NOTO's Concerns with Ontario's Forest Sector Strategy Draft

Wednesday Dec 11, 2019

Author: NOTO

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MNRF Looking for Input on Draft Forest Sector Strategy

Ontario has released their proposed Ontario Forest Sector Strategy. The goal of this new strategy is to sustainably grow the forest sector, create opportunity for Ontario families, support industry and encourage innovation and new investment, while ensuring the sustainability of forests.

This strategy identifies four pillars and the following goals:

(1) Promoting stewardship and sustainability by:

  • enhancing recognition of Ontario’s sustainable forest management system
  • conducting applied research and best science to support forest management planning teams
  • developing and strengthening Indigenous partnerships
  • protecting values and respecting Indigenous rights
  • improving collaboration in managing forests (through collaborative proposals from industry, community and Indigenous partners)

Goals by 2030:

  • Modernize and adapt forest management planning process to maintain the sustainability of Ontario's Crown forests
  • Ensure steps are being taken to help Ontario's forests adapt to a changing climate
  • Identify opportunities for Ontario's forests to help in our fight against climate change

(2) Putting more wood to work by:

  • reducing regulatory burdens/eliminate duplication for industry to access wood
  • increasing forest growth and use of available wood supply
  • investing in newer technologies (LiDAR) to improve the quality of the inventory information
  • providing wood supply certainty, ensuring use & attracting new investments

Goals by 2030:

  • Harvest sustainable wood supply (30 million m3)
  • Improve estimates of quantity and quality for unused wood supply
  • Established targets for forest growth and harvest
  • Establish intensive forest management areas
  • Explore ways to encourage harvest on private lands

(3) Improving our cost competitiveness by:

  • maximizing the use of mill by-products (creating energy, bio-based chemicals)
  • making strategic investments in Forest Access Roads
  • reducing costs for the forest sector (lower energy cost, lower taxes)
  • encourage use of under-utilized species and log qualities
  • streamlining forest management requirements (reduce duplication, permits and approvals, independent forest audits)

Goals by 2030:

  • Cost competitive forest sector
  • A business climate that attracts investments
  • Realize benefits from forest inventory investments

(4) Fostering innovation, markets and talent by:

  • growing the talent in the sector with educational and training programs (NOHFC)
  • enabling small and medium-sized businesses to access growing global export markets (redesigning the business support programs to modernize and innovate, support participation in trade missions)
  • investing in the next generation of forestry products (bioproducts, mass timber, large infrastructure & bridge development, prefabricated building market, etc.)
  • increasing use of Ontario wood in construction and heating
  • launching the Forest Sector Investment and Innovation Program
  • increasing awareness of Ontario's forest sector and sustainable forest management (Ontario Wood logo)
  • releasing a carbon calculator tool

Goals by 2030:

  • Assess the use of autonomous harvesting and transportation technologies
  • Grow the diversity of international markets for Ontario wood products
  • Increase the use of wood in Ontario's building and bridge infrastructure
  • Update the Ontario Tall Wood Building Reference and the Ontario Wood Bridge Guide.

A few noteworthy proposals in this strategy include the following:

    1. According to MNRF, Ontario can harvest up to 30 million m3 sustainably however we are currently only harvesting approximately 15 million m3. In this strategy, they put a lot of emphasis on exploring "future markets and innovations for Ontario's wood products". As of 2019, the production of forestry products in Ontario is focused on pulp and paper, lumber, panels and engineered wood products. By 2030, the province expects that the emerging green economy will lead to an increase need for wood in the bioproducts, prefabricated building, engineered wood products and mass timber markets on a global scale. Today, 96% of Ontario's wood product exports are destined for the USA which causes major issues when prices and demands for wood are not strong. When demands are low for long periods of time, the forestry sector suffers which has been a primary cause for mill closures in the last decade, with many mills in the North threatening to close their doors as well.

    2. MNRF stated that they will look into conducting applied research and monitoring, and use best science to support forest management planning teams. We are wondering how they are planning on doing so as the most recent proposed changes to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act involve removing the need for MNRF to inspect Annual Work Schedules during the Forest Management Planning process.
    3. Similarly to many of Ontario's industries, there is a major labour shortage in the forestry sector. The province plans to support forestry education and promote opportunities that encourage young adults to pursue careers in forestry. Many of these programs will be funded through NOHFC.
    4. By 2022, the Government aims to increase strategic investments Forest Access Roads in order to ease access to forest products by smaller companies. This, linked with the recent proposal to amend the Crown Forest Sustainability Act to enable the issuance of a “permit” to allow a person to remove forest resources from a Crown forest for non-forestry purposes (e.g., roads, mining, utility corridors) can be detrimental to many remote tourism businesses, depending on the parameters and who is eligible to apply for these permits. ("Ontario invests in forest access roads because of the board benefits to Indigenous communities, tourism operators, cottages, hunters, gatherers of food and medicines, forest sector and other industries like rail, energy, mining and first responders." Page 22)
    5. By 2030, the Government hopes to have a strategy in place to encourage harvests on private land.
    6. This strategy also identifies the need to work together with municipalities, and Indigenous communities, however, very little is said about how they will work with other industries on the land. It is crucial that we keep pushing Government to acknowledge tourism as one of the North's greatest economic drivers and that we encourage relationships between Forestry and Tourism Industries. We can not keep growing one industry to the detriment of another. Near the end of the strategy, the following is said:"Living in Ontario means having the ability to fish, hunt, and enjoy world-class outdoor recreation opportunities. Ontario protects these values and promotes these activities and the economic opportunities they offer while continuing to be a world leader in managing Ontario's natural environment for future generations." (Page 29). It is important for Government to realize that these are the core values of the resource-based tourism industry and it is critically important that forestry acknowledges this and works with tourism to ensure that these opportunities are available for future generations.

Although NOTO understands the need to reduce red tape for all industries, we feel MNRF is placing too much emphasis on the forestry sector at the detriment of other industries, particularly resource-based tourism. By removing MNRF oversight on Annual Work Schedules, changing the regulations surrounding road building permits, and by exploring the use of public land for harvest will have negative consequences on not only the environment, but to countless tourism businesses on the landscape.

On every proposal relating to forestry, NOTO has emphasized the need for forestry and tourism businesses to work together as long as MNRF provides the proper landscape for us to do so. Our concerns with all of these changes to forestry are based on the long term impacts on the environment, wildlife, fisheries and to the user groups of the landbase.

NOTO is currently building a submission in response to this Forest Sector Strategy and are looking for input from the industry to ensure everyone's concerns are identified in our response. Please review the proposal by clicking on the link in the lines above and send any comments, questions or concerns you may have to Laurie (laurie@noto.net).

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