By Christine Beevis

Not for the first time, lodging and mining in northern Ontario have come into conflict with ecotourism and wilderness. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) recently proposed “minor land-use amendments” for 10 Forest Reserves in northern Ontario: that they be reclassified to allow resource exploitation.

Five years ago, Sundog Outfitters, an ecotourism company near Dowling, west of Sudbury, purchased 610 metres of frontage on a small lake adjacent to the Vermillion River Delta (Dowling/ Fairbank) Forest Reserve. The location seemed ideal: protected forest to explore and canoe routes to paddle. While logging was not permitted in the forest reserve, mining activity could continue due to active mining claims and leases that Inco Ltd. held within it. Fortunately for Sundog, Inco had not undertaken any mining exploration in the area and did not seem to have plans to do so.

Now, all of that is being threatened. “The Lands for Life process was misleading,” says Jenny Martindale, co-owner of Sundog Outfitters. “There was nothing in writing that the reserves would be [reclassified]. “The owners of Sundog have managed to stall the proposal, claiming that “going from almost full protection to no protection is not a minor land-use amendment.”

MNR and MNDM are currently reviewing public input on the Vermillion River Delta and Capreol/Hanmer Delta Forest Reserves. If the land-use amendment proposal is overturned, many will consider this a small victory that sets a precedent for the other 65 sites across Ontario currently under review.