Wabakimi – Your voice is needed

Source: Peaceful Parks Coalition
Many of you have never been, and will never go, to Wabakimi Wilderness Park north of Thunder Bay and west of Lake Nipigon. At 892,061 hectares, Wabikimi currently contains one of the largest areas of unspoiled wilderness in Ontario and is afforded the highest level of environmental protection as a Wilderness Class Park.

Wilderness Class Parks do not permit any mechanized travel, no outdoor facilities and the natural environment is left alone to fluctuate with natural forces.Wabakimi

Linked to Wabakimi is Kopka River Provincial Park at 31,205 hectares and is a waterway class park and Whitesand Provincial Park at 11,337 hectares and is also a waterway class park. All three parks provide habitat and travel corridors for woodland caribou.

The Ontario govt. has released the new ‘Terms of Reference’ for Wabakimi and is currently seeking public comment on the new park management direction.

The ‘Terms of Reference’ promote economic opportunities ahead of environmental protection and will likely result in a downgrading of park classification.

This is all bad news for Ontario’s Woodland Caribou now listed as threatened because its homeland, the ancient boreal forest, is being clearcut in massive sweeps of 10,000 hectares across northern Ontario. The scars of these clearcuts can be seen on Google Map satellite images.

The pressure to expand activities in Wabakimi is immense because the surrounding lands are being depleted of wilderness values.

Please lend your voice. Now is the time to say YES ! Wabakimi must remain a wilderness class park with no new or expanded economic activities.

We are losing all examples of what a natural ecological system looks like and this is our last chance to preserve something that is untouched. If the Ontario govt. doesn’t hear from you, they think you don’t care. They interpret your silence as being supportive of the plan.

Wabakimi may also be the last chance for the forest dwelling Woodland Caribou. Only 5000 animals remain in Ontario, most of which are situated around Wabakimi.

Below is a sample letter. Please write your own personal letter. Personal letters are the most important form of correspondence in these matters.

For more information and link to the Terms of Reference, please visit:
http://www.peacefulparks.org/ppc/action_wabakimi_wilderness.htm

Sample Letter

Michèle Proulx, Park Planner
Ministry of Natural Resources
Provincial Services Division, Ontario Parks
Northwest Zone Office
435 James Street South
Thunder Bay Ontario
P7E 6S8
Phone: (807) 475-1477
Fax: (807) 475-1499
Email: michele.proulx@ontario.ca

EBR # 011-8197

My top priority is to ensure that the woodland caribou range is preserved, improved and extended. The caribou herd needs millions of hectares of undisturbed forest – so Wabakimi alone is not big enough. But it’s a start. The herd also needs protective buffers between its range and human activities.

Please think big, and then think bigger. Any further segmentation of the landscape is inappropriate for this species. Road networks should be dismantled.
I find the terms of reference are not sufficiently detailed with regard to the study of plans to improve woodland caribou habitat and range.

I am concerned about invasive species. Leaving huge areas undisturbed (for the woodland caribou) is a very good way of preventing invasive terrestrial plants from infiltrating. Earthworms should be banned as a bait species.

The terms of reference for the management plan seem to focus in large part on enhancing recreation. This is not a park at which traditional bucolic recreational activities should be offered. This is a park first for wildlife, and second for the respectful visitor who is prepared to make the extra effort to not be disruptive in any way.

The terms of reference fail to look at public education that would communicate the importance of treading lightly. The type of visitor the park should aim to attract (and create, through public education) is one that would have the patience to sit quietly for an hour, or hours, to watch wildlife. Not someone who wants to play volleyball and listen to music.

Any expansion of the recreational footprint will have an adverse impact on a woodland caribou population already in decline and under stress.

I want Wabakimi to continue as a wilderness park in the full sense of the word. Its primary purpose should not be to drive economic opportunity in the area, because that will simply attract more business and increase pressure for further degradation. Do not try to make money off this park. The people of Ontario should pay for its continued remoteness.

* I oppose using “access to enhance the character of the parks and the visitors experience.” This is completely at odds with what makes a wilderness park . Keep the park remote. Do not facilitate vehicle access. Limit motorized air and water access.

* Park-run facilities. There is no need for more boat launches, campgrounds and day use areas. Do not examine where these facilities might go. They should not go anywhere.

* Remove roads, bridge, and culverts in the parks created by the forest industry.

* No assessment of commercial tourism accommodation or intensive recreational facility requirements should be undertaken.

* The terms of reference state: “New tourism opportunities will be identified through the park management planning process.”

* I understand that private hunt camps have been allowed to expand in Wabakimi. This should not happen. Please maintain strict environmental protection measures.

I can imagine tourism opportunities that respect the underlying principle that this park be preserved as wilderness – but these do not seem to be what the drafters of the terms of reference have in mind. I am very disappointed in this document.

Sincerely,

Your name

For more information, please contact the Peaceful Parks Coalition.
www.peaccefulparks.org
ppc@peacefulparks.org
1.877.785.8636

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