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Photo: An ice hut where the Northeast Arm meets the Hub in front of Loon Lodge, Lake Temagami
Photo: driving down the Northeast Arm, Lake Temagami

MARCH 17, 2008

Lake Temagami by Harold Keevil

An ice hut where the Northeast Arm meets the Hub in front of Loon Lodge. Bottom: driving down the Northeast Arm.


MARCH 17, 2008

Ontario canoe routes online

A new Ontario map has gone online with MNR's inventory of canoe routes, lake information, trails, and other features.

Much of the data from MNR's NRVIS (Natural Resources and Values Information System) is out of date or inaccurate, but the basic landscape is correct and provides a valuable resource.

Some of the canoe routes shown in Temagami may have been taken from Craig Macdonald's Nastawgan map and are now overgrown. Be certain of the route's condition before you attempt it. Ask on our forum.

A large portion of the old logging roads are completely overgrown.

The owner, Geraldton Community Forest, intends to maintain free access and support the site with income from business listings.


MARCH 17, 2008

Minister says no to town on land sales

The minister of natural resources told Temagami representatives that she would not make an exception for the municipality and grant sales of Crown land on lake trout lakes.

Mayor Ike Laba, Councillor Biff Lowery and other municipal representatives attended a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield on March 11 at Queen's Park, Toronto. The town was seeking an exception to allow it to move ahead with development of private lots on lake trout lakes through a pilot project that would test the impact on the lake trout.

"She said: 'No. If I give it to you I have to give it to everybody,'" says Lowery. "It was clear she had made up her mind before the meeting started."

The minister offered to support lot development on ten warm-water lakes, which do not support lake trout, along Hwy 11, and encouraged the town to work with the Temagami First Nation on these. She also offered to review the science that justifies the ban.

The town sought the meeting after it learned that the ministry intends to extend a ban on sales of Crown land on lakes with naturally reproducing lake trout.

The ban is a massive blow to plans to grow the town, which has lost all non-tourism industry.

RELATED STORY: Crown-land sales frozen on lake trout lakes


Photo: Kokomis Island in the North Arm of Lake Temagami is cut off from the world by a snow squall, 2008

MARCH 13, 2008

Floating in a sea of snow

Kokomis Island in the North Arm of Lake Temagami is cut off from the world by a snow squall. The photo was taken on Tuesday, March 11, by Harold Keevil.


MARCH 12, 2008

Crown-land sales frozen on lake trout lakes

Imagine a freeze on the sales of Crown land on most of Ontario's cold-water lakes. That's the death knell to further shoreline development. With so many cold-water lakes, it would cover a huge swath of the Temagami area and stop most new cottages on most of its largest lakes, including Lake Temagami. Its impact would approach that of the Temagami First Nation's 23-year land caution that began in 1973 and ended in 1996.

Well, there is such a ban on all of Ontario's lakes with naturally reproducing lake trout populations. In Temagami that includes Rabbit, Cassels, Net, Jumping Cariboo and Anima Nipissing lakes. Even more shocking, it has been in place since 1995.

I heard rumors of such a moratorium a little over a year ago, but since nothing had been reported and nothing appeared online, I presumed it was just talk. This is big news so if it was true it would have been widely reported.

But then the talk came back with a vengeance. The MNR gave me a link to a posting on the Ministry of Environment's public notice site, the EBR. It stated the intent to create a policy, and a thin reference to making an interim one permanent.

It took over a month of emails and phone calls to get an actual copy of the Ministry of Natural Resources' interim policy. Land sales is not a  high-priority activity there.

The Moratorium

Since 1995, the ministry has frozen all sales of Crown land and shelf lots (ready-for-sale lots held in the Crown's possession) on cold-water lakes that contain naturally reproducing lake trout.

The exceptions would be minor impacts like shore road allowances, wind power development, utility corridors, and minor expansion of existing temporary-use land (e.g. land use permit) or private property.

There is no moratorium on lakes where lake trout are maintained artificially by stocking.

Indian reserve land, mining lands, hydro-power development, and existing private (patented) lands are exempt. Lots can be subdivided and sold from these lands if permitted by a municipal Official Plan.

Threat to Lake Trout

Lake trout have been hit by overfishing. The season has been shortened and limits lowered, but the MNR sees more threats as it notes in its draft policy:

"Lake trout lakes are rare. While only about one percent of Ontario’s lakes (i.e. approximately 2,280) are designated by policy and managed by the Ministry for lake trout, this resource represents 20-25% of all lake trout lakes in the world. The lake trout is an important fishery resource in Ontario and is a preferred species among many resident and non-resident anglers."

"The lake trout is the only major, indigenous sport fish species in Ontario that is adapted to oligotrophic lakes (i.e. lakes with low levels of nutrients, high dissolved oxygen levels and typically deep areas with very cold water). The lake trout’s slow growth, late maturity, low reproductive potential and slow replacement rate make it a unique species in the province. As a top predator, the lake trout is an important part of the province’s natural heritage and an excellent indicator of the health of these fragile aquatic ecosystems."

"Approximately 5% of the province's lake trout populations have already become extinct. Lake trout and lake trout lakes are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human activities including harvesting, increased phosphorus inputs from cottage septic systems and other sources of nutrient enrichment, acidification, species introductions, and habitat destruction. Development on lake trout lakes may result in habitat degradation, diminished lake trout populations and a lower quality fishing experience."

Development Threat

Why stop development? As the policy says: "increased phosphorus inputs from cottage septic systems and other sources of nutrient enrichment."

Municipality Sucker Punched

In Temagami, no one at the MNR told the municipality of the ban, even while it worked side by side through six years of preparation on its Official Plan.

"Through all that process of multiple drafts, public forums, circulating it through the ministries, and then zoning bylaws," says Councillor Biff Lowery, chair of the Planning Advisory Committee, "at no time did anyone think to tell us there was no development on lake trout lakes. Many of the policies in the Official Plan are now totally irrelevant."

It wasn't mentioned until last year as the consultant on the Lot Creation and Development Plan was doing background work on lakes for potential development.

The municipality has lost Ontario government offices, the mine, and logging. There is one industry left — tourism. And the best potential to produce revenue for local government and boost restaurants, retailers, marinas, and contractors is cottage development.

All is not lost. The town is now working on eight warm water lakes along Hwy 11. But they have lost the gem, Lake Temagami.

Yesterday, council representatives met with the minister to request an exemption. They argued that MNR's science behind the ban is old and  more study is needed using new science.

“The science that was available in 1995 and the science that is available in 2008 is like night and day," says Lowery.

The Temagami Lakes Association, which represents Lake Temagami's property owners, sees little hope of success for the town. "There are 60 reports behind their policy," says TLA Vice President Hilton Young. "To make the argument that the MNR policy on this is false seems to me to be reasonably hard to make."

To soften the MNR, the municipality may also offer to increase restrictions on development by increasing setbacks on sewage systems from 15 metres to 30, double buffers between lots to 400 metres, double the size of new lots to four acres, and put 1,000 metres between campsites and private lots.

"If you did all that you would probably not have any new lots on the lake because none of them would qualify," says Young, "which might not be such a bad idea."

Small Reprieve for Lake Temagami

Anglers consider Lake Temagami to be a premier lake trout where they have the opportunity — albeit dwindling — to fish for 25- to 35-pound trophies. Shortening the season and lowering the limit may not have stopped the decline.

The TLA sees increased pressure even if there is no development. The Official Plan approves 191 new lots that can be created through severances from existing private property. Young estimates 200 to 500 new lots could be created from the expanded reserve and private lands in the proposed land-claim settlement. There is also the trend of increased extended family use of cottages and greater intensity as retirees turn their places from seasonal cabins to year-round homes.

"You add the 191 lots," says Young, "the 200 to 500, and then the increased use of all of that, plus the day people, plus the houseboats, plus, plus, plus, and so on. Is that dangerous for the future of Lake Temagami's lake trout? Our conclusion is absolutely."

The policy will not be enacted as law through the legislature, but put into place as an MNR-created and -controlled policy. What MNR can create, MNR can change, or remove.

Going Permanent

Now the ministry is intending to make the policy permanent and has sought public input.

"We support the MNR's policy and the way (the science) that they've arrived at it," says Young.

The TLA is prepared to go to the minister to support a permanent ban if it sees MNR wavering.

  DOCUMENT: Land sale policy (draft & interim) - PDF

EXTERNAL LINKS: Public notice 1

                            Public notice 2

FOLLOWUP STORY: Minister says no to town on land sales


Lake Trout Lakes

with road access or existing properties

naturally reproducing and outside protected areas

Within Municipality Outside Municipality
Cassels       Anima Nipissing
    Cross Emerald  
Gull Fourbass
Hangstone Lady Dufferin
Jumping Cariboo Manitou
Kanichee Mendelssohn
Kokoko Timiskaming
Lowell Wawiagama
Marten Wawiashkashi
Net Yorston
Obabika Chiniguchi
Rabbit Kukagami
Red Squirrel Wanapitei
Thieving Bear

MARCH 1, 2008

Grant Forest mill closes

Yesterday one of the largest cutters of Temagami forest, Grant Forest Products of Englehart, closed for two weeks over the collapse of the market for its composite-wood panels. 

Canada's forest industry is faced with fierce competition from lower-cost foreign producers; the dizzying rise of the dollar; and the collapse of the American housing market, the largest market for Canadian timber products.

Grant will continue to take some deliveries of timber so there will be a supply in the yard when the operation restarts. The plant employs 140.

The Englehart plant is one of the largest oriented-strand-board plants in the world, and the single largest consumer of timber in Ontario – consuming over 100 truckloads of poplar a day.

It has cutting allocations in Muskego Wildlands and the Misabi Range (west of Diamond), both accessible from the Red Squirrel Road.

Grant is a shareholder in the Timiskaming Forest Alliance, the timber licensee for all Temagami-area Crown land north of Lady Evelyn Lake.

All mills and cutters in the Temagami area have scaled back operations.

Backcountry travellers can expect another quiet summer in the bush and diminished likelihood of running into loggers and logging trucks.

WEBSITES: Timiskaming Forest Alliance

                   Grant Forest Products


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