Ecojustice pursuing legal action against Ontario government over forestry plan for Temagami

Lawyers for Ecojustice are taking the province to court to protect old-growth forest in Temagami.
Ecojustice is taking the Ontario government to court after a proposed plan to ramp up forestry in the province. (Erik White/CBC )

Lawyers for Ecojustice are taking the province to court to protect old-growth forest in Temagami.

Ecojustice lawyers have filed an application for judicial review on behalf of Earthroots and Friends of Temagami, two environmental advocates.

They say the Temagami Forest Management Plan fails to adequately address climate concerns about logging.

Lawyer Josh Ginsberg says no attempt has been made to understand how logging the old-growth forest would affect carbon emissions.

He says the province is legally required to do that–  but cancelled a program that would have delved into the issue.

"In the early 90s forestry was exempt from environmental assessment but, in return, the government made Ontarians a promise and that promise was that they would abide by a number of very strict conditions when it comes to forestry," Ginsberg said. 

"But the Ford government has put the final nail in the coffin of what remained of environmental assessment for forestry by cancelling any efforts to create a system to report on the carbon balances of our forests."

"That is a huge problem for all forests but especially Temagami which has the highest concentration of old growth forests which sequester a lot of carbon and happens to be the largest known concentration of old growth red and white pine ecosystems remaining in all of Canada," Ginsberg said.

"We can't cut that down without understanding all of the risks that that entails." 

Ginsberg says the province also refused to do an environmental assessment.

"That very minimal thing we haven't done and it is unacceptable and I think indefensible to say we're going to double logging without doing the bare minimum that's required to understand what that really means," Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg says he hopes the litigation forces the province to do an environmental review, log the area in a climate-safe way or change the forest management plan. 

Gord Miller represents Earthroots. He was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Canada from February 1, 2000 to May 18, 2015 (Twitter)

Earthroots chair is Gord Miller, a former environmental commissioner under the Liberal government

Miller has a camp in the Temagami area.

"One option is to leave the [trees], that's the kind of thing we should be talking about, what can we leave and what can we harvest sustainably?" Miller said.

"And these 400-year-old trees are not something that is a sustainable harvest. You're not talking about regrowing them." 

"They started growing before Champlain discovered this part of the world" Miller said. "We're not talking about a cycle of regrowth and return."

"We're talking about ancient creatures that have acquired and protected this carbon for centuries."

A spokesperson for the ministry of natural resources and forestry says they have no comment while the matter is before the courts.


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