Ontario’s forest industry may have to wait another year for its long-sought forest sector strategy to be put in place. The Ontario government is proposing to delay implementation of at least one key element of the strategy for another year as a consequence of the COVID-19 disruptions.
Industry lobbying appeared to have paid off when, in December 2019, Ontario released a series of reform proposals aimed at increasing the province’s forest harvest. Chief among them was a proposal to exempt forestry from Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 if the forest was managed under an approved forest management plan. Industry argued that protections in forest management plans were equivalent to those under the Endangered Species Act, 2007. Critics conceded that might be true, but only because Ontario had weakened the protections in the Endangered Species Act, 2007 by allowing for a temporary suspension of protections.
A regulatory amendment dating back to 2013 has given Ontario foresters a break, temporarily granting them the sought-for exemption from the Endangered Species Act, 2007. However, that exemption is set to expire on June 30, 2020. According to the government’s posting on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, extending that exemption for another year will avoid additional regulatory burden and economic strain on the forestry sector.