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Province promotes sustainability with economic growth in new forest strategy

Ten-year forestry plan pledges "highest levels" of environmental stewardship and job creation
Yakabaski Columbia Forest Products
Natural Resources Minister John Yakabaski (right) and Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli (second from left) tour the Columbia Forest Products veneer mill in Rutherglen, outside North Bay.

The Ontario government believes it's struck the right balance in keeping the province's forests "healthy for generations to come" while "putting more wood to work" and creating "more good-pay jobs" in the forestry sector.

Provincial Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski released a new 10-year forestry plan - Sustainable Growth: Ontario's Forest Sector Strategy - in Rutherglen, near North Bay, Aug. 20.

The plan calls for "maintaining the highest levels" of forest management and environmental stewardship while improving cost competitiveness, promoting innovation, recruiting more people to the sector, and finding new markets.

"Ontario's sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests, while providing social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone across the province," said Yakabuski in a statement.

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The nuts and bolts of the strategy go back to the fall of 2018 when a government delegation began travelling province gathering feedback from industry, municipal and First Nation leaders.

An advisory committee is being formed by the government to implement the plan. In praising the strategy, industry stakeholders, such as the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA), said the pandemic underscored how essential the industry is providing much-needed consumer goods and medical supplies.

"As consumers experience lumber shortages across North America, Ontario is in a strategic position to grow the forest sector and provide sustainably sourced fibre to those who need it most,” said OFIA president Jamie Lim in a statement.

“Now more than ever, the forest sector will play a critical role in the recovery of rural and northern communities and the 147,000 people that depend on the industry for employment. With today’s announcement, we are excited for what the future has in store.”

Northern Superior Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Edward Wawia said the strategy strengthens partnerships with Indigenous communities and commits to establishing a "long-term approach for protecting species at risk while removing unnecessary regulatory duplication.”

Hearst Mayor Roger Sigouin was pleased with the recognition in the strategy on the role that biomass plays in the forest products cycle.

"A Biomass Action Plan will support economic development through the use of mill by-products and underutilized wood volumes. Biomass facilities, such as the one found in my community, will play an essential role in a successful strategy.”

Northwestern Ontario's Wendy Landry, mayor of Shuniah (outside Thunder Bay) and president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, expressed excitement about the plan's release.

“Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy will enhance recognition of Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices, increase forest growth, and remove barriers to accessing this renewable resource.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski deserve recognition for their aspirational vision of Ontario’s forest sector.”

“It is clear that the Ontario government has listened to the needs of northern municipalities,” added Temiskaming's Danny Whalen, presidnt of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities.

“A strong and sustainable forest sector supports thriving communities. We fully support the goals and objectives of Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy.”