Manitoba

Wilderness group wants logging roads shut down when Tolko closes

An environmental group wants logging roads built by a forest products company in northern Manitoba shut down when its mill closes.

Brian Pallister says he understands the committee's concerns but such a suggestion is 'premature'

Tolko announced earlier this week that it will shut down its operations in The Pas, where the forestry products company employs 332 people. Employees will be laid off when operations end Dec. 2, 2016. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

An environmental group wants logging roads built by a forest products company in northern Manitoba shut down when its mill closes.

Tolko Industries announced on Monday that the mill near the town of The Pas will close on Dec. 2, putting 332 employees out of work.

Logging roads will continue to disrupt Grass River Provincial Park, woodland caribou and northern forests unless the company is required to decommission them, the Manitoba chapter of the Wilderness Committee said..

The group wants the provincial government to ensure Tolko closes the roads as required by its environmental licence.

Having Tolko abruptly put more than 300 people out of work is already painful enough. The corporation can't be allowed to leave a mess of the northern forests, too.- Eric Reder, Wilderness Committee

The group said Tolko has built thousands of kilometres of all-weather logging roads that spread out over one-fifth of Manitoba's forest region.

Leaving the roads in place will make it easy for wolves to prey on moose and woodland caribou, as well as provide human access to forests that should be off-limits, group members said.

"Having Tolko abruptly put more than 300 people out of work is already painful enough. The corporation can't be allowed to leave a mess of the northern forests, too," Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, said in a news release Wednesday.

"We must show corporations that they can't cut and run, leaving the public on the hook for millions of dollars and decades of damages."

Premier Brian Pallister said he understands The Wilderness Committee's concerns about leaving abandoned logging roads open but closing them as soon as Tolko shuts down operations is "premature." 0:33

Premier Brian Pallister, responding to reporters' questions on Wednesday, said he understands the concerns of the committee but such a suggestion is "premature."

"We should not assume that because Tolko does not wish to continue operations there that we are forever destined to have no more logging or no more pulp and paper or no more industries in that region," he said.

Reder also suggested some of the communities affected by the mill's closure should be given first crack at any decommissioning work.

Tolko said earlier this week that the decision to shut down its operations in The Pas wasn't made lightly, but the plant is not financially sustainable despite years of trying to improve results.

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