‘Lands for Life’ given extension

The Boreal West Round Table, one of three involved in the “Lands for Life” process, has been given an extension to develop a Crown land use plan for Northwestern Ontario.
The original deadline had been set for this month but it has been extended until June 30–and may even be extended until sometime in the fall.
“Lands for Life” is a planning process established by the provincial government last June to bring environmentalists, tourist operators, aboriginals, recreational users, the forest industry, and resource-based industries together in three different regions–Boreal West (stretching south of Algonquin Park to about the 51st parallel and west to the Manitoba border), Boreal East, and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence.
It was designed to help the government resolve conflicts between forest product companies and those that want to sustain the land for recreational and environmental uses.
The recommendations made by the three round tables will determine how Crown land is used for the next 20 years. In total, Crown land includes 46 million hectares (or 96 percent) of Northwestern Ontario.
But members of the local chapter of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters fear designating land and lakes in Northwestern Ontario will affect hunters and anglers.
Rick Socholotuk, who sits on the fisheries committee for the Northwest region, said the extension basically gives those people sitting on the round tables the chance to absorb a large volume of ideas in a larger time frame.
He said the OFAH has had the opportunity to provide input into the process along with businesses and camp owners.
Socholotuk noted there have been “differences in opinions” regarding the possibility of closing off lakes to anglers and creating large tracts of land which can’t be used.
“There’s already too much of that,” he argued. “Where there are areas blocked off and access limited, those are of concern to the OFAH.”
Shawn O’ Donnell, president of the local sportsmen’s club, was unavailable for comment.
But in the past, the OFAH has expressed concerns about people from southern Ontario making rules and regulations for those living here in the northwest. In the worst-case scenario, it’s been feared the committee may induce changes that could effect the economy of the region.
In the end, the three round tables will present their recommendations to Natural Resources minister John Snobelen. After that, it will be up to the government to advance the process.