The Country Connection The Pinecone Forest Country Roads Maps Country Cabin Books
The Country Connection Magazine Story

AddThis Feed Button
AddThis Share Button

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Magazine Fund for the creation of this website.

A Case for Eliminating All Extractive Activities from Ontario's Parks

by Daniel Boileau

At a time when the planet is losing its ecological diversity at an unprecedented rate, Ontarians should re-evaluate the role of their provincial parks in terms of future socio-economic benefits. Better understanding and appreciation of our parks' economic value to social, natural and human capital would allow the concept of sustainable development to mean that future generations are left with as many opportunities as previous generations have had.

This concept, recently proposed by the World Bank, would be applied to all of the values associated with wilderness areas, including crown lands and provincial parks. Benefits derived from extractive activities like mining, forestry, hunting, fishing, trapping and development would be measured not only in terms of their addition to economic wealth but also in terms of revenues lost to future generations. We could start applying this concept to Ontario's provincial parks now, as they are well established and currently earning good profits for government.

Most Ontarians and foreign tourists imagine provincial parks as protected places, safe from the disturbances of logging, mining and hunting. Parks are indicated on maps and roadside signs as Crown Game Preserves, Conservation Areas, Nature Reserves, Wilderness Parks and Forest Reserves. Such titles conjure visions of serene waterways and majestic forests, untouched by human activity. The truth is that many parks are in jeopardy of losing their integrity as genuine protected areas.

Hunters, anglers, trappers, loggers and mine operators have access to pretty well all crown lands in Ontario. These are lands set aside by the Queen for the enjoyment and benefit of all Ontarians. However, with the continued expansion of multi-lateral trade agreements and privatization, opportunities for non-consumptive activities in wilderness areas are quickly diminishing. The shrinking remains of true wilderness in Ontario are now within the borders of our provincial parks. Unfortunately, we are about to hand these over to business and special interest groups in the form of Ontario's Living Legacy.

The most disturbing aspect of Ontario's Living Legacy is that it opens the door to the possible exploitation of our parks by business and special interest groups. One group with a vested interest in our parks is the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. With millions of hectares of crown land already available for hunting in Ontario, the OFAH is lobbying government to increase hunting opportunities by turning provincial parks into playgrounds for hunters.

As park management plans come due for renewal in upcoming months and years, governments will be holding public meetings to decide which activities will and will not be acceptable in our parks. Hunters will attend these meetings by the bus load to make their point of view heard. A possible reason for this may lie in the fact that in 1996 just 3.5% of Ontarians hunted. Hunting as a recreational activity is dying-down 14% between 1981 and 1991. Hunting clubs are now engaged in reaffirming their so-called traditional rights to whomever will listen. Ontario's Tory government, with millions of dollars at risk from the sale of hunting licences, is listening carefully.

Proof of this lies in the OFAH's recent mailing of Hunting Guides to schools and libraries without the knowledge of officials at the Ministry of Education. When the Premier heard about this, he shrugged off responsibility by leaving school boards to decide whether to keep or return the publication on gun handling. The Premier, however, does have an interest in hunting, and anyone with a few hundred dollars can hear about it at the upcoming Premier's Symposium on North America's Hunting Heritage.

An Ontario Parks web site is now promoting the Ottawa symposium to be held August 23rd to 27th. The symposium is the sixth in a series of Governors' Symposia, and is being held for the first time outside the U.S. at the personal invitation of Premier Harris. The promotion reads, "Here hunters, wildlife managers, scientists and academics will celebrate our rich heritage as hunters." What follows sounds almost desperate: "Nothing can alter evolutionary history but, for the present, society faces tremendous upheaval as we disconnect from the land and stray from our heritage of hunting." This is the sales pitch for Ontario Parks in the year 2000, as hunters and hunting revenues continue to decline.

In an effort to reverse this trend, the Tories have launched a campaign to keep this "tradition" alive. It has passed a regulation permitting 12-year-old children to hunt. In March, Tory MPP Jerry Ouellette (Oshawa) appeared in a National Rifle Association television infomercial to denounce Canada's gun control legislation, warning Americans that these controls could soon happen to them. This same MPP was a special guest at a gun-lobby fund raiser called "Stick to Your Guns," held in Toronto this year. While ignoring trends in society and our parks, Ontario's elected representatives are doggedly sticking to their guns in an effort to save revenues from the small but powerful hunting group.

Trends are what businesses use to forecast sales and profits. Large corporations pay big bucks to measure trends. These are then incorporated into long-term management and production plans. Despite our government's efforts to conduct its affairs in a business-like manner, it has overlooked emerging trends surrounding the public's growing appreciation of nature and wildlife. Although in 1996 43% of Ontarians participated in non-consumptive wilderness activities, the government continues to bow to the 3.5% who hunted. Unimaginative civil servants have yet to devise ways of making non-consumptive wilderness activities profitable, thus they rely on tried and true methods of revenue generation from extractive activities.

As long as we continue to equate our connection to the land with the hook and bullet or the chain saw and skidder, we will be cheated of the long-term economic values these areas can offer. While we may have lost many wilderness values on crown lands, there is hope for parks. Keeping hunters out of our parks is a first and important step to ensuring that the integrity of Ontario's parks remains intact. Dealing with development on the fringes of our park borders should also be a priority. A park surrounded by clearcuts, golf courses and mining activities compromises habitat for wildlife. Such scenarios also devaluate the wilderness experience for tourists.

In 1998, Canada was the ninth most popular tourist destination in the world, attracting over 18 million foreign visitors, up by 7.9% over 1997. Ontario accounts for 37 per cent of national tourism revenue and 44 per cent of the country's visitors. In 1999, when Ontario Parks first started its telephone reservation system, roughly 400 reservations were booked hourly. Lines were jammed for weeks because parks managers underestimated the importance of provincial parks to Ontarians.

By researching trends, and applying imagination and socio-economic foresight, Ontario could establish its parks as sanctuaries truly devoted to the protection of nature. Ontario Parks should now be in a position to take advantage of the world's growing eco-tourism market. Any business that ignores a growing market segment does so at its own peril. We have enough crown lands to support extractive resource activities to ensure continued wealth for our communities. While the rest of the planet faces degradation from resource extraction and accompanying pollution, the tourism opportunities of our parks becomes more attractive.

On a global scale, each passing environmental disaster, toxic spill, clearcut, new logging road, species extinction and golf course development increases the value of lands which have not suffered at human hands. Our investment in wilderness protection grows steadily as lands around the planet suffer daily losses. Consider these events of the past few months, usually delegated to the back pages of newspapers.

In Mexico last year, the worst drought in living memory left cows rotting in parched fields. Vacation homes with powerboats now stand like modern day ghost towns overlooking dry lakes. In March, a train derailment near Temagami dumped 45 thousand litres of acid into pristine Hornet Lake. Recently, in Romania, currents carrying cyanide from a mine lagoon killed every living organism in the Tiza and Danube rivers. Each summer, tanker trucks spray herbicides, pesticides and toxic dust suppressants with wild abandon through our neighbourhoods.

Last year over 630 scientists wrote our Prime Minister asking him to protect the places where endangered species live. They said that 80% of Canada's more than 300 identified endangered species are at risk because habitats they use are threatened. Extra nitrogen from acid rain and ozone is ruining the health of trees in northeast Canada and the U.S. Studies of the effect of chronic pollution on mature trees reveal that near-constant exposure to nitrogen rich chemicals reduces the vigour and rate of growth of evergreen trees.

It is obvious that the planet will soon reach a point where only small pockets of the natural world will remain. Doomsday rhetoric aside, for an entrepreneur this spells growing profits for Ontario's parks and any business involved in tourism. We can start by seeking imaginative solutions that measure all of the socio-economic benefits to be derived from our parks. The federal government recently showed leadership by announcing that no new development will take place in Canada's National Parks. This was in response to a federal task force report which said our National Parks need an overhaul or may face collapse. If we wait until our parks do face a collapse, we will have lost our opportunity to fully benefit from these areas.

This is an original story, first published in The Country Connection Magazine, Issue 35, Summer/Autumn 2000. Copyright Dan Boileau.



Reach us at Pinecone or write Pinecone Publishing, 691 Pinecrest Road, Boulter ON K0L 1G0, Canada • Phone: 613-332-3651
Copyright 201
5 Pinecone Publishing, all rights reserved. Web construction by Zylstra Design