The Canadian Press
November 19, 2007
News Wire Service
TORONTO – A lack of funding and government oversight are allowing the logging industry to destroy more than 45,000 migratory bird nests in Ontario’s boreal forest each year, a coalition of groups said Monday in calling for an independent review under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights.
The coalition is using a report by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation – an international organization spawned by the North American Free Trade Agreement – as evidence that the province is failing to make sure logging companies use sustainable practices.
Several years ago, environmental groups asked the commission to study Ontario’s forest management policies in the hopes of boosting their claims that nests were being wiped out by clear-cutting.
The commission researched the actions of 53 forest management units in central and northern Ontario during the 2001 calendar year, and found there was potential for habitat declines of up to 35 per cent for some species if nests continued to be destroyed.
Little has changed since then, and now the groups are filing an application for review with Ontario’s environment commissioner in another attempt to protect the nests.
“Although Ontario would prefer to duck this issue, it simply cannot escape the fact that logging companies are destroying tens of thousands of bird nests every year,” said Liat Podolsky, a researcher with Ecojustice.
“Protecting wildlife in our public forests needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.”
The groups named in the application are ForestEthics, CPAWS Wildlands League, Earthroots, Nature Canada and Ontario Nature.
Trevor Hesselink of the CPAWS Wildlands League said nests are being destroyed because the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t have the resources to properly monitor the logging industry and catch any potential violations of the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.
“Unfortunately, due to current policy and lack of capacity, the province is very much in the dark about the effects of logging on biodiversity,”Hesselink said.
The cumulative destruction of bird nests could have a widespread effect on the forest’s overall ecosystem, particularly if the trend continues unabated, he added.
“When you start seeing substantive declines in any particular species it’s generally indicative of a general ecosystem loss,” he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources said it would be premature to comment on the application for review since it has not yet been filed.
Jennifer Baker of Ontario Nature said the government should be compelled to act quickly since an independent party has now verified some of the claims activists have been making for years.
“It’s a government responsibility to protect our forests and make sure our forests are managed sustainably and the report very clearly shows our forests are not being managed sustainably.”