Some things are worth protecting. And the ancient red pine forest that is the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve is one of them.
Which is why members of the Wolf Lake Coalition should be commended for their ongoing efforts to try to secure protection for the unique old-growth forest in the region.
Last week, a team of scientists, brought together by the coalition, camped out in the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve with an eye to documenting the species that call the area home.
If this census discovers that any species at risk of extinction live in the reserve, those fighting to have the area rolled into the Chiniguchi Waterway Park believe it would bolster their efforts to have the area protected permanently.
And in fact, the federal Species At Risk Act, passed in 2002, does require that both a threatened species itself and the habitat where it lives be protected, once its threatened status is determined — so the group may be onto something.
It is a unique way of attempting to provide protection for a unique ecological jewel. While it would be a shame if any flora or fauna in the reserve were at risk of extinction, it would be even worse if Wolf Lake’s ancient environs, the last remnant of the forest that existed here for thousands of years before Sudbury was born, vanished all together.
And with the province’s decision to renew a 21-year mining lease within the reserve, that is the risk that hangs over Wolf Lake.
If at anytime in the next two decades, exploration were to begin seriously, and a deposit was identified, the ancient ecology of Wolf Lake could be harmed or even destroyed.
The threat of loss really is just hanging there, because in the decades that Alberta-based Flag Resources has held the mining lease, the company has done very little with it.
On its website, Flag talks about the potentially rich deposits in the reserve — the company came for gold, but is also looking for nickel, copper, zinc, lead, silver and platinum group elements — but no actual exploration work is being done now, nor has any been done for years.
Given this fact, it appears the province is simply hedging its bets in the event exploration efforts restart, and something worth mining is discovered.
But this gamble by the McGuinty Government is being played with a piece of land that cannot be replaced. Once it is gone, it is gone for good.
That would be a tragic loss for the city and for the region. It would be a loss environmentally and scientifically, but also culturally and socially. A piece of northern Ontario’s, and Canada’s, history could be lost.
Posted by Vivian Scinto