As debate heats up over the future of an old growth forest on the northeastern edge of Sudbury, the city's position is unclear.

The province is looking at opening up a few hundred hectares of the Wolf Lake forest reserve in the interests of mineral exploration. Part of the reserve lies within municipal boundaries but, so far, Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk has said little about the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve.

"We're looking into that right now, as far as what the impact would be," she said.

Ontario created the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve 12 years ago. The reserve was declared off limits to forestry companies, but mining exploration companies with existing claims in the area were allowed to keep them.

The intention was to turn any lapsed mining claims into provincial parkland.

Now, the Ministry of Natural Resources is proposing to open up 340 hectares of the reserve to further mineral exploration. Minister Michael Gravelle has said commercial logging would still be prohibited.

Laurentian University biology professor Peter Beckett said Sudbury should take an interest in the issue. He sits on the city's Green Space Advisory panel.

'Magnificent' stand of old growth pine

Beckett said the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve is an asset for Sudbury. It's believed to be the largest stand of old growth red pine in North America.

"Right here, in the city limits, we have this magnificent stand of old growth pine, which actually serves as a model for what Sudbury could be as it restores its somewhat devastated landscape," he said.

In 2009, the Green Space Advisory Committee asked city council to urge the province to leave the Wolf Lake Reserve intact. The mayor at the time, John Rodriguez, wrote a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources expressing those concerns.

The ministry of natural resources has not said when it will make a final decision about the land.