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Province increases funding for forest roads

Access road program funding grows to $59 million to better connect communities, accommodate more users
(Ontario Government photo)

Forestry roads aren’t just for the forestry industry anymore.

These vital networks of Northern Ontario infrastructure on Crown land are used by mining companies, tourism operators, utilities, Indigenous people, recreational enthusiasts, and emergency responders.

The Ontario government acknowledged as much in making a May 1 funding announcement that a $6-million top-up is being added to the Provincial Forest Access Roads Funding Program.

There’s more than 19,000 kilometres of these publicly accessed bush roads in Ontario. With this top-up, the pool of program money for constructing and maintaining these roads, and other infrastructure like bridges, now grows to $59 million for the government’s 2024-2025 fiscal year.

“Many people rely on this road network every day for travel between work and home and everywhere in between,” said Graydon Smith, natural resources and forestry minister, in a statement.

“This investment will keep people and vehicles moving safely, support efficient business operations and build safer, stronger communities.”

Smith made good on a commitment during the “bear pit session” at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference recently held in Thunder Bay.

One Greenstone councillor wanted assurances that access roads, in areas like the Kenogami Forest, would be maintained and remain open despite the indefinite idling of the Terrace Bay pulp mill.

Smith said based on his conversations with local community leaders, his ministry deemed access roads as “very much a high priority," due to their "multiple purposes" for local economic development and travel between communities.