Imagine that you were an angler and hunter inEurope a few hundred years ago. Fish and game were plentiful and vast untouched areas of forests and lakes teemed with nature’s wonderful bounty.
The only problem was the King and his entourage of lords and noblemen had reserved most of this pristine land for their private hunting and fishing grounds. Any poor peasant who dared enter onto this hallowed ground to obtain a fish or fowl to feed his hungry family was severely punished. That served as an example to other peasants who may have the gall to interfere with the private outdoor pleasure of the King and his buddies.
Fast forward to 2012 Ontario; Medieval Kings and noblemen would feel at home here. Thousands of square kilometers of pristine Crown land, and over two thousand of our best lakes are still off-limits to the masses.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, (MNR), through “land use permits”, at first allowed the owners of remote tourist lodges across the province a small plot of land for their lodge and buildings. However, over time, the MNR, in concert with NOTO (Northern Outdoor Tourism Ontario) has allowed the lodge owners the exclusive use of vast areas of our Crown land and lakes.
The average angler and hunter are warned by posted signs that “trespassing” on such lands will result in charges and heavy fines if they use any type of vehicle, including a pedal bike, to access these lands and lakes. These “land use permits” cost the lodge owners only a few hundred dollars a year, and enables them to charge higher rates and rake in huge profits because of their “remoteness” – which means that the paying guests won’t be bothered by the common masses as they hunt and fish in privacy and comfort.
PRIVATE GAME & FISH FARMS
In fact, this means that publicly owned Crown lands, and the major lakes on them, are used as private game and fish farms for the wealthier American, European and Canadian guests to enjoy without being bothered by the presence of the poor average Ontario outdoors person. Of course, remote tourism operators have a right to run a business and make a profit, but not at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Ontario taxpayers.
Remote tourism should follow the same business practices as all other businesses in the province without the added benefit of Ontario government largesse in obtaining vast areas of public land for their private use and profit.
In the Wawa area alone, which is next door to the lucrative U.S.tourist market, 122 major lakes and up to 80% of the accessible Crown lands have been reserved for remote tourism and are strictly off-limits to the rest of us unless we can afford the very high prices charged by the lodges. But that’s way up there in Wawa, you say? Better think again, because the same thing is happening across the province. More and more remote tourist operators are obtaining “land use permits” with the MNR, which now includes the questionable right to seal off vast areas of land for their private use. While there is a serious legal question of the MNR’s authority to close off these areas, they blithely continue to do so.
MNR CLAIMS LANDS CLOSED FOR “CONSERVATION”.
At present, there are over 2000 remote tourism lakes in the province. One family-owned operation alone in the Dubreuilville area accommodates from 2,000 to 2,500 guests per year. This operation has a private 9-hole golf course, ‘which is not on Crown Land ‘ and a private landing strip, all built on Crown land. With over 2000 remote tourism lakes in the province, and one operation that accommodates up to 2,500 gests per year, it is not too difficult to estimate how many thousands upon thousands of out-of-province guests hunt and fish on these private game and fish farms.
It is our publicly owned natural resources supported by taxpayers including, in the past several years, $75 Million per year in public money to open and upgrade lumber access roads, roads that may be closed to us. It is our tax money and our public land, but we are restricted from using it. We pay, theyplay!What this sign does not say is; except, anyone the MNR wants to let drive in, and there are many.
The MNR would have us believe that all this land and all these lakes are closed to the public “for the conservation of fish and wildlife”. Yeah….sure. If that’s so, why are these many thousands of remote lodge guests allowed to hunt and fish in private, and the rest of us are kept out for “reasons of conservation”. Really? Do they think we believe that?
It has reached the point of critical mass. A large number of us, average anglers, hunters, trappers, nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts have said, “Enough is enough!” Some of us have launched complaints with the Ontario Ombudsman after getting no satisfaction with the stock PR answers from the MNR.
ONTARIO OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL ALLIANCE (OntORA)
In EARLY 2008, a group of active outdoors people gathered in the Sault and re-activated the Northern Ontario Resource Alliance (NORA) which has since changed to OntORA. The aim of OntORA is to work for all of us in promoting unrestricted and lawful access to all roads, public lands and waterways, to promote socio-economic development of our communities and the wise use of our natural resources. The strength of OntORA will be largely dependant on its numbers. We need all serious anglers, hunters, trappers and outdoors people to band together and support OntORA’s efforts on our behalf.
Individual memberships are only $15.00 a year, families $20.00, Lifetime membership $350.00 and Corporate memberships starting at $100.00 A membership application form is included on this web site and we urge you to please join with us to put an end to this discrimination and injustice to the average Ontario taxpayer. United we stand, divided we fall.
A LEGACY OF EQUAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
We all want our children and grandchildren, and their children, to enjoy the beauty and bounty of our great Ontario forests and lakes. Take a stand today, on behalf of our freedom and the freedom of future generations. Let’s leave a legacy of equal rights and freedoms for everyone, not a legacy of Ontario private game and fish farms for the wealthy.