Foresters seek common ground on endangered species management: industry seeks to avoid red tape, duplication in safeguarding habitat, managing forests.

Author:Myers, Ella

The Ontario forest industry is hoping to find a middle ground as their exemption from Ontario's Endangered Species Act nears expiration in mid-2018.

Planning forester Scott McPherson said even though the industry is exempt from ESA, the sector adheres to unique regulations for managing and caring for species at risk.

At Nipissing Forest Resource Management (NFRM) and the Vermilion Forest Management Company (VFM), for whom McPherson works, employees regularly work to ensure the safety of Blanding's turtles in their Sudbury Forest operations.

They provide training to staff and have production restrictions in certain areas at certain times.

The companies undertake these initiatives under the Crown Forestry Sustainability Act (CFSA), under which Ontario foresters operate.

Other industries don't have comparable endangered species regulation.

In June 2018, the forestry industry's exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will expire, and foresters like McPherson are hoping for a resolution of the requirements of the ESA and the CFSA before then.

Ontario foresters have been managing forests under the CFSA since 1994, and when the ESA was introduced in 2007, the industry struggled to fulfill the requirements of both acts.

They were granted a five-year exemption in 2013 and the Ontario government committed to a harmonization of the two acts by 2018. That process is still underway.

Forest policy director Ian Dunn, from the Ontario Forestry Industry Association, added that there are misconceptions about the exemption, and the forestry industry's responsibilities.

"It gives people the wrong impression, that we have a blanket exemption for managing species at risk, because we don't, and have managed species at risk for a long time and continue to do so."

However, two environmental groups, Ontario Nature and Wild-lands League, recently applied to appeal a 2013 Ontario Court of Appeal decision upholding exemptions to the act, including the forestry industry's.

The groups say the exemption fails to prevent habitat destruction or to protect the 167 endangered or threatened species in the province against being killed.

The disagreement highlights what Dunn said is the discrepancy in the mandates of the two acts.

Dunn described the CFSA as "a landmark piece of legislation." Before, forests were managed primarily for timber, and the CFSA took a more balanced approach, integrating economic and cultural values like tourism and fishing.

In contrast, the ESA "presented a significant...

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