MNR provides emergency services

For many people, the Ministry of Natural Resources may conjure up images of plant and animal surveys and conservation officers enforcing the fish and game laws.
But its responsibilities actually go well beyond that.
That was the message district manager Bill Darby conveyed at the annual general meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association in Devlin on Saturday.
“The ministry has the lead responsibility in unorganized areas and also responds to requests from municipalities during emergencies,” said Darby, referring to such crises as fires and, as was the case two years ago, floods.
The problem, he said, is the ministry is trying to reorganize its emergency response role while working under increasing financial constraints due to funding restrictions by the province.
Like many ministries, Darby said, the MNR currently is operating with fewer resources and funding than was once the case. In 1992, for instance, the Fort Frances District (which extends from Atikokan to Lake of the Woods) had 103 personnel on staff.
Today, that number has been reduced to 42.
Darby noted the flood of 2002 was such an unprecedented event that the province is considering it a fluke and consequently is not contemplating putting measures into effect to deal with another of its magnitude in the future.
According to a report released in October, the province has determined it to be a “one-in-10,000-year event,” and is not considering modifying bridges and culverts to handle the enormous water flow that resulted.
“Water flows were three times greater than estimates for a one-in-100-year event,” Darby remarked.
Darby then reported on the province’s plans for a new strategy to deal with the problem of nuisance bears. The strategy, he said, is based on education and prevention as opposed to reactive measures.
“We need to be proactive. We need to remove the things that attract bears in the first place,” he stressed, noting that 70 percent of bears that are trapped and relocated return to the area in which they were found.
The primary attractant for bears is, of course, food. Darby said the minister’s report is recommending a number of measures ranging from fencing in landfill sites to improved garbage storage and pick-up.
“If the food isn’t there for the bears, they learn not to bother coming,” he reasoned.