Cost, delay for aerial photographs irks local man

Starting Dec. 1, the Ministry of Natural Resources district office at Fort Frances no longer will provide aerial photographs for viewing.
If aerial photographs are required, individual may come to the office, choose the photos from a map posted at the front counter, and fill out order forms for purchasing photos from the MNR information centre in Peterborough.
And it’s got one local man steamed.
“Why would I ask for information from Peterborough when it’s sitting on the shelf in Fort Frances,” said Al Best, a former MNR employee himself.
He now “runs lines,” a job whereby loggers contact him when they have a piece of land they want to clear but the property has no clear boundaries.
Best then goes in, studies the area, and marks a boundary around it.
“The MNR is trying to cut back on money at the public expense,” said Best, who added he talked with the MNR district manager last week.
“This is the only part of Northern Ontario where this is happening. It’s a pilot project on us,” he noted.
But MNR district manager Bill Darby explained the reason behind the new procedure is simple. “The MNR has had an increasing number of requests for aerial photographs for commercial and private purposes,” he noted.
“These people often ask for staff to explain things to them–It takes up a lot of staff time. It takes away from time that’s supposed to be used for conserving resources–that’s our core business,” added Darby.
“Because we have to focus on our core business, we have to make this change. We’ll see how it goes,” he added.
The prints are available for $8.50 plus taxes and $2.50 per order for shipping and handling, and can be paid for with credit cards or a money order made out to the Minister of Finance.
They take four-six weeks for delivery.
“All the pulp cutters in the west end will be affected by this. When they want to buy a piece of property, they have to phone Peterborough, which is 1,000 miles away, when these photos are sitting on the shelf right here,” Best charged.
“If they have to wait four-six weeks to get the photos, the chances of them buying [the property] are greatly decreased—they don’t know what’s on it.
“And by that time, it could be sold to someone else for another purpose,” he remarked.
Best also noted the pilot policy has an affect outside the logging industry.
“There are definitely responsible hunters who are concerned they’re not on private property. Having free access to the photos of the area could save a lot of chaos and bad feelings,” he said.
“And there’s the safety factor. A lot of hunters use them so they don’t get lost in the bush,” he stressed.
Best also said withholding public information from taxpayers was a violation of basic rights. “Under the Freedom of Information Act, you should be able to get information in seven days, not six weeks,” he said.
Best said he hopes to let as many people know about the new policy as possible because since it’s a pilot project, public feedback could send a message to the MNR.
The MNR mailing address for the photos is: Ministry of Natural Resources, 300 Water St., Box 7000, Peterborough, Ont., K9J 8M5.
For more information on purchasing aerial photographs, contact the MNR information centre at 1-800-667-1940.