Ensuring climate impacts are considered in forestry planning in Ontario

Friends of Temagami and Earthroots Coalition v. Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (Ontario)
Photo by PJ Justason
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Located 400 km north of Toronto, Temagami forest is an internationally-recognized ecological site. The region contains nearly 50 per cent of all remaining old-growth pine forests, with trees that are 15 stories high and more than 300 years old. But like many forest ecosystem around the world, the climate crisis is leaving its devastating mark on forests in Canada — this includes in 2018 where fires occurred just outside the village of Temagami and in the Temagami wilderness near Lady Evelyn Lake.

The science shows that the soils, wetlands, and trees of boreal forests, like those found in Temagami, can either act as a carbon source or sink depending on what’s happening in them. Standing forests, including old growth, continue to sequester significant amounts of carbon in their wood, bark and foliage, as well as the huge living and non-living biomass of the forest soil. Logging, and the associated roads and disturbances that come along with it, causes the release of large carbon emissions.

To help ensure we have thriving, healthy forests, we believe that climate change must be factored into plans for what activities are permitted within the region.

When Earthroots and Friends of Temagami discovered the Temagami forestry management plan for the next decade does not address climate-related impacts, they requested an environmental assessment take place. The minister unlawfully denied this request.

Ecojustice is represented these groups, pro bono, in a lawsuit that aimed to ensure logging in the Temagami forest stops until the province produces a new Temagami forestry management plan that takes climate considerations into account. (Friends of Temagami and Earthroots Coalition v. Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks [Ontario].)

This isn't the first time we've stepped up to protect Temagami forest. In the late 90s, Ecojustice, on behalf of our clients, won a major legal action against the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The Ministry was compelled to rewrite several forest management plans (including Temagami's) to bring them into compliance with existing provincial legislation. The precedent-setting lawsuit demonstrated that governments cannot ignore their own laws and helped stop logging in Ontario’s old-growth forests.

In June 2020, the provincial government issued a regulation exempting all forestry in Ontario from environmental assessment and repealed a Declaration Order containing the riles for climate requirements. Unfortunately, this meant that this case could no longer proceed.

Key developments

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