Conservation Authority engages public on forest management plan

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Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority holds public engagement forum on Forest Management Plan.

On Tuesday, March 7th 2017, The Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority (SSMRCA) held a public forum to share details of a recently completed Draft Forest Management Plan. The Forest Management Plan (FMP) is a comprehensive review and strategy document, undertaken to comply with Ministry of Natural Resources requirements related to Ontario Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP).

Algoma-Manitoulin Forestry Service was awarded the contract to undertake development of the Managed Forest Plan 2018 – 2027.

Laing Bennett (Algoma Manitoulin Forestry Service) and Rhonda Bateman (SSMRCA Manager)

Saultonline spoke with Rhonda Bateman, SSMRCA’s General Manager about the FM Draft Plan during the public forum held in the Russ Ramsay Room, Civic Centre.

“The last Forest Management Plan was done in 2007 and expires at the end of December 2017. We need to have the new plan submitted to the MNR (Ministry Natural Resources) this summer. We are inviting the public to take a look at the FM Plan tonight – We are working to have the plan approved in time for the new cycle in January 2018.“ she said.

The Forest Management Plan is a guide for forestry activities, including forest management, provisions for wildlife habitat, recreation and education. It provides the overall direction for an ecosystem-based approach to the management of the SSMRCAs forested properties.

“Some of the challenges we have is accomplishing a lot of forestry work.” said Bateman.

“One of the main challenges is that our staff are not specialists in forestry. One of the plans’ recommendations is that we have someone on retainer to give us a hand with forestry operations. We won’t be doing the work in house. If there is harvest required – for example –  we would contract that work out.”

“Another challenge is that we don’t have a lot of money. We do have a forestry fund and that needs to be replenished to be able to do the operations. The forestry fund is replenished through our harvest activities and any funds we can raise from education, and non-timber forest products.”

“The process for accomplishing a comprehensive forest management plan began earlier last year. We put out a request for proposals and Algoma – Manitoulin Forest Products were selected. We have a really good forest management committee who sits at the table with us as well. Those are the people who are our local experts, and they help to oversee the plan. They are there to help the SSMRCA make the forests as healthy as possible – they know what the best practices are, and are able to help us keep the user groups engaged and informed.” shared Bateman.

The Forest Management Committee has four local knowledgeable citizen members that represent Academia, Ministry of Natural Resources, the Sault Naturalists, Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club.This committee was responsible for guiding the selection process for a consultant that would write the Forest Management Plan. The resulting recommendation was then approved by the Conservation Authority Board.’

Many of the individuals and groups vested in the health of the SSMRCA forests were in attendance for the information session. Sault Naturalists Peter Burtch and Ron Prickett made it. So too, did Maria Al Zayat and Taylor Wright, Invasive Species Centre, Great Lakes Forest Research Centre.

Marchy Bruni was there as well. In his role as municipal councilor, Bruni told saultonline he feels strongly that working with SSMRCA through membership on the Board is an important and gratifying part of his work on Municipal Council. “Sault Ste. Marie is very fortunate to have such a diverse ecosystem accessible to residents.” he said. “There are so many ways for citizens to explore and get outdoors – on the trails for example. The conservation authority lands are a treasure.”

‘The SSMRCA owns and manages approximately 2,070 hectares (5117 acres) of land that contain five conservation areas as well as the Headwater and Burke Properties. The 5 conservation areas are: Hiawatha Highlands, Fort Creek, Mark’s Bay, Shore Ridges and Gros Cap.

The SSMRCA properties cover nearly 7% of the City of Sault Ste. Marie and the Township of Prince. In order to ensure that the diversity within the SSMRCA properties will be maintained for future generations, the SSMRCA engaged in a public consultation process in order to determine the best way to develop a plan to manage the properties.’

In order to be sustainable, forests have to be protected from insects, disease, extreme weather events, competing vegetation and forest fires. Although these influences are parts of natural forest ecosystems they can result in serious losses to the sustainability of a forest.

“We don’t have a forest pest issue, and the use of pesticides has never been discussed.” shared Bateman. Generally speaking, in Ontario, forests are managed under one of three silvicultural systems: the clear-cut system, the shelterwood system and the selection system.

Laing Bennett, partner with Algoma Manitoulin Forest Service spoke with saultonline.

“The Managed Forest Plan applies to all of the private land that is eligible under the ‘managed forest tax incentive plan’. That (MNR) programme provides a reduced tax rate to the SSMRCA. This is an Ontario government (MFTIP) programme – taxes are reduced if you are managing the forest.  MFTIP has been around for many years. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) administers the MFTIP.”

‘Certain forestlands in Ontario may be privately owned, but they benefit all Ontarians. The Ontario Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP) recognizes the importance of these lands. The goal of the MFTIP is to bring greater fairness to the property tax system by valuing forestland according to its current use. The program is designed to increase landowner awareness about forest stewardship. Landowners who apply and qualify for the program have the eligible portion of their property classified and assessed as Managed Forest under the Managed forests property class.

Once the forest plan is written and approved, the Managed Forest Area is reassessed and taxed at 25% of the normal rate. This 10 year plan educates the landowner about their properties attributes, potential and develop sound activities surrounding the landowner’s objectives. The eligible land is taxed at 25 percent of the municipal tax rate set for residential properties. The annual application deadline for the MFTIP is June 30.’

To read more about MFTIP go here: GO HERE

“The current (managed forest) plan expires shortly and we are working to have this new plan completed by June of this year. Once completed, it is submitted to the government for approval. In this case, because the forests are part of SSMRCA, they (SSMRCA) want to ensure that the public is kept informed.”

“It’s a management plan essentially for 20 years, with a ten year term.” shared Bennett. “After that time, we can look at things that may need to be enhanced or changed. Reasons like climate change, for example, may require revisions to a managed forest plan.”

“Brent Atwell, REGEN Forestry, who was involved with the last (forest management) plan, consulted as well, working in hard-to-reach areas, including with students from Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology.” said Bennett.

Deane Greenwood (SSMRCA) with Ron Prickett and Peter Burtch, Sault Naturalists.

REGEN Forestry is a natural resource based forestry consulting company that was established in 1999, and is owned and operated by Ontario Registered Professional Foresters.

“Brent did the field work. He is a forester and certified tree marker – he can identify trees in the field that should be saved for habitation – and understands silviculture practices. The priority of silviculture is to maintain and improve the health of the forest.”

“In December/January, we included Sault College students in the field work. These areas are like a big outdoor lab.” said Bennett.

“Field work was done over the winter. Some of the terrain is very difficult to get at, and access to those areas was done, in part, by snowshoeing. Brent knew areas of the previous (FM) plan that might require attention.”

One of the recommendations in the Draft Report, as it pertains to Education, Research, and Community, is to ‘Develop a Memorandum of Understanding with Sault College, and Algoma University,  and agreeable government agencies, to ensure a symbiotic relationship for identifying forest values, research data, updating inventory, etc.’

Further to that, the Draft FMP also recommends, ‘Development of a plan to update wildlife inventory with Sault College natural resource students and/or Sault Naturalists. Complete a wildlife inventory of each management unit area and ensure management practices enhance wildlife habitat.’

To take the SSMRCA Forest Management Plan survey for here: http://ssmrca.ca

To read the Draft 2018-2027 Watershed Protection – Managed Forest Plan (March 7, 2017), : Go Here

To learn more about MFTIP, go here: Go Here

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Lynne Brown
Algoma writer, enjoys roadtrips. Has written for special editions #TBay #ChronicleJournal. In the late 80’s, Lynne worked for #AutoTrader, in rural Southwestern Ont. Trudging through farmers’ fields for a picture of a 56 Dodge Custom Royale was considered a very good day. Special interests include issues relating to faith, rural, elders, seniors, travel, history, community development. Motto: #whattheworldneedsnowislovesweetlove @dlynnebrown

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