Two major conservation groups succeeded in having 8,000 kilometres of roads pulled from mining maps on the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) website. The groups found that MNDM disregarded the confidential nature of over 8,000 kilometres of logging roads in Algonquin Provincial Park. MNDM removed the road maps from its website after receiving the complaint from CPAWS Wildlands League and Sierra Legal Defence Fund. MNDM has been distributing the maps to the mining industry since 1989 unbeknownst to staff at Ontario Parks.
CPAWS Wildlands League and Sierra Legal assert that roads, especially logging roads, within the Park are creating major problems for wildlife. The roads not only drive away species that previously existed in abundance but also bring in new species that out-compete native plants and animals for the same habitat. Added pressure occurs when the road locations are available to those who would further abuse them.
“While the province was trying to keep us from publicly revealing the logging road network, MNDM was broadcasting this ‘confidential’ information to the world on their website.” said Evan Ferrari, CPAWS Wildlands League. “Ironically, in order to receive similar maps through a Freedom of Information request last fall, the province forbid us from disclosing this type of sensitive information to the public,”
“MNDM blatantly disregarded the government’s own policies and allowed this confidential information to be accessible to anyone, even those who might further exploit Algonquin’s sensitive natural resources,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Dr. Anastasia Lintner. In February, Sierra Legal and CPAWS Wildlands League wrote to Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner demanding that MNDM immediately take the road system information off their website. “Thankfully MNDM complied with our request and removed the information from its website.”
Unfortunately, this gaffe concerning Algonquin logging roads is the latest in a string of incidents where MNDM has failed to quickly and decisively act to safeguard Ontario’s environment. Amidst increasing conflicts regarding mining exploration in areas like Big Trout Lake, conservation groups and First Nations both continue to call for an immediate halt to industrial development until comprehensive land-use planning has been undertaken in the north. Last week Sierra Legal and CPAWS Wildlands League were in Thunder Bay offering support for an urgent call by Ontario First Nations for a moratorium on industrial development in the northern boreal region.
The groups postponed releasing this information to the media until the offending data was removed from the website. Further use of these roads would increase their negative environmental impacts.