Ontario Law Makes Good on Promise to Protect Northern Boreal Forest



    
    Role of communities needs to be front and centre in new law, coalition
    says
    

    TORONTO, June 2 /CNW/ - A coalition of leading environmental groups
applaud legislation introduced today that would enshrine Premier Dalton
McGuinty's commitment to protect at least 225,000 square kilometres of the
northern boreal forest. The Far North Planning and Protection Act, if passed,
would help Ontario fight climate change, protect ecosystems and ensure First
Nations have control over land-use decisions as they plan for cultural renewal
and economic prosperity.
    The draft legislation makes progress on commitments made last year by
Premier McGuinty to protect the boreal forest and improve relationships with
Aboriginal people. The coalition notes that for the first time in Ontario
history, First Nations will lead planning for their traditional territories.
It also welcomes a commitment in the legislation to create a new body to help
with implementation and coordination of planning.
    "The Premier has made good on his promise to the planet, and has set in
motion a plan to protect more than 50 billion tonnes of carbon," says Janet
Sumner of CPAWS Wildlands League. "The success of this initiative depends on
our investment in First Nations as they plan for prosperity, culture and
ecosystems."
    "World class values deserve world class legislation," adds Justin Duncan
of Ecojustice. "This draft has the right ingredients and we look forward to
working with others to perfect it."

    
    The Coalition has set out five benchmarks to judge the quality of the new
legislation:

    1.  Clear statement of ecological planning goals and objectives to guide
        selection of conservation lands
    2.  Establishment of community planning bodies to lead development and
        approve land-use plans
    3.  Equal representation of Aboriginal people on a regional coordinating
        and implementation body
    4.  Adequate funding for community planning bodies to conduct their work
    5.  Establishment of a science advisory body to meet the purposes of the
        legislation
    

    "The proposed legislation meets most of the tests for good legislation
for the northern boreal," says Rick Smith of Environmental Defence. "More work
needs to be done to fully ensure the legislation will work in the real world
but we are confident this will be done during the Committee hearing process
this summer."
    The lack of funding commitments to support planning is a particular
concern to the Coalition. In the absence of money for developing proactive
plans there is a risk that communities will be forced to support development
projects as the only means to get the money necessary for planning for their
future.
    "Plans that protect culture, landscapes and species need to be done now,"
says Catherine Grant of ForestEthics. "Not only when somebody wants to build a
mine, hydro dam or transmission line."
    The role of a regional planning body needs to be more clearly defined in
the legislation as well, including the manner that it will involve aboriginal
people.
    "The promise of protection needs to become real through this legislation
and it could set a standard for conservation that other provinces should
match," says Caroline Schultz of Ontario Nature. "Getting it right means the
difference between development that is sustainable and that which will
eventually destroy an irreplaceable region."
    Three members of the Coalition also sat on the Minister of Natural
Resources Far North Advisory Council. They are pleased to see that several
elements of the Council's consensus report are reflected in the draft
legislation.





For further information:

For further information: please visit www.borealopportunity.ca and
contact: Janet Sumner, CPAWS-Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453 ext. 39; Justin
Duncan, Ecojustice, (416) 368 7533; Rick Smith, Environmental Defence, (416)
670-9521; Catharine Grant, ForestEthics, (416) 597-1904 ext. 3; Caroline
Schultz, Ontario Nature, (416) 768-9795


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