Failing Our Forests: the McGuinty Legacy

Page - June 16, 2011
Greenpeace has released a report that documents the mismanagement of Ontario’s Boreal Forest by the McGuinty government.

The report, “A Failing Grade: The McGuinty Government’s Management of Public Forests,” details the mismanagement and makes recommendations for improvements that would create a prosperous forestry sector and protect large areas of remaining wilderness and habitat for the threatened woodland caribou.

The Boreal Forest is vital source of fresh water and provides habitat for a rich variety of wildlife — including, caribou, moose, bears and millions of birds. In Ontario, forestry operations are concentrated in the southern Boreal Forest, an area that spans the province in a band starting south of Timmins and ending at the Hudson/James Bay Lowlands. If forest management doesn’t improve in this area, already badly fragmented, the last areas of intact wilderness will disappear by 2025.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised to promote sustainable forestry, conserve the Boreal Forest and protect the habitat of the threatened woodland caribou. The Greenpeace report says that so far he has failed. However, there is still time to act.


  • Half the range of the woodland caribou, a threatened species, has been lost and caribou numbers have declined by 50 per cent (p.15)
  • In 2007, on the day it passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the McGuinty government exempted the forest industry from the provisions for a transition period. It has now proposed a permanent exemption, which would allow industry to “harm and harass” caribou and “damage and destroy” their habitat. (p.15)
  • The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) relies on untested assumptions in its proposals to protect caribou (p.17)
  • Ontario only has two protected areas of sufficient size to meet the needs of most large mammals, and none large enough to sustain the woodland caribou.
  • Sixty-one per cent of the Boreal allocated for harvest is badly fragmented. Between 1989 and 2001, 206,500 hectares was cut a year, mainly through clearcuts (p.23)
  • New data show continued fragmentation at the present rate of Ontario’s allocated southern Boreal means all ecologically rich, intact areas in this region will disappear by 2025 (p.23)
  • Between 2002 and 2006, eight forest management units, areas where forest companies log, were found to be in violation of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act or should not have their licence extended (p.24)
  • MNR’s new Forest Management Planning Manual and several forest management guides fail to adequately safeguard Ontario’s public forests. (pp.13-14)
  • In 2007/2008, clearcuts of up to 25,000 hectares were permitted.(p.23)
  • Independent forest audits indicate major problems with regeneration of harvested forests. (p.24)
  • Government-approved forest management plans have caused controversy with First Nations communities who have not consented to the logging operations taking place on their traditional territories.(pp.27-28)
  • The traditional forest economy has failed communities: Dozens of mills have closed or reduced output, 25 per cent of forestry jobs have been lost (p.29)
  • Ontario has not capitalized on the growing demand for green forest products because of the McGuinty government’s weak regulations (p.29)
  • The McGuinty government has provided more than $1 billion in subsidies to the forest industry, funding that hasn’t improved the industry but has increased destruction of important ecological areas (p.30)

Recommendations to improve forest management (p.35):

  • use solutions presented by the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement to protect forestry jobs and woodland caribou;
  • put a moratorium on biomass for energy projects until better research is conducted;
  • end subsidies to socially and environmentally irresponsible forest companies and destructive logging practices such as Terrace Bay Pulp’s destruction of pristine Boreal Forest;
  • support First Nations management processes in forest licences, co-management arrangements and collaborative land-use planning processes to ensure that First Nations can enjoy greater economic benefits on their lands;
  • re-allocate tenure to support companies that adopt sustainable practices and produce sustainable green products;
  • do not exempt forestry, and other industries, the Endangered Species Act, and draft a habitat regulation that includes all caribou range;
  • protect the last remaining intact areas in Ontario’s southern Boreal Forest, such as the Ogoki-Kenogami hotspot, and the Trout Lake-Caribou Forest hotspot;
  • recognise the equal decision-making authority of First Nations governments and adopt free, prior and informed consent as the basis for forest management decision-making regarding traditional lands.
  • differentiate the Ontario forest industry from global competitors to capture the evolving green market by taking the above steps to genuinely sustainable forestry practices.