Hardworking Ontario citizens send message to Premier



    THUNDER BAY, ON, July 3 /CNW/ - Hundreds of people from all walks of life
have signed their names to a letter to the Premier of Ontario urging him to
avoid the decimation of the province's forestry sector that will occur with a
wrongly implemented Endangered Species Act.
    Municipal leaders, housewives, bankers, lawyers, business owners,
educators, forestry workers, high school students, journalists and police
officers are among those signing the letter that outlines the issues with the
government's current implementation of the Act that exposes one of the
province's largest industries to crushing duplication of process and frivolous
court challenges.
    "We are seeing the breadth and depth of concern that is felt by people
across this province. Some of the signatories of this letter are doing so on
behalf of thousands of people," observes Iain Angus, Chair of the Ontario
Forestry Coalition (OFC) which issued the letter and request for signatures.
    "People have a growing understanding of what a wrongly implemented Act
will do to their livelihoods and their communities. They are going to be very
vocal in sending a message to Queen's Park that government cannot pander to
select Southern Ontario special interest groups at the expense of jobs and
future economic opportunity," adds Anne Krassilowsky, President of the
Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA).
    Thunder Bay Mayor Lynn Peterson explains, "Virtually every person signing
the letter understands the need to protect species at risk. They also
understand that Ontario has platinum standard forest management practices that
already meet the primary objectives of the new Endangered Species Act."
    The OFC, which represents municipal leaders, First Nations communities,
Chambers of Commerce, Union locals and forest industry partners, has examined
other jurisdictions in which similar implementation of endangered species
legislation was enacted.
    "The results in the US state of Oregon have been tragic and fatally
flawed," says Jamie Lim, President/CEO of the Ontario Forest Industries
Association who points to news articles as recent as June 23 from Oregon where
the economic havoc of poorly implemented legislation continues to plague
hundreds of communities. (See backgrounder)
    "We are not fear mongering, we are not exaggerating," states Greenstone
Mayor Michael Power. "We have the evidence from other jurisdictions. We have
the recommendations from the government's own Ministry of Natural Resources
staff and the opinion of the government's own legal counsel. Implementing the
Endangered Species Act using a permitting system is absolutely the wrong path.
The Act must be implemented with a long term regulation that recognizes the
existing Crown Forest Sustainability Act already protects species at risk and
meets the primary objectives of the Endangered Species Act," he concludes.
    Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union spokesman Kim Ginter points
to election year commitments from the Premier and his former Minister of
Natural Resources David Ramsay to implement the ESA with the necessary long
term regulation.
    "By reneging on those commitments there are 230,000 working families in
this province that are at risk of losing their livelihoods. We've got to get
the implementation of the Act right," says Mr. Ginter

    
                                 BACKGROUNDER

       The following is from an article published in the June 23, 2008
        edition of Forest Web. A similar article also appeared in the
           June 23 edition of the Oregonian Newspaper. The articles
             provide some insight into the significant fiscal and
               social upheaval that has resulted from wrongly
                 implemented Endangered Species legislation.


    Oregon needs four-year extension of federal timber payments as bridge to
             long-term solutions to financial crisis, says report
    

    Jun 23, 2008 - Office of Governor Ted Kulongoski

    Forestweb rewrites headlines for editorial clarity. The original story
    and headline begin below.

    Original Headline: Governor Receives Report from Task Force on Federal
    Forest Payments

    SALEM, Ore., June 23, 2008 (press release) - Governor Ted Kulongoski
today received a series of recommendations on ways that county governments and
the state can work together to save critical services threatened by the loss
of federal forest payments - the first and most critical of which was to urge
Congress to reauthorize federal forest payments for at least four years. Other
recommendations include long-term solutions, covering dozens of local, state
and federal actions that can be implemented over the next four years.
    "We have made progress toward developing a long-term plan in the absence
of federal forest payments, but we need more time," Governor Kulongoski said.
"Unfortunately, there is no single solution that will allow this crisis to be
successfully managed or resolved in the short term."
    The task force reported that the only short-term solution for the hardest
hit counties is a Congressional extension of the payments. Without an
extension, Oregon's counties will experience a financial crisis far greater
than the state's experience during the 2001-03 recession.
    Congress and the Administration remain deadlocked over how to continue to
support counties with federal forest lands. As a result, counties will begin
their 2008-09 budget year with a loss of $206 million in federal forest
payments. Some counties will lose more than 60 percent in general funds and
nearly 70 percent in road funds.
    Furthermore, the state will lose nearly $32 million in funding for
schools, making the total annual financial loss to Oregon $238 million. The
loss in education funding will result in schools budgeting $58 less per pupil
statewide.
    "This isn't just about rural Oregon. The ripple effects of this loss will
extend to every K-12 student in the state," Governor Kulongoski said. "Schools
in the Portland tri-county area will forego $13.4 million - the equivalent of
165 fewer teachers."
    For the long-term solutions, the task force recommends that counties
first look at current authority to propose local option property taxes, which
require voter approval. The task force also recommended that the state provide
the counties more flexibility with current revenues and offer more assistance
for shared services such as public safety, public health, assessment and
taxation, roads and economic development.
    The task force also looked closely at the current system for sharing
forest revenues and increasing harvest levels on federal forest lands.
    Since 1957 Oregon counties have received 50 percent of the profits
collected from the 2.2 million acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM). The task force recommends the share to be increased to 75
percent, the percentage approved by Congress when the original management plan
went into effect in 1937.
    The task force also encouraged the development of a more productive and
sustainable management plan of Oregon's federal forests. Increasing harvests
could revitalize rural economies. At the request of Governor Kulongoski in
2005, the BLM is revising forest management plans for western Oregon to
increase harvest levels. The Governor will be presented with a proposal in
August or September with a final plan expected by the end of the year.
    The task force estimated that if all of the solutions are implemented at
the maximum extent possible and assuming higher harvest levels from federal
forests, over four years Oregon will be able to fill the budget gap left by
the loss of federal forest payments by as much as 70 to 80 percent. However,
if federal harvest levels are not increased, the solutions will cover less
than 50 percent of the revenue shortfalls.
    The recommendations come from the Governor's Task Force on Federal Forest
Payments, which he created through Executive Order 07-21 in response to the
uncertainty of federal forest payments.
    The recommendations are now available for public comment for 60 days,
through Aug. 22.
    In September, the task force will meet once more to consider the public
input and prioritize its list of recommendations for the Governor, the Senate
President and the Speaker of the House.
    The task force includes state agency heads, state legislators and county
and city representatives from throughout the state. It is chaired by Tim
Nesbitt, deputy chief of staff to the Governor, and co-chaired by Bobby Green,
Lane County Commissioner.


    
                     July 3, 2008 - LETTER TO THE PREMIER
    


    Legislative Building
    Queen's Park
    Toronto ON M7A 1A1

    Dear Premier McGuinty,

    The 230,000 working families and communities whose livelihoods depend on
forestry are a symbol of Ontario's entrepreneurial spirit and a cornerstone of
the provincial economy. Sadly, these hardworking, productive citizens have
faced a dramatic decline in job prospects and future opportunities due to a
variety of factors including provincial policy, most recently the
implementation of the recently revised Endangered Species Act (ESA) that
threatens to permanently remove vast tracts of land from Ontario's fibre
basket and decimate future economic development opportunities for Ontario
northern and rural communities. Experts now predict that forestry may become
extirpated from Ontario if the government continues on its current
implementation path of the Endangered Species Act.
    During the revision of the ESA, numerous, forestry-related stakeholders
expressed serious concerns regarding the specific language in the Act. In
response to these concerns, the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA)
and the Ontario Forestry Coalition (OFC) were provided with written
commitments from both yourself and former Minister of Natural Resources David
Ramsay promising that the government would develop a long-term regulation that
would recognize that the current regulatory framework for forest management on
Crown lands in Ontario. Under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA),
forestry practices meet the primary objectives of the ESA. Specifically,
Minister Ramsay stated that:
    "If Bill 184 is passed by the Legislature, it is our intention to put
forward a regulation that will exempt Forest Management Plans (FMPs) from the
prohibitions in dealing with species at risk. This regulation will be based on
the recognition of the efficacy of FMPs in addressing endangered and
threatened species."
    This commitment was reinforced by your letter to the OFC leading up to
the October election where it was made clear that your intent was to live up
to Minister Ramsay's statement as part of your election promise.
    In November 2007, representatives from the forest industry met with the
members of the MNR implementation team, including MNR technical/policy experts
and legal advisers. This group reconfirmed the need for a long-term regulation
under section 55 of the ESA which recognizes that the CFSA and the current
forest management planning process already meets the objectives of the ESA.
    We were particularly pleased that you and your Minister of Natural
Resources David Ramsay made commitments to provisions for a long term
implementation regulation that would protect against duplicative process and
frivolous and manipulative court challenges.
    Given your previous election promise, we are deeply disappointed by your
government's recent decision to renege on your commitment to recognize that
the Crown Forest Sustainability Act meets the primary objectives of the ESA.
Instead, it would appear your government concurs with the false statements of
Southern Ontario special interest groups who claim forestry is responsible for
the state of species at risk in Ontario and that "Forestry constitutes one of
the largest threats to woodland caribou."
    In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. According to
information provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources, since September 30,
2004, 16 species have been newly assessed as, or have had their previous
status elevated to, threatened or endangered. All sixteen of these species are
located in Southern Ontario. MNR information shows that the single greatest
threat to these species is development activities and permanent land
conversion. Not one of these species is linked to forest management on Crown
(provincially owned) land managed by the forest industry. Not one of these
species is located in the boreal forest.
    Ontario forest practices are governed by a world-class, platinum standard
regulatory framework which provides for all forest values - environmental,
social and economic - including the protection of species at risk and their
habitat. And there is an established track record to prove it. In 1987 the
forest sector implemented a new Guideline for the protection of bald eagle, a
provincially threatened species. Today, the bald eagle is no longer endangered
in Northern Ontario, yet remains endangered in Southern Ontario. Similar good
news stories exist for other species, including the red-shouldered hawk,
southern flying squirrel, and most recently forest dwelling woodland caribou
where recent evidence indicates that caribou continue to thrive in areas of
forest management.
    In 2003, MNR surveys indicated that there were 150 forest-dwelling
woodland caribou on the Trout Lake Forest. In 2008, surveys show a moderate
increase in individuals. Comparisons with historical data shows that caribou
range is further south today then it was 50 years ago (i.e. recovery) in some
parts of the province. Scientific studies show that caribou will return to
second-growth forests and that harvesting can create caribou habitat more
rapidly than natural disturbance (e.g. fire).
    Premier - we encourage you and your staff to know the facts about caribou
and its various sub-species and ecotypes like the forest-dwelling woodland
caribou. For instance, North America is home to approximately 3 million
caribou with Canada being home to about 2 million individuals. To this end we
are enclosing a copy of a Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)
document titled Woodland Caribou and Sustainable Forest Management.
    In a recent report produced by the Ivey Foundation titled The Making of
Ontario's New Endangered Species Act: A Campaign Summary Report (December
2007), several special interest groups in Southern Ontario boast of how they
were able to manipulate government and take control of the development and
implementation of the new Endangered Species Act. As part of this report,
these groups highlight the need to select key species, such as woodland
caribou, and make these a priority for the government.
    Earlier this year, your government announced that it had selected 10
priority species and that you would be fast-tracking habitat regulations for
these species. At the top of this list was the forest-dwelling woodland
caribou - the poster species of Southern Ontario special interest groups. For
the past three and a half months the MNR has been requested in writing to
provide the scientific filters and parameters that were used to identify these
top ten species. To date, no form of response has been received. It is deeply
concerning that special interest groups in Southern Ontario, by their own
admission, have been able to take control of this process.
    Premier, there is no such thing as status quo in the forest sector as the
CFSA demands a review of its standards and guidelines at a minimum of every
five years. The CFSA is specifically designed to allow flexibility in adopting
new science and responding to unforeseen or emergency conditions. A long term
exemption from duplication of process is appropriate as current forestry
practices meet the primary objectives of the Endangered Species Act.
    We urge your government to follow through on this promise and take
tangible and decisive action to prevent further decline of forestry sector
jobs and northern communities by:

    
    1. Following the recommendations of the Endangered Species Act
       Implementation Team and government legal counsel, as well as the
       commitments from yourself and former Minister Ramsay, and implement
       the Act under Section 55 with a long term regulation,
    2. Acknowledge that Ontario has world class sustainable forestry
       practices and that by buying wood products from Ontario, customers can
       be assured forests have been sustainably managed and wildlife species
       and habitat are being protected.
    

    This would ensure that you deliver on an important election promise as it
would provide business certainty for the forest sector as well as support for
230,000 working families and their communities.

    Sincerely,

    Signed by over 540 municipal leaders, business owners, union leaders, and
concerned Ontario citizens and can be viewed at the OFC website
www.forestrycoalition.com





For further information:

For further information: Mayor Anne Krassilowsky, (807) 223-6119; Mayor
Michael Power, (807) 854-6766; Mayor Lynn Peterson, (807) 628-5316; Jamie Lim,
(416) 368-6188; Kim Ginter, (416) 931-2379; Iain Angus, (807) 628-6887

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Ontario Forest Industries Association

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