New Ontario law promises to protect northern Boreal Forest

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Will Craven, 415 407 3426,

New Ontario law promises to protect northern Boreal Forest

Role of communities needs to be front and centre in new law, coalition saysRole of communities needs to be front and centre in new law, coalition says

TORONTO - A coalition of leading environmental groups applaud legislation to
be introduced today that would enshrine Premier Dalton McGuinty’s
commitment to protect at least 225,000 square kilometres of the
northern Boreal Forest. The Far North Planning Act, if
passed, could help Ontario fight climate change, protect ecosystems and
ensure First Nations have control over land-use decisions as they plan
for cultural renewal and economic prosperity.

The draft
legislation promises to enshrine commitments made last year by Premier
McGuinty to protect the boreal forest and improve relationships with
Aboriginal people. The coalition notes that for the first time in
Ontario history, legislation will ensure that First Nations will lead
planning for their traditional territories. It also looks forward to a
legislative commitment to create a new body to aid implementation and
coordination of planning.

The Premier has made good on
his promise to the planet, and has set in motion a plan to protect more
than 50 billion tonnes of carbon,” says Janet Sumner of CPAWS Wildlands
League. “The success of this initiative depends on new investment in
First Nations as they plan for prosperity, culture and ecosystems,”
Sumner says . “World class values deserve world class legislation,”
adds Justin Duncan of Ecojustice. “We expect this draft has the right
ingredients and we look forward to working with others to perfect it.”

The Coalition has set out six benchmarks to judge the quality of the new legislation:

  1. Articulation
    of ecological planning goals and objectives to aid the design and
    selection of the 225,000 square kilometres of conservation lands
  2. Requirement
    for the establishment of community planning bodies that will lead the
    development of community land‐use plans and require that the membership
    be made up of community members
  3. Mandating the creation of a regional planning body comprising equal representation of Aboriginal people
  4. Empowering
    those bodies to approve land use plans that have the consent of
    communities and are consistent with the purposes of the legislation
  5. Mandating adequate funding for the work of these bodies
  6. Requirement for the establishment of a science advisory body to meet the purposes of the legislation

expect that the proposed legislation meets most of the tests for good
legislation for the northern boreal,” says Rick Smith of Environmental
Defence. “More work needs to be done to fully ensure the legislation
will work in the real world but we are confident this will be done
during the Committee hearing process this summer."

funding to support community planning is a particular concern to the
Coalition. In the absence of money for developing plans proactively,
there is a risk that the process may default to planning only in
response to proposed developments.

“Plans that protect culture,
landscapes and species need to be done now” says Catharine Grant of
ForestEthics, “Not only when somebody wants to build a mine, hydro dam
or transmission line”

The role of a regional planning body needs
to be clearly defined in the legislation as well, including the manner
that it will involve aboriginal people.

“The promise of
protection needs to become real through this legislation and it could
set a standard for conservation that other provinces should match,”
says Caroline Schultz of Ontario Nature. “Getting it right means the
difference between development that is sustainable and that which will
eventually destroy an irreplaceable region.”

Three members of
the Coalition also sat on the Minister of Natural Resources Far North
Advisory Council. They are pleased to see that many elements of the
Council’s consensus report are reflected in the draft legislation.



Founded in 2000, ForestEthics is a nonprofit environmental organization with staff in Canada, the United States and C­hile. Our mission is to protect Endangered Forests and wild places, wildlife, and human wellbeing--one of our focus areas is climate change, which compromises all of our efforts if left unchecked. We catalyze environmental leadership among industry, governments and communities by running hard-hitting and highly effective campaigns that leverage public dialogue and pressure to achieve our goals.

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