Ecojustice Case – Nature Case Status: Victory

Protecting Ontario’s old growth forests

Wildlands LeagueClient
Friends of TemagamiClient
Ontario old growth
Ontario old growth. Photo: Mike O'Dowd via Flickr

The Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA), introduced in 1995, required Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources (MNR) to put in place regulations setting out the requirements for sustainable logging in the province before logging can be approved. While the CFSA modernized forestry law, changes to actual forestry practices failed to follow.

We launched a lawsuit on behalf of Wildlands League and Friends of Temagami, challenging the legality of the Minister of Natural Resources’ (MNR) approval of logging in threatened Ontario forests. The Ontario Division Court found that the MNR had illegally approved the forest management plans for the Temagami, Elk Lake and Upper Spanish forestry units, violating both the CFSA and the Environmental Assessment Act.

The judgment required the MNR to revise those plans within one year in order to ensure that forestry is conducted more sustainably. The Court stated that the revised plans had to acknowledge a variety of forestry values besides timber production and account for the protection of species such as the pine marten and the pileated woodpecker.

Why was Ecojustice Involved?

Legislation is only as strong as its enforcement. The CFSA came into force in 1995, replacing the old Crown Timber Act. The CFSA was intended to replace the outdated perspective of forests simply as sources of lumber with a more integrated approach to forest management, incorporating other values of the forests such as animals and water, and other uses such as tourism. While the legislation had been updated, actual forestry practices in Ontario had not. This case was a way to ensure that government complied with its own legislation and to change forestry practices in Ontario to reflect a new, more sustainable legislative direction.

What does this victory mean?

This precedent-setting lawsuit demonstrated that governments cannot ignore their own laws. It also helped to stop logging in Ontario’s old-growth forests.


Photo by Mike O’Dowd via Flickr.

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