New Coalition calls for New Law to Support the Green Economy in Ontario's Great Boreal Forest



    TORONTO, April 17 /CNW/ - Today, a coalition of five environmental groups
are calling on the Provincial government to create a new land-use planning law
for Ontario's Great Boreal forest.
    The coalition says the legislation should require clear rules for
development, including a requirement for the completion of land-use plans
before industrial projects are approved. It should also enshrine the principle
that local plans would be made in agreement with First Nations and require the
permanent protection of more than half of the region for its climate adaption
and wildlife values.
    "We are committed to working with the provincial government, First
Nations and industry to help ensure Ontario has world leading legislation,"
says Janet Sumner of CPAWS-Wildlands League.
    New legislation was promised by Premier McGuinty in 2008 as part of his
commitment to protect the region and launch land-use planning as part of a
commitment to green economic development. The new law is expected to be
introduced into the Ontario legislature in late May.
    The Great Boreal forest of Ontario's north is currently almost completely
undeveloped. Located north of approximately 50 degrees latitude and covering
an area of 45 million hectares, or 43% of the province's landmass, it is home
to many Aboriginal communities who wish to plan for their futures. It also
contains wild rivers, wetlands and an abundance of pristine forests that
provide habitat for many species that are threatened or rare in other parts of
Ontario. It is also one of the largest terrestrial carbon storehouses in the
world and its conservation is a cornerstone of the Premier's climate change
strategy.

    
    The coalition has set out benchmarks to judge the quality of pending
legislation. The five key components of good legislation are:

    -   Create a well-resourced joint Planning Body to allow First Nations
        and the Province to work together and share implementation of
        planning.
    -   Principles for how Ontario will work in partnership with First
        Nations to determine the location, use and management of the 50% or
        more of the region that the Premier has committed to protect as
        conservation lands
    -   Set out how community plans will be developed and integrated with
        regional objectives.
    -   Describe how communities will realize long-term benefits from
        development and their role in management.
    -   A clear role for a Science Advisory Committee, including objectives
        for how it will inform land-use planning.
    -   Set clear rules for the development of roads, corridors and
        industrial activity outside of protected areas.
    

    "Planning before development marks a fundamentally new direction for
Ontario and Canada," says Rick Smith of Environmental Defence.
    "Getting the legislation right means that we can produce world leading
plans that protect investment, help ensure sustainable communities and protect
Ontarians from some of the impacts of climate change," adds Catherine Grant of
ForestEthics.
    Three of the groups in the coalition (CPAWS-Wildlands League,
ForestEthics and Ontario Nature) are members of the multi-stakeholder Far
North Advisory Council. This council, comprising representatives of mining,
forestry, hydro and conservation groups, and others recently submitted advice
and input to the Minister of Natural Resources intended to inform the
province's plans for moving forward with legislation.
    "Environment and economy need to be addressed at the same time in
Ontario's Great Boreal forest," concludes Caroline Schultz of Ontario Nature.
"We are very hopeful that the provincial government is poised to make that a
legal requirement."

    
    About the Ontario Boreal Futures Coalition
    ------------------------------------------
    
    The Ontario Boreal Futures Coalition includes CPAWS Wildlands League,
Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Environment North, ForestEthics and Ontario
Nature. The Coalition is working to support the establishment of new
conservation-focused land-use planning legislation for the far northern Boreal
region of Ontario. We are working closely with First Nations, scientists and
government to ensure that this new legislative framework realizes the
Premier's commitment to protecting 50% or more of the region, better
protecting species such as caribou, wolverine and sturgeon where development
does occur and enabling and supporting First Nation involvement in the
planning processes.
    The Coalition will undertake a variety of education and outreach
activities as part of its work. These include the launch and distribution of
the "New Boreal Times" publication, the launch of a new website that contains
an interactive flyover of the region (www.borealopportunity.ca) and organizing
public events and collaborative work with First Nations, industry, and
government.

    Backgrounder

    On July 14, 2008, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a historic announcement
that Ontario will protect at least 225,000 square kilometres of Ontario's
northern Boreal region
(www.premier.gov.on.ca/news/Product.asp?ProductID=2353). This is the largest
conservation commitment in Canadian history and will elevate Ontario to being
a world leader in protecting terrestrial carbon and conserving the
internationally significant Boreal ecosystem. On September 19, 2008 the
Premier announced that the Province will develop new legislation to guide
Boreal protection and planning.

    Quick Facts

    
    -   The Northern Boreal region is 43 per cent of Ontario's land mass
    -   It is home to 24,000 people living in 36 communities
    -   The region absorbs approximately 12.5 million tonnes of carbon
        dioxide (CO2) from our atmosphere each year
    -   There are two operating mines in the region, Victor Diamond Mine and
        the Musselwhite Gold Mine
    -   There is considerable economic potential from additional mines and
        from hydroelectric development
    -   There is only one all season road in the region which terminates in
        Pickle Lake
    -   The region is a stronghold for Woodland Caribou, Polar Bear, Lake
        Sturgeon, Wolverine and other species at risk.
    -   Find more information on the values of the region at
        www.borealopportunity.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Janet Sumner, CPAWS-Wildlands League, (416)
971-9453 ext. 39; Justin Duncan, Ecojustice, (416) 368-7533; Rick Smith,
Environmental Defence, (416) 670-9521; Catherine Grant, ForestEthics, (416)
597-1904; Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 237

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