Axeman Cometh

Rating: NNNNNthe winter freeze has arrived late in Temagami once again this year. Bad news for loggers, who depend.

Rating: NNNNN

the winter freeze has arrived late in Temagami once again this year. Bad news for loggers, who depend on the cold weather to make logging roads passable. Good news for nature lovers, though, who’ve had more green to enjoy in the world-famous northern retreat since warmer weather has kept logging to a minimum, especially over the last three years. The unexpected turn has lulled activists into a false sense of security, a hope that even tracts slated for logging would never get cut. But the axeman cometh.

Earthroots reports that Liskeard Lumber has begun clearing the long- abandoned Red Squirrel Road, a stretch of which was blockaded by protestors to save old-growths during anti-logging blockades in the late 80s.

Time is of the essence for logging companies in Temagami.

Some 15,605 hectares have been allocated for cutting under the current Temagami Forest Management Plan (TFMP). But only 2,500 hectares have actually been logged since the plan was adopted in 1999. And that plan expires in two years.

Whatever part of the current TFMP allocation remains unlogged will then revert automatically to Crown land and remain off-limits to logging indefinitely.

The downside for tree huggers? The race for time has prompted logging companies to target more mature stands, those that support the best mix of pine, poplar, cedar and hardwood and will bring the best financial return on the lumber market.

Liskeard Lumber’s clearing of Red Squirrel is to get at a 460-hectare stand off Bob Lake that it has a licence to log.

Besides its impressive mix of trees, the block sits at a sensitive juncture, adjacent to a provincial park and in an area that’s home to some of the best canoe portages and hiking trails in all of Temagami. Natives have been making an annual pilgrimage to take part in sacred ceremonies at a rock cliff nearby.

Bob Olajos, a local outfitter who runs a kids’ camp in the area, says news of Liskeard’s plans has caught eco activists off guard. “It seemed like something in the distance,” he says.

Earthroots has its own concerns. A road off Red Squirrel that has become impassable except by snowmobile will have to be cleared to make the Liskeard stand accessible by logging trucks. That road goes right through a conservation area.

The Tories’ Living Legacy forest protection plan prohibits the construction of new roads through protected areas. But there is a loophole: existing roads, even those that are overgrown, can be cleared for “industrial” purposes.

Earthroots’ Richard Brooks says that technically Liskeard is in violation of the TFMP because it began work on Red Squirrel before the area was officially declared open for logging.

Over at Liskeard Lumber, meanwhile, manager Jeff Barton says the company plans to log all of its allotment before the TFMP expires, despite the time constraints. The weather, however, may have something to say about that.

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