Equal Public Access vs. OFAH (and “their true values”)

This is probably old news to some , but for those that feel OFAH is truly concerned with access to crown land READ ON; and watch for more  news in the upcoming weeks……

All this information will be sent to our members in the next upcoming newsletter.

It goes without saying that OntORA members and executive members will go to any lengths to further our ultimate goal, our mission – that ordinary citizens can one day access our natural heritage, our fantastic forests and beautiful, bountiful lakes without favouritism, discrimination and fear of being charged for “trespassing” on our own lands.

With some trepidation, we tried to get the other provincial outdoors organization – the one that claims to be “the voice of Ontario’s anglers and hunters”- on board to help us with the huge expense and legal work of taking the MNR to court by an Application of Judicial Review.  This would legally challenge the MNR’s right to ban ordinary people from accessing and enjoying Ontario’s pristine forests and 2,000 lakes now reserved for paying tourists, which we believe to be unlawful.

Although the OFAH has promoted “increased access” to its members, it has actually been involved in setting the original access parameters with the MNR and NOTO many years ago.  We also knew that they have a close relationship with governments and the remote tourism industry, as our letter below details, and that their OFAH-owned Ontario Out of Doors Magazine receives a good deal of advertising revenue from remote tourism.

As we have always said, we have a great deal of respect for the fine work that the OFAH has done in areas of conservation, litigation, hunter & youth education, the spring bear hunt and the long gun registry, etc.  However, we find their position on public access is compromised by trying to please both sides of the equation, outdoors lovers who want to access the same lakes and lands now virtually reserved for paying tourists, and the remote tourism industry, which fights to keep the “locals” out of “their” lands and lakes to create a false remoteness that allows them to charge higher fees.

Nevertheless, we thought it was worth the effort in the cause of advancing equal public access to convince them to join us in our mission of abolishing the present two-class system of public access.  We failed – but at least we tried, and in the process, we have smoked out exactly where the OFAH stands on public access.  Read below our latest reply to the angry letter received from OFAH’s Executive Director Angelo Lombardo, which finally clarifies OFAH’s “increased access policy”.  If theirs is the “Voice of Ontario’s Anglers and Hunters” forget about equal public access!   OntORA will continue the fight alone, with our heads held high.

Mike Boudreau, President, OntORA

(Read the OFAH Letter to OntORA President Mike Boudreau here)

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OntORA’s reply to recent OFAH letter:

 
Mr. Angelo Lombardo, Executive Director
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
P.O. Box 2800
Peterborough, ON  K9J 8L5

December 3, 2012

Dear Mr. Lombardo:

We were surprised by the amount of anger and vitriol in your letter of November 23rd last.  Our letter that you were replying  to  merely attempted to find common ground for advancing equal public access by clearly defining both OFAH’s and OntORA’s visions of public access.   We regret that our defining your vision as ambivalent or compromised by your close relationship to the remote tourism industry and governments has caused such rancour.

You may be right in your assertion that “access means different things to different people” but we submit that access to the vast majority of Ontarians means being able to enjoy our God-given lakes and forests, at least to same extent as paying tourists, who now have a virtual monopoly on a vast amount of “our” Crown lands and lakes.

OntORA deems it discriminatory, unfair, colonial and perhaps unlawful for the MNR to virtually ban the public from access to over two thousand of our best lakes and thousands upon thousands of square kilometres of pristine Crown lands, all of which is reserved for paying tourists.  We all know that the MNR’s and NOTO’s tongue in cheek admonition that the locals “can always walk in” is virtually impossible, so the end result is an access ban against ordinary citizens.  Most of these remote paying tourists are from out-of -Province, and therefore not likely OFAH members, as you claim in defense of your support for remote tourism.

We also regret that you were insulted by our obvious observation that the substantial amount of paid advertising by the remote tourism industry in your OFAH owned magazine, Ontario Out of Doors, could possibly influence  your support of the access ban which allows remote tourism to have virtual “private game and fish farms”  on Crown lands for their paying guests.  We certainly did not mean to insult you; we merely pointed to the obvious possibility.   Shooting the messenger will not change its appearance.

We agree that OFAH has said much about the need for better public access on your website, and lately also in your OOD magazine.  Our question was simply, how can you postulate increased public access as a “core priority for OFAH” when your recommendations to the MNR support 1 Km buffer zones around “remote tourist” lakes which effectively denies access to ordinary citizens, (the overlapping of these buffer zones also denies access to other lakes not reserved for remote tourism),  support decommissioning of forestry roads and the removal of culverts and bridges, and by extension, the continued monopoly of the remote tourism industry of our natural heritage. The MNR is now also prohibiting use of trappers’ and portage trails that have been in existence since the earlier days of the fur trade.

Apart from a few tweaks and a couple of exceptions, OFAH supports most of the MNR’s and NOTO’s status quo on banning access to the general public, in effect, the privatization of over 2,000 lakes for one user group.  If your policies on access are as “clear and transparent” as you claim in your reply, then why is it members such as this writer and hundreds of OntORA members who are or were long-time OFAH members, have never been clearly informed of your strong support for the MNR and NOTO’s positions on public access?   It comes as a shock to countless OFAH members.

We cannot reply to such arcane innuendos such as your unexplained accusation that OntORA “has repeatedly made inaccurate and misleading public comments about the OFAH and (its) position on access.”   The only comments we have made about OFAH and its access policies are the same as those contained in this letter and previous letters to you.

OntORA’s executive board decided to try, despite the admonitions of many of our members (many of them ex-OFAH members) to see if both our groups could possibly work together to pressure the MNR and the Ontario Government into allowing ordinary tax-paying citizens the right to share with the remote tourism industry, the use of the lakes and lands presently reserved for paying tourists.  We don’t want free access to everywhere in the Province, just to the same lakes and lands where other more privileged anglers and hunters are allowed.

Thank you for  your reply, which gave us a clearer  definition of the OFAH policy on public access, one that seems more in tune with NOTO and the MNR than with OntORA’s and that of the average outdoors person.

Yours in Equal Public Access,

 

Mike Boudreau, President OntORA

C.C.: OntORA Executive Board & members

 

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Paul Carlson March 31, 2014, 12:11 pm

    Hello Mike, I met with the west nipissing mayor this morning with very, very positive results. After explaining to her what we are about and left her some info, she too, found it hard to believe what MNR is doing to crown land. Mayor Savage wants a delegation from OntORA to come and make a representation to council, to inform council of our purpose and to seek endorsement via resolution. Mayor Savage would then bring that resolution to the Northern Ontario Municipalities for support. West Nipissing council meets on 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Contact mayor Savage directly at jsavage@westnipissing.ca, phone # 705-753-2250, ext; 6900. I will let you know when I get an interview with MPP John Vantoffe,, Paul Carlson

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