario. Adopt one! Study the forest management plan (FMP) currently in place for the FMU.

You don’t have to wait until a FMP is up for renewal or review nor do you have to attend an Open House to study the maps that are published as part of a particular FMP. Electronic versions of all current FMPs are posted on-line at: http://www.appefmp.mnr.gov.on.ca/eFMP/home.do. Use the “Find A Plan” window to open the FMP that interests you.

The first and most important step is to ensure ALL existing canoe routes have been identified and recognized by the MNR and included in its Natural Resources Values Information System (NRVIS) data base. These are the only canoe routes that will be depicted on the Resources Uses Values Map and/or the Resource Based Tourism Values Map in the “Maps” section of a FMP.

The next step is to examine the level of protection currently afforded canoe route shorelines, portages, interior (backcountry) campsites and other land-based attributes such as access points. A prescription for the protection of such a value is known as an Area of Concern (AOC). The list of AOCs for any FMP can be quite exhaustive and searching for those related to canoe routes can be a time-consuming challenge.

To simplify this task, The Wabakimi Project has posted a Survey of Areas of Concern for Canoe Routes & Related Land-Based Values on Ontario Forest Management Units on its website at: http://www.wabakimi.org/park/files/Summary-of_AOC's.pdf. The Survey is updated with the release of each new or revised FMP.

Finally, as Rob suggested, adopt a canoe route and use it. First-hand knowledge gained by recording your experiences and observations lends greater credibility to any submission you make to the MNR in which you request inclusion of a missing canoe route and/or improved protection of canoe routes that have been identified.


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PostPosted: October 12th, 2012, 7:52 am 
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Going back to the original topic of "wildlife"

It's not just caribou that are disadvantaged through forestry. A whole raft of other species, plants, birds and mammals both small and large are affected. Forest that is cut just doesn't regenerate in the same way as forest that is allowed to go through its natural cycle. Understorey regeneration is not the same, standing dead wood is often absent. Despite the best attempts by foresters to simulate the effects of a burn in the way they cut stands it just doesn't work.

The other big thing of course are the access roads. Increased hunting and ATV access, habitat permeability by wolves (which incidentally grow in number due to rise in deer and moose populations) all impact populations, and for many small species a road is enough to completely halt migration.

There are ways of carrying out forestry with minimum impact. However they are expensive which makes it difficult to compete with timber companies from the US using non-native species in large plantations, and it means accepting that many areas will be declared off limits to forestry. Ironically however it would probably create more jobs in the longer term than traditional methods.

You can find out more about ecosystem based conservation planning at- www.silvafor.org where there are articles, transcripts of presentaions etc. describing the process.

Chris

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PostPosted: October 14th, 2012, 10:44 am 
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Hey, Chris, some good reading there.

Quote:
Despite the best attempts by foresters to simulate the effects of a burn in the way they cut stands it just doesn't work.


Some of the research done recently showed that calcium is lost when tree biomass is removed from shield forests. This would normally be returned to the soil after a burn or with decomposition. The long-term effect may be to reduce the buffering capacity of watersheds, making lakes and streams more acidic.

Here in this area, the effects of logging and fire in Algonquin have been studied... about 1900, large areas were cut and cleared with many slash piles left behind. These caught fire during droughts in the 1930s, which added more disturbance to the landscape and resulted in large patches of colonizing poplar and white birch. The effect on wildlife, more deer to feed on the first succession poplar and birch, peaking around the 1950s, and more wolves to feed on the deer before a bounty was put into place to eliminate them.

Some researchers in the park have said that bird populations are the most conspicuous indicators of forest type. In theory, it may be possible to canoe past a forest and recogize it's type by the bird songs during spring and early summer. The logged and burned areas in poplar and birch may have redstarts, hermit thrushes and red-eyed vireos, while the undisturbed pine forests may have pine warblers and far fewer bird songs.

This is something I've been trying to check into whenever canoeing at that time but my ability to recognize bird songs is poor at best. At times in a quiet spot there will be an amazingly complex bird song of some kind and I have no idea what it is, since it's invisible and the song can't be connected with visual ID. And some birds are hard to spot... I didn't see a red-eyed vireo singing until recently.

Anyway, more mystery.

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2012, 9:17 am 
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Some comments on hemlock communities, a forest type beneficial to wildlife, disappearing in Ontario as a result of logging.



Dan Strickland, former Algonquin naturalist:

Quote:
“When you walk into a hemlock grove you immediately leave the Red-eyed Vireo and the Least Flycatcher behind and start hearing the songs of the Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers. Or if you visit in the evening you may be serenaded by a Swainson’s Thrust - a bird you would never expect to find in the hardwoods just a hundred yards away.”


http://mmltc.ca/sites/mmltc.ca/files/at ... 202012.pdf



Algonquin EcoWatch, on the hemlock logging still going on in the park:

Quote:
Martin (1960) surveyed bird communities in the Park over two field seasons in the early 1950’s. He was able to determine that distinct bird communities were present in forest types he classified as bog, boreal forest, deciduous forest, and hemlock forest. The hemlock bird community had the highest density of territorial males and the greatest number of “principal” species. Most striking was the density of some species found in the hemlock community compared to those found in other communities. He recorded 102 blackburnian warbler males per 100 acres in the hemlock forest, compared with a maximum of 15 in other forest types; also recorded most frequently in hemlock forests were black-throated green warbler (28 in hemlock, compared to a maximum of 6 in other communities), slate-coloured junco (13 in hemlock, max. 4 elsewhere), red-breasted nuthatch (10 hemlock, max. 4 elsewhere). In addition, two species (blue-headed vireo and parula warbler) were found only in the hemlock community. The ongoing decline of hemlock in the Park may be accompanied by declines in these bird species with affinities for it.


http://www.algonquin-eco-watch.com/fore ... gement.pdf

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2012, 9:50 am 
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Martin's 1960 paper on Algonquin bird populations and forest succession (available free with registration, for now anyway)....

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1 ... 1270188291

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