For a number of years, the Algonquins of Ontario, the Province of Ontario and Canada have been engaged in negotiations towards a Land Claim Treaty for eastern Ontario
Algonquin Land Claim in eastern Ontario – Preliminary Agreement in Principle under review
For a number of years, the Algonquins of Ontario, the Province of Ontario and Canada have been engaged in negotiations towards a Land Claim Treaty for eastern Ontario (roughly the Ottawa River watershed in Ontario). Although the negotiations have been held in private, CPAWS Ottawa Valley has participated in a Committee of External Advisors for the past two decades and has had direct discussions with the Chief Negotiator for Ontario. Our particular focus has been on issues related to parks and other protected areas in the region.
In December 2012, a Preliminary Agreement In Principle (AIP) was released for public discussion (www.ontario.ca/landclaims). Following these discussions a Final AIP will be drawn up. If approved by the Algonquins of Ontario through a referendum, it will form the basis of further negotiations towards a Land Claim Agreement.
As indicated, our main focus is on protecting the ecological integrity of the parks and other protected areas in the region for the benefit of future generations. Maintaining ecological integrity requires taking an ecosystem approach and ensuring the preservation of wildlife and prevention of habitat fragmentation and degradation. We have particular concern with Algonquin Park, because only Algonquin is of sufficient size to have the potential of preserving most of the ecosystem functions within its boundaries. Hence its importance will grow as the population expands and increases pressure on smaller protected areas. It is also critical as the northern anchor of the Chapter’s Algonquin to Adirondacks (A2A) Conservation Initiative.
General comments on the Preliminary AIP:
CPAWS-OV supports several aspects of the Preliminary AIP, including statements on the fundamental importance of conservation and ecological integrity, and the proposal for a large new provincial park near Crotch Lake which would greatly benefit ecological connectivity in the A2A region. On the other hand, we have concerns with other aspects of the AIP, including many ambiguous or contradictory clauses related to public consultation, hunting, fishing, logging and motorized access in protected areas which need clarification if the park system is to remain fully protected. In addition, we have asked that information on the proposal to deregulate and privatize several small parks or parts of parks in the region be provided to the public via the Land Claim website.
Specific comments on the Preliminary AIP:
These comments relate mainly to the Parks and Protected Areas chapter of the Preliminary AIP, but also to aspects of the Definitions, Forestry and Harvesting chapters where they relate to parks and protected areas.
• The statement that ecological integrity is the first priority in the management of protected areas.
• The statement that conservation is the fundamental principle of the management of fish, wildlife and migratory birds.
• Identification of provincial parks and conservation reserves as falling under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006
• The proposal for a large new provincial park at Crotch Lake north of the town of Sharbot Lake. This park would represent a key element in maintaining ecological connectivity in the A2A region because it is located roughly midway between Algonquin and Adirondack parks. In addition, the effective size of the protected area would be increased because it is adjacent to the Hungry Lake Conservation Reserve.
• A proposed relatively small addition to Lake St. Peter Park, which would increase its ecological viability.
CPAWS-OV is concerned with:
• Many ambiguous or contradictory clauses that could have negative consequences for ecological integrity in Algonquin Park and the rest of the parks system if not clarified. They relate to the role of public consultation in management planning, hunting and fishing in protected areas, logging in Algonquin Park, and motorized access to protected areas. CPAWS-OV has recommended that these ambiguities be removed in the Final AIP to ensure that the integrity of the parks system is maintained, that public consultation remains a guiding principle of park management for all parks, and that mechanized access and habitat fragmentation are reduced to a minimum in protected areas.
• A number of important issues related to the ecological integrity of protected areas (e.g. road access to protected areas, Moose Harvesting Plan for Algonquin Park, Fisheries Plan for Algonquin Park, terms of reference for park management committees) have yet to be negotiated. CPAWS-OV has recommended that these issues be addressed in the Final AIP, rather than being left until later, as they are critical to understanding how the protected areas system will function in the future.
• The document does not always distinguish between protected areas (where ecological integrity is fundamental) and other Crown land (where standards may be lower). CPAWS-OV has asked that this ambiguity be removed in the Final AIP.
• It is proposed to transfer to the Algonquins three relatively small parks (Foy, Carson Lake and Bell Bay) and portions of four other parks, recommended parks or recommended conservation reserves (Mattawa, Centennial Lake, Deacon and Upper Ottawa River). Little information has been provided to the public concerning these transfers. In some cases (e.g., Mattawa River, Foy), local groups have expressed concern over the loss of these parklands. CPAWS-OV has asked that information and maps related to these land transfers be made available to the public via the internet.
For more details concerning the Preliminary AIP and how to comment, go to www.ontario.ca/landclaims