BY TODD C. EASTMAN, LANDS & FORESTS ISSUES MANAGER, NOTO
If for no other reason the joint NOTO and government forum in Ignace in mid July was a success because of the incredible turnout on the part of tourism operators- THANK YOU TO ALL OPERATORS WHO MADE THE TIME TO ATTEND THE MEETING! Approximately 80 operators from across northwestern Ontario attended the forum to voice their concerns regarding land use permits and bed capacity approaches being practiced by MNR. Industry turnout was significant and having this many operators in attendance at the height of the operating season sent a clear message to government that real issues exist that require immediate attention. It was also useful and somehow reassuring for operators to learn that what they thought was only an issue for themselves in their area or district is an issue for many of their colleagues in the industry.
Since the meeting in Ignace NOTO has been busy building on the attention and discussion the meeting generated. The week following the meeting NOTO staff met with the Assistant Deputy Minister of MNR’s Natural Resource Management Division and the Directors of MNR’s Fish & Wildlife and Lands & Waters Branches in Toronto. Because of their connection and involvement in policy development, these people and the division of MNR they represent will play an essential role in whatever solutions are developed to address the issues brought forward in Ignace. At his request we will be submitting a document to the ADM outlining our key concerns and what we see as requiring attention in the short, medium, and long term.
At the end of July Doug Reynolds of NOTO also sent a letter to Charlie Lauer, MNR Regional Director in attendance in Ignace, sharing a few observations and suggestions coming out of the Ignace meeting. Doug highlighted the importance of making some real progress on the issues quickly so as to maintain the optimism that seemed to be present at the end of the meeting. Immediately before this issue of The Outfitter was printed we received a response from Charlie.
In his letter he indicated that MNR will be proceeding immediately with the following:
MNR will distribute to all operators an information package outlining the current tenure options available to them
MNR will review all of the “additional” conditions on tenure documents to insure they are appropriate
MNR will conduct a region wide analysis of the productivity of lakes in relation to the size of tourism establishments
Upon receipt of a transfer request from an operator, MNR will estimate the productive capacity of the lake using the most appropriate model. If this analysis identifies an over harvest concern, the district will make arrangements to meet with the operators involved to seek their input and suggestions for addressing identified issues.
MNR will establish a task team in conjunction with a representative group of operators to explore and further develop a range of ideas (seasonal occupancy rates, seasonal harvest quotas, enhanced camp conservation policies, etc.) to address concerns related to over harvest. A report and recommendations from this group will be completed by December 2005.
With respect to recent decisions to reduce bed capacity, MNR is not prepared to unilaterally reverse all of these decisions. However once the working group has completed their work MNR will be prepared to support these decisions being reviewed on a case by case basis if requested by an individual operator.
When an operator is requesting a temporary exception to their current bed capacity (e.g. 7 people standing on the dock heading to a 6 bed outpost) districts will take into consideration items such as seasonal occupancy rates, camp conservation rules, etc. when reviewing these requests.
In his response Charlie also indicated that although “one bear per 50 square kilometers” was not discussed at the Ignace meeting he understands that this is of significant concern to the industry and that MNR has been investigating ways to enhance the bear management program and specifically the BMA allocation regime. This initiative was also communicated to us in a recent discussion with the Manager of MNR’s Wildlife Section in Peterborough.
In conclusion all signs point toward progress. Your efforts to make it to the Ignace meeting should not be underestimated- the Ignace meeting represented the healthiest turnout of operators at a tourism meeting since I arrived at NOTO nearly four years ago. I now know what sort of issues to put on NOTO’s annual conference agenda to attract more conference delegates!
We look forward to working with MNR, Ministry of Tourism, and MNDM in the coming months to work through these issues that have scared many of you while threatening the future viability of the industry. Stay tuned for developments and as always, please contact the NOTO office if you wish to discuss these issues further.
This article was taken from pages 13 & 14 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Spring 2005 Issue