In 2006, the Province of Ontario passed the new Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act. Subsequently, new regulations guiding park management and development were created under the Act
The new Parks and Conservation Reserves Act introduced the concept of ecological integrity. The act says that “the maintenance of ecological integrity shall be first priority.”
According to the act, “ecological integrity refers to a condition in which biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities are characteristic of their natural regions and rates of change and ecosystems processes are unimpeded. Ecological includes but is not limited to, healthy and viable populations of native species, including species at risk, and maintenance of the habitat on which the species depend; and levels of air and water quality consistent with protection of biodiversity and recreational enjoyment.”
Note that the Ontario Parks definition of ecological integrity does not include humans as part of the ecosystem and does not account for sustainable use.
Under the new regulations it says that no person shall, disturb, cut, kill remove or harm any plant, tree or natural object in a provincial park or conservation reserve or disturb, kill remove, harass of harm any animal, bird of fish except in accordance with provincial and federal Act.” Do not leave footprints
The Sault Ste Marie M.N.R. district alone now has roughly 23 provincial parks, 25 conservation reserves and 15 enhanced management areas. All of these restrict access to crown land in some form. If you overlay this with forest access road restrictions under the forest management planning process, it is easy to see that the balance in this area is largely one sided.
When Ontario’s Living Legacy is completed 12% of Ontario will be parkland and conservation area. Almost all of this will come out of Northern Ontario. When you take out private land, municipal land, native owned land, highways and land generally unacceptable for recreational use, there is little left.
Presently there are a total of 548 parks totalling 6 million hectares, the majority of which are in Northern Ontario. All Wilderness Class Parks are non-motorized (5 parks, 1.83 million hectares) and the majority of others have some form of restrictions. For many years now the Ministry of Natural Resources has been “cherry picking” the finest river systems and lakes in Ontario and reclassifying them as parks in order to restrict access to the general public.
While hunting is still “permitted” in the most of the park area in Algoma Headwaters Signature Site, (the nature reserve is an area designated as no hunting with no apparent reason for the designation). One does not have to go back too far to remember the days when we could access much of Lake Superior Park to hunt and fish as well as access a limited number of roads open to motorized access.
One step at a time motorized access, hunting and trapping became prohibited in the Park and we now have a park with activities geared only to the fit and able, discriminating against handicapped, most seniors, and all of those who, for some reason, are not able to carry a canoe. In many cases this would include families with young children.
If anyone thinks that access will not be further restricted in Algoma Headwaters, here is a taste of what is to come. (From the crown land use atlas) “The District will remove public access points on the following commercial outpost camp and lake trout lakes: Gong, Saymo, Mystery and Island (Mcliveen Twp.) within the next 10 years”. These lakes are popular fishing areas for local anglers and the MNR is saying that the tax paying public will have NO access at all.
In the case of Algoma Headwaters, the park was a done deal before the public realized the restrictions that would be imposed in the area. The planning team list for Algoma Headwaters Signature Site restricted Public involvement to “Various selected representatives to provide unbiased overview to area needs/concerns” (P 17 Algoma Headwaters Signature Site Strategy). Environmental issues were the responsibility of “The Friends of Algoma” who are really the Wildlands League based in Toronto. The Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters were also well represented.
While many roads in the Site will remain open to travel, there are far too many restrictions. The majority of off road vehicle owners in the north own the machines for utility use primarily to access remote areas to hunt, fish and travel to remote camps. As reported in the respective MNR Provincial Annual Reports, net loss (closed to the public by the MNR) of publicly accessible roads across the province between 1996 and 2003 was roughly a reduction of 3,218 km. (for comparative purposes, there are roughly 11,800 km of highways in Ontario. Since Ontario’s Living Legacy the Sault district alone now has roughly 23 provincial parks, 25 conservation reserves and 15 enhanced management areas. All of these restrict access to crown land in some form. If you overlay this with forest access road restrictions under the forest management planning process, it is easy to see that the balance in this area is largely one sided.
Lake Superior Park – 155,646 hectares and a little further north Pukasaw National Park about 188,000 hectares. (total 343,646 hectares of canoe and hiking only).When we consider the land mass in this district is already mostly comprised of massive areas of park, and private land we should be questioning the change to park domain for the last significant area of accessible Crown land in the district. The massive area of these parks with their escalating access restrictions should alarm and anger outdoor recreationalists.
When will this stop???