The following letter, written by a Tourist Outfitter in Ontario, was recently sent to many people, including the leaders of every political party in Ontario.
Is the NDP Party unknowingly campaigning to destroy the 15,000 jobs in Northern Ontario directly tied to Northern Ontario’s remote tourism industry?
Subject: ONTORAs proposal for NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV ACCESS to the last few remaining fly-in tourism destinations would result in unemployment levels instantly rising towards 40% in many rural northern Ontario towns.
Subject: Less than one quarter of 1% of Ontario’s water bodies historically designated for remote based tourism directly support 15,000 jobs in small rural towns on Northern Ontario, as well as create thousands of other indirect employment opportunities.
Dear Hon. Gilles Bisson,
First of all I’d like to say that I am a supporter of your work to try to make Northern Ontario a better place to live. I think it’s great that you were able to support the campaign to eliminate non-essential chemical herbicides from Ontario’s boreal forest (as Quebec did in 2001) and will forever appreciate your time and confidence to present thousands of petitions to parliament to such effect. I truly hope that the NDP can swing more media attention this ever pressing environmental matter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESzWoSpCkAo www.whitemoose.ca
Ontario’s public forests and lands are in desperate need of responsible management and long term environmental protection. 2011 is actually the decade anniversary for Quebec for prohibiting non-essential usage of chemical herbicides in their forestry program. The public would recognize these chemical herbicides to be similar to RoundUp and Killex which use Glyphosate or 2,4-D as the active chemical ingredients. These chemicals have been banned in the front yards in cities across both Ontario and Quebec based on medical association concerns that these chemicals were posing a significant risk to the environment and the health of humans. It will surely be a great victory for the fish, wildlife, and human populations of Ontario when we follow Quebec’s lead. Ontario continues to allow the spraying of non-essential chemical herbicides onto Ontario’s pristine boreal forests, which are the headwaters for most of Ontario’s populations. Even expensive and sophisticated water filtration systems such as the one used for the city of Toronto are incapable of removing these chemical pesticides from the water prior to home delivery.
More currently, I have read a few Queens Hill debates between yourself and Hon. Linda Jeffrey, the current Minister of Natural Resources, in regards to access opportunities to crown lands and crown lakes. As a third generation remote tourism outfitter with drive in, boat in, and fly in cabins, I’m hoping that I may be able to help provide some diverse and potentially helpful information and perspectives.
In your capacity as an NDP critique of the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources at Queens Park you repetitively criticize Hon. Linda Jeffrey, the current Minister, in regards to what ONTORA claims to be unjustifiable motorized vehicle access restrictions on Ontario’s crown lands. Recently, your name was included in a newspaper article published in the Timmins Daily press in support of an ONTORA campaign to cut a new non-traditional ATV trail to the shoreline of Oswald Lake on August 20, 2011.
My family has owned and operated a fly-in fishing and hunting camp on Oswald lake since the mid 1950’s, several decades before the first motorized overland access ever occurred. The first means of access to this water body (hence the traditional means of access) is by floatplane.
A small group of persons using the ONTORA logo are hoping to convince you and the other politicians that anyone in the world should have the right to cut a NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV trail to shoreline of every lake, river, and creek in the province of Ontario. As will be elaborated within this letter, this would result in serious permanent damage to Ontario’s fish and wildlife populations, as well as Ontario’s economy (and hence Ontario’s human population).
More recently I have read the NDP political platform which endorses the concept of “traditional access for locals to these lakes and rivers” which support remote based tourism employment opportunities.
According to an article in the Ontario Out Of Doors Magazine, June 2011 titled “Crown Land Controversy in Wawa”, ONTORA claims that the current land policies in place to reduce user-group conflicts don’t “address fair public access to the district’s lakes. Right now, access restrictions protecting remote tourism operators are in place… Currently, public access to those lakes is by “traditional” means only: foot, water, or air.”
Later in this article, Mike Boudreau, an ONTORA member is quoted as saying “Remote outfitters worry that more fishing pressure will deplete fish and that if a lake is made accessible to the public it will reduce business.” Four things are certain and almost go without saying.
1) Additional fishing or hunting pressure in any region will result in reduced fish and game populations.
2) Tourists driving a day or more for the highest possible quality of fish and wildlife populations will continue to seek out remote regions with little or no fishing or hunting pressure. If these wilderness regions no longer exist in Ontario because every water body has a road to the shoreline, these tourists will simply relocate their vacations to Quebec like those tourists continuing to enjoy the spring bear hunt.
3) As correctly stated by the ONTORA, true “traditional” access has never been prohibited to any remote based tourism water bodies in Ontario. Only new NON-TRADITIONAL means of access (such as cutting a new ATV trail from a new forestry road) to these water bodies supporting remote based tourism employment opportunities is prohibited.
4) In Ontario, approximately one thousand out of four hundred thousand (1000 / 400,000) or one quarter of 1% (.25%) of the lakes, rivers, or streams have been designated as remote based tourism water bodies. These water bodies sustainably support 15,000 jobs in Northern Ontario. The result of ONTORAs campaign for new NON-TRADITIONAL ROADS to every last water body in Ontario would be the PERMANENT DESTRUCTION of 15,000 jobs directly tied to Ontario’s remote based tourism industry.
I’m rather confused with how the term of “traditional” access is proposed to be defined by the NDP party. As acknowledged by ONTORA, the law currently (and has for decades) allowed traditional access to anyone in the world to every lake, river, and stream in the province of Ontario despite the designation as a remote based tourism waterbody. What exactly are you proposing to change?
The missed reality of ONTORAs campaign is that there are no private lakes, rivers, or streams in the province of Ontario which are not already accessible and being accessed by Ontario’s public. “Traditional access” has never been prohibited. Certain water bodies have designated methods of approved and prohibited access which may or may not include ATV access. These water bodies include most lakes and rivers within Ontario’s provincial parks and many remote tourism destinations. Similar to water bodies within most provincial parks in Ontario, ATV access is generally not the approved method of accessing remote tourism destinations because of its extremely negative impact on remote tourism values. Oddly enough, the ONTORA seems to have no objections with ATV restrictions in provincial parks.
According to Ontario’s fish consumption advisory guidelines, there are over 400,000 lakes, rivers, and streams in Ontario. According to CNFER, the MNRs long term policy division focused on studying the impacts of forestry on tourism, there are over 250,000 lakes in Ontario. According to CNFER research document called Remote Tourism in Northern Ontario: Patterns of supply and a motivational segmentation of Clients(1997) by Hunt and Haider there were 1100 remote tourism destinations remaining in Ontario in 1997. Without accounting for the major decrease in remote tourism destinations during the past decade (which I would estimate to be approximately 20%), less than one quarter of 1% of Ontario’s water bodies directly support 15,000 jobs in small rural towns on Northern Ontario, as well as thousands of other indirect employment opportunities.
Also key to the NDP platform is the term “local”. How is the NDP proposing to define the term “local” and how would the NDP restrict access to “locals only”? Would the NDP platform coincidentally include the ability for non-residents of Canada to be able to cut or use NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV trails to access the few remaining fly-in tourism destinations remaining in Ontario and hence contribute to the destruction of the local remote based tourism employment opportunities?
Your personal support for ONTORAs new non-traditional ATV trail into Oswald and your most recent NDP radio advertisements would almost seem to be proposing new non-traditional ATV access to every last water body in Ontario with a remote based tourism cabin. However, I can’t imagine the NDP party would knowingly campaign for such a huge permanent loss of employment opportunities in remote regions of Northern Ontario where fly-in fishing and hunting vacation employment opportunities still exist. The NDP platform does specifically and explicitly endorse the concept that keeping tourism dollars here in the province helps Ontario’s economy.
The only goal of ONTORA is to create NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV and 4X4 truck access into the last few remaining presently operating remote tourism destinations with historically constructed outpost cabins and lodges. Although over 99.75% of the water bodies in Ontario can legally be accessed overland by new non-traditional ATV trails, this simply isn’t enough to satisfy the poachers affiliated with ONTORA.
One of the main historical and current governmental policy goals for discouraging NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV or 4X4 truck access into currently operating remote tourism destinations is to maintain the time tested and proven sustainable remote based tourism employment opportunities for the benefit of Ontario’s populations living in more isolated and remote regions. As an outfitter with all types of outpost cabins (drive in, boat in, fly-in) , I can tell you that based on the reservation patterns we see from our repeat clientele, most of the guests who repetitively reserve isolated fly-in fishing or hunting outpost cabins will relocate their vacations to another province if these remote wilderness areas no longer exist in Ontario. It’s not complicated to understand that anglers or hunters wishing to spend their vacation dollars to enjoy a truly remote fly-in fishing or hunting trip will prefer to reserve into locations (or provinces) without overland access via ATV or 4X4 pickup truck.
On a short term time scale, the group of tourists who reserved the camp at Oswald Lake for the week coinciding with ONTORA’s trail cutting protest cancelled their trip and rebooked into another destination because of the perception that they would be constantly surrounded by boats, traffic, and a general lack of remoteness. They sought an experience where they would be reasonably assured to see no one but the pilot during their vacation.
On a longer term scale, if new non-traditional overland access routes are maintained (such as the new ATV trail cut by ONTORA to the shoreline of Oswald lake), these tourism camps loose all marketability as fly in destinations. The expectations of a high quality fishery and a pristine sense of remoteness are destroyed.
If remote fly-in destinations (and values) are no longer available in Ontario because every lake and river has NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV trails to the shorelines (as advocated by ONTORA), all current and all future tourists seeking remote fly in vacation experiences will simply relocate their vacations to another province. The cancellation of the spring bear hunt should be a recent reminder that with the loss of sustainable tourism opportunities comes a loss in sustainable employment opportunities and an increase in unemployment rates. Tourists seeking a spring bear hunt have simply relocated their spending budget into another province or state. The same will occur if fly-in fishing or hunting opportunities no longer exist in Ontario as pursued by ONTORA. How does this proposed future at all coincide with the NDPs political platform focused on keeping tourism dollars here in Ontario for the benefit of Ontario’s economy?
The Crown Forest Sustainability Act and many other legal and policy documents address the need to maintain a diversity of sustainable forestry and non-forestry related employment opportunities. The Centre for Northern Forestry Ecosystem Research (CNFER) has extensively studied and written on the issue of forestry impacts on remote based tourism.
According to the CNFER, the main threat to remote tourism employment opportunities is new non-traditional overland ATV access. New non-traditional ATV access (including ONTORAs trail to Oswald lake) is generally a result of new forestry operations and new corresponding road construction to extract timber in close vicinity to remote tourism water bodies. Without the ability for the government to implement conditions on new methods of non-traditional motorized vehicle access into remote tourism destinations, much larger no harvesting buffers would be legally required under the CFSA to maintain this fuller diversity of employment opportunities. In some regions, this could amount to a drastic reduction in the available amount of harvestable timber. The Public Lands Act (and restrictions on new non-traditional motorized vehicle access) has been carefully drafted to preserve maximum employment opportunities within both the forestry and remote based tourism sectors. Conditions on new non-traditional means of access (such as cutting new ATV trails) to water bodies designated for remote based tourism employment opportunities allow both of these industries to continue to co-exist and maintains a maximum diversity of employment opportunities for the benefit of Ontario’s population and economy. The only goal of ONTORA is to create new non-traditional ATV access to these remote based tourism destinations, without any care for the obvious significant negative impacts on the local economies.
As Wolfgang Haider and Len Hunt of the CNFER write in Remote Tourism in Northern Ontario: Patterns of Supply and a Motivational Segmentation of Clients, “A successful remote tourism operator requires exclusive rights to a fishery of a lake (it may be shared with a second remote establishment on large lakes), and a buffer of pristine forest surrounding the lake. The main functions of these forested buffers are to further enhance the wilderness experience by providing a high quality aesthetics surrounding of the lake, and by preventing access of other anglers over land.”
In clarifying the concept of exclusive rights to a fishery, Hunt and Haider do go on to specify that remote tourism values are not generally compromised by traditional water canoe route access, traditional floatplane access, or traditional foot access routes using traditional trails not constructed as a result of new forestry activities. These methods of “traditional” access are currently the legally permitted means of accessing all water bodies which support remote based tourism employment opportunities.
In a research document titled Pricing and packaging strategies of remote fly-in tourism Operations in Northern Ontario(1997) by Haider and Hunt, they indicate that approximately 15,000 people are employed in the remote tourism sector of Northern Ontario. Most of these jobs are in very small rural communities due to the inherent lack of remoteness near large metropolitan areas. When taken into context that most of these jobs are located in small towns across the north like Foleyet, the local direct economic benefits for many rural communities can actually be quite significant.
For example, in the town of Foleyet, Ontario with an approximate population of 120 people, there may be 2/3rds or 80 persons fit and desiring to work. Air Ivanhoe and Air Foleyet, two local remote tourism outfitters, directly employ between 25 to 35 persons per year with as many as possible from Foleyet with one main factor being the requirement to provide housing for non-local employees. The “Great Depression” Era in the United States saw unemployment levels near 10%. Many small northern communities relying on remote tourism would be instantly significantly negatively impacted if fly-in fishing or hunting vacation opportunities no longer existed as advocated by ONTORA. On an extremely low estimate for Foleyet of 20 out of 80 persons employed in the remote tourism industry, a near 25% unemployment rate would occur with the destruction of the remote tourism industry. In addition to current unemployment rates found in many northern communities (as per the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada at 12.1% for this week – www.hrsdc.gc.ca), this proposal for NEW NON-TRADITIONAL ATV ACCESS to the few remaining fly-in tourism destinations would result in unemployment levels instantly rising upwards of 40% in many rural northern Ontario towns including Foleyet, Ontario.
The State of the Forest Report (2001) (SFR) was legally required to be created to help the public objectively assess whether the forests are being managed sustainably. SFR Element 6.2 Maintaining and Supporting Forest Based Communities indicates that of the 133 Ontario “communities identified as highly forest-sector dependent, almost 60% are vulnerable in the event of significant disruptions in the forest industry sector economy. These communities must work to diversity their economic based to maintain stability during slow periods in the forest industry.” Indicator 6.2.2 Socioeconomic resiliency in forest-based communities further re-iterates the importance of maintaining a wide diversity of employment opportunities especially so in small northern forest towns like Foleyet. The positive indirect economic impacts from remote based tourism also assist Northern Communities both locally and along the travel route. With a reduction in tourism travels during the past few years has come an increase in “closed” signs at convenience travel stops along northern highways.
Now, in regards to the ONTORAs demonstration in Foleyet on August 20th, 2011 to cut a new non-traditional ATV trail into Oswald Lake, let’s review the facts as it comes to the ONTORAs official positions. According to ONTORAs website, ONTORA supports a variety of access restrictions and road closures for selected areas of public land and special wilderness areas where it can be proven scientifically that human presence has a significant and permanent detrimental effect on the environment.
In approximately 1957, my grandfather George Theriault Sr. obtained a land use permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources to construct a commercial tourism cabin on the northern shore of Oswald lake. The sole reason that the MNR agreed to issue this type of land use permit (and others like it) was to create local sustainable meaningful employment opportunities in the Foleyet region and other small town in Northern, Ontario. Those employment opportunities were to include (and continue to include) camp and dock construction and maintenance, aircraft transportation to and from the cabin, overnight accommodations and restaurant dining prior to and after the trip near the floatplane base, fuel stops and food stops at the floatplane base as well as en route to and from the floatplane base, guiding anglers and hunters, food sales, gas sales, bait sales, etc. The camp construction would require construction materials (expected to be purchased locally and further benefiting a diversity of employment opportunities) and once constructed, guests would require quality equipment to operate such a boats and motors. Boat fuel, generator fuel, and propane would be required and again would be purchased locally. Local plumbers, electricians, mechanics, and carpenters would need to be hired to both construct and maintain the camp.
After two decades of operations as a remote tourism camp, forestry operations made their way close enough to Oswald lake and for the first time ever, overland 4X4 pickup truck access occurred. One of the employees from the local forestry company illegally bulldozed a road directly to the western shoreline of Oswald lake. Once this new illegal road was constructed, both residents and non-residents of Canada (many of whom previously coming as tourists) converged in masses upon the lake. For a very brief duration, the fishing remained good. Once the fishery had been depleted, these anglers simply cut new trails to new lakes and continued the process of fishery destruction. After about 5 years of non-tradition means of pickup truck access, anglers began to ignore Oswald because the lake was nearly fished out. Eventually the vegetation on this non-traditional trail re-grew returning the area to a similar level of remoteness as prior to forestry operations. After several decades of Air Ivanhoe’s careful and cautious fishery management as a “Conservation Lake”, which requires anglers to purchase a conservation licence and release all trophy sized fish, we’re now again faced with prospects of the lake being fished out by newly created non-traditional ATV access.
Many studies show that increased roads / motorized vehicle trails have a direct correspondence with the decrease in abundance of fish or game. Many jurisdictions across Canada and the US have created similar park like features with conditions on the use of motorized vehicles in certain areas to aid in the successful long term conservation of the local flora and fauna. With the local moose population already in rapid decline, it’s not hard to understand that more truck and ATV trails to the shorelines of more water bodies / moose feeding areas will result in fewer and fewer moose. Ontario manages its moose herd based on the concept that a large portion of the moose herds live in these remote wilderness regions. The moose in these regions are not heavily hunted because of the inherent difficulty in accessing these areas. These regions give moose a safe area to reproduce and eventually wander outwards and repopulate adjacent heavily hunted areas with easy access. Should these wilderness regions disappear, it’s not hard to understand that moose populations will continue to rapidly decline.
If these remote based tourism wilderness areas no longer maintain high density fish and wildlife populations capable of convincing tourists to drive for a day or more, the key factors that encourage and sustain remote tourism values and corresponding employment opportunities will disappear.
When the camps constructed to support Ontario’s fly-in tourism industry disappear or are converted to private camps (because tourism values are destroyed by new non-traditional ATV access advocated by ONTORA), the corresponding remote based tourism employment opportunities disappear. This is a permanent loss of sustainable and renewable employment opportunities which have proven to be successful for greater than 70 years. By any definition of the environment which incorporates humans and the impacts on humans (i.e. socio-environmental impacts) this permanent loss of renewable, environmentally sustainable employment opportunities is a significant permanent negative environmental impact.
There are many scientific studies (especially so from CNFER) demonstrating that a portion of the global population would like to enjoy a truly remote fly-in fishing or hunting vacation. Many individuals from this group come from Ontario. These studies also demonstrate that tourists seeking a remote fly-in vacation do not wish to see or mingle with anglers or hunters who accessed the same area by ATV or pickup truck. However, traditional access (as currently permitted) on historical walking paths, by historical canoe portage routes, or by floatplane seems to have minimal negative impacts. If ONTORA is successful in its campaign for the right for anyone in the world to cut a new non-traditional ATV trail to the shoreline of every water body in the province of Ontario, eventually, like those tourists who continue to desire to hunt a bear in the spring, tourists seeking remote fly-in experiences will simply relocate their vacation budget to another province.
ONTORAs official position is that it supports road closures in wilderness regions and where it can be demonstrated that new non-traditional means of access will lead to permanent environmental damage. Somehow ONTORA has missed the reality that the ¼ of 1% of Ontario’s water bodies designated as remote based tourism water bodies are the last remaining wilderness regions … and that cutting new non-traditional ATV trails within these areas would most definitely result in significant negative impacts to many northern towns and wildlife populations. It’s clear that permanent environmental damage is not actually a boundary that ONTORAs members are willing to respect. Take every fish and then cut a new non-traditional ATV trail to the next lake might as well be the true ONTORA slogan. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in regards to ONTORAs proposed environmental and socio-environmental damages.
The question is easy. Do you wish to support a few poachers seeking to clean out the last wilderness regions … or the 15,000 hard working northerners struggling in this economy to put food on the table for their families and relying on the government to maintain truly “traditional” access into Ontario’s few remaining remote based tourism wilderness regions?
Born and raised in Northern Ontario
Lawyer, Bush pilot, Coordinator, Air Ivanhoe
3rd generation tourism outfitter
Drive In, Boat In, Fly in Outpost Cabins in Northern Ontario