Committee members trash ‘Lands for Life’ draft

The Boreal West Round Table was shocked after two of its members publicly trashed the “Lands for Life” draft document released at a press conference yesterday in Thunder Bay.
Bruce Hyer and Bruce Petersen, who represent the environmental and tourism sectors on the round table, charged in a press conference Monday that the document being released ignored tourism and heritage interests in the northwest.
And they accused the Abitibi-Consolidated and Avenor reps of bullying other committee members.
“It’s upset a lot of people on the committee. This, to me, is like being a spoiled kid,” said Jack Hedman, who’s sitting on the round table on behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, adding Monday’s surprise press conference undermined all the round table’s efforts over the past year.
Hedman, who found out about the press conference when he arrived at his Thunder Bay hotel and turned on the news, noted this was going to increase tensions around the table.
“It’s going to be very disruptive for us at the table now. It’s going to polarize people,” he warned, adding he was resentful the two members didn’t bring their issues to the table.
“You do your laundry in the committee.”
But chairman Bob Michels stressed the round table has always had a tolerance for a difference of opinion, and that it accepted it.
“It’s a cantankerous group and it has been from the start. I had heard rumours that they were going to do this,” he added.
While he didn’t think it was “particularly constructive,” Michels felt this might prompt others to come forward. And he said the round table was looking for public input.
“I hope it stimulates public debate,” he noted.
The draft document released yesterday is the Boreal West Round Table’s effort to allocate Crown land while taking into consideration its eight-point mandate–parks and protected areas, remote-based tourism, wood supply, mining, local angling, hunting and recreation opportunities, First Nations, diversifying the local economy, and sustainability of the natural resources.
The round table met with municipal reps–including Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon–yesterday afternoon. A public meeting is slated June 18 from 4-9 p.m. at the Fort Frances Curling Club.
And that has the president of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club calling a group of local users, including tourism and pulp and paper reps, back together to take a look at the draft report.
“We’re going to have to try and have a meeting in the next week or so,” Shawn O’Donnell said yesterday, noting that group came together because it wasn’t happy with the direction the round table was going.
“As far as I’m concerned, the questions are very directed,” he added, arguing the question wasn’t what people wanted but what was the least they were willing to lose.
And he urged local residents to get involved, stressing he felt the province was interested in putting more parks and protected areas–something that could threaten the rights of hunting and fishing in areas people traditionally have done in the past.
“We came out with a really good dispute resolution process,“ he said of the group’s work to date, noting it focused on local solutions to local disputes.
Despite the controversy, both Michels and Hedman were optimistic the Boreal West Round Table could come up with a report to send to Natural Resources minister John Snobelen that satisfied everyone by the end of October deadline.
“Yeah, I am but you have to be an optimist in the job I do,” Michels said.