THUNDER BAY — The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is defending its forest management practices in the wake of a critical report from an environmental group.
This week, the Wildlands League said its study of clearcuts in 35,000 square kilometres of forest northwest of Lake Nipigon found the 'logging scar' footprint comprises 14 per cent of the harvested areas.
The organization said forest regeneration is inhibited after the removal of timber because logging roads, landings, slash piles and chipper piles are left behind.
It said that because the extent of what it described as these "barren" areas has been significantly underestimated, monitoring for deforestation should be improved, and the industry should revise its harvesting practices.
Ontario's MNRF issued a response Wednesday, saying it does consider the loss of productive land in current forest management practices.
"The Forest Management Planning Manual requires planning teams to develop strategies for managing roads and unproductive land. Planning teams have to monitor and report on the progress towards completing the recovery of productive land," a spokesperson said.
Forest management guides also provide direction on how to minimize and account for the loss of productive land.
According to the MNRF, surveys are conducted regularly to assess the status of regenerating forests.
Between 2009 and 2013, the surveys showed that 91 per cent of assessed areas were considered free to be free to grow.
Areas not deemed free to grow are reassessed in future years.
Industry calls Wildlands League report 'wildly' misleading
The Forest Products Association of Canada said the Wildlands League report fails to understand Canada's 21st century forest sector.
In a statement below the headline "Forest Report Wildly Misleading," it said Canada is a global leader in sustainable forest management, and is in the midst of a transformation leading to innovative new products and "enhanced environmental credentials."
Industry practices have evolved considerably over the last several decades, it said, and have contributed to minimizing the loss of productive forest areas.
The FPAC said the Wildlands League has "purposely" exaggerated the impact of forestry, focusing on practices from 30 years ago in a single region [Northwestern Ontario] and extrapolating them to the entire country.
"In fact, road areas and non-regenerated landings are significantly lower today," it said.
In its statement, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also noted that the public access road network created by logging operations is used by mining companies, tourism operators, Indigenous communities and others.