Diversity: Forests, People, Communities

Originally Published in the August 1993 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.

The following are highlights from a “Proposed Comprehensive Forest Policy Framework for Ontario”. The report of the Ontario Forest Policy Panel, 1993.

The people of Ontario are asking for clear and simple guidelines for forest use and management, but is there a simple answer to the question: How can we manage our forests better? The Forest Policy panel was established by the Government of Ontario as an independent group to find answers to this question.

Diversity Is The Key

The forests, the people and the communities of Ontario are diverse. The Panel found that diversity, not simplicity, is the key and strength for creating sound forest policy for Ontario into the 21st century. Diversity characterizes every aspect of our forests, so simple rules will not work.

Even the ways in which forests are important to Ontarians are diverse. For example, forests can support many different kinds of industries, helping forest-based communities become more stable and sustainable. Another example is the importance people attach to the role of Ontario’s forests in global and local environmental health.

The Policy Framework

The Panel was asked by Government to chart new directions for long-term forest policy. The panel consulted people across Ontario to help create a Comprehensive Forest Policy Framework.

The Framework is the beginning of a new era for forest management and policy in Ontario. The Panel found that Ontarians everywhere want forests to be managed in a balanced way, for a range of ecological, social and material values. The Panel also discovered that current forest policies are out of step with this new attitude. The Framework points the directions required for new forest policies.

In accordance with the Panel’s terms of reference, the Framework deals only with forest management and policy, and not with operational issues, Aboriginal land claims, or the overall future of the wood products industry.

Cornerstones of New Forest Policy

The Framework contains:

A GOAL FOR ONTARIO’S FORESTS

Our goal is to ensure the long-term health of our forest ecosystems for the benefit of the local and global environment, while enabling present and future generations to meet their material and social needs.

The Framework also includes four Cornerstones which, taken together with the Goal, Strategic Objectives and Principles, underlie a new approach to the use and management of Ontario’s forests.

The four Cornerstones are:

 

 

Making Progress

To guide forest policy-making into the 21st century, the Framework calls for implementation of Adaptive Policy Development. For success, the adaptive approach uses consultative processes focused on:

Success also depends on clear communications and information. Ontarians have to make their needs and desires known to forest managers before policies and plans are in place. At the same time, managers need to inform the public about whether the forests meet the declared needs and desires. Ecosystems cannot produce limitless benefits.

The process of putting the Framework into practice can begin at both the local and provincial levels. Creative local action is vital to gaining much-needed understanding about what will work in the forests and communities. Provincial policy-makers must be informed of the results of diverse local experiments that try thoughtful new ways of managing and using forests.

The Framework includes a vigorous agenda for policy development, with both immediate priorities and a longer-term action plan. Within two years, the Government needs to focus on:

A Diverse, Sustainable Future

Forests can enrich our lives in a variety of ways. Untapped opportunities arise from a powerful combination of diversities – across the forests, among the people, and in the economy. To build upon these diversities, we must shift our policy thinking from yesterday’s approaches to tomorrow’s needs for participation, flexibility, and adaptation.

When the Forest Policy Panel visited communities across Ontario in 1992, people were asked to think about how to make forest sustainability a reality in the future. We can make a sustainable future happen by planning and acting in concert with the Framework. It means we will truly begin to think globally and act locally, to think long term and act now. It means a productive balance of diversity of Ontario’s forests, its people and its communities.

The Forest Policy Panel urges all Ontarians to work together for a sustainable future by implementing the Comprehensive Forest Policy Framework.

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