Final decision made concerning Manitoulin park designations

SUDBURY—A final decision to establish Strawberry Island and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother M’Nidoo M’Nissing as recommended provincial parks, as well as a recommended addition to Misery Bay Provincial Park, has been released.

A notice on the Environmental Bill of Rights, dated August 23, 2013, had first been published on the Environmental Registry on June 1, 2011. It was re-published on June 7, 2011 to correct the description of the roads included within the Queen Mom Park.

A final decision had been made on September 7, 2012 to proceed with the proposal as described.

However, Will Kershaw of Ontario Parks with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), told the Recorder that final approval had been delayed for a year. “There had been opposition raised about the parks being established from the United Chiefs and Councils of M’Nidoo M’Nissing. They had submitted a request through the class environmental assessment. They wanted a full environmental assessment to be carried out, and this went to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) who took a year to evaluate all the information and our files.”

“The UCCMM request was denied as it was felt we had followed the due process and had carried out consultations with the UCCMM and all the communities on the Island for the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mom Park and Strawberry Island.”

As a result of public consultation on the proposal, the MNR had received a total of 21 comments: 15 comments were received in writing and six were received online.

On the effects of consultation on this decision the EBR notice states, “the comments were generally supportive of the proposal, while some suggestions for change were provided. The following is a summary of the MNR’s rationale relating to these recommended park boundary amendments in response to public input received.”

A concern was raised, “regarding the regulation of lands from private to Crown as the latter is not subject to taxes in the two unorganized townships of Dawson and Robinson. This would result in a loss of tax revenue to the local roads and service boards. The local roads and service boards could explore funding opportunities with other provincial ministries such as Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry as alternatives to offset the loss of revenue.”

“A second concern is regarding public access to the west side of Misery Bay Provincial Park via privately deeded and maintained road (Little Lake Huron Road),” reads the EBR notice. “The Burpee success via the Misery Bay Road on the east side of the park will be the primary public access. Here, trails and infrastructure will be improved to allow the public to walk to the west side of the park. Concerns regarding park management will be considered during future public consultation for management planning. Ontario Parks may recommend in a future management plan amendment to restrict vehicular access on the west side of the park and the west access would primarily be used for researchers, MNR staff and other authorized personnel.”

“A third comment relates to the Ontario Parks policy of no hunting within nature reserve parks and zones. Future management planning for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Mnidoo Mnising could allow hunting to continue in the majority of that park except for a proposed nature reserve zone. All of Strawberry Island will be classed as a nature reserve provincial park and the addition to Misery Bay will also be nature reserve class park—neither will allow hunting. These areas were selected and acquired to represent the distinctive natural habitats and landforms of the province; therefore, the nature reserve designation is consistent with the values these parks will represent. The designation of nature reserve lands means that these areas are protected for their intrinsic value and thus provide a place where natural processes, not human use, are dominant in the area. These areas will be available for educational and research purposes that will benefit present and future generations. The MNR and Ontario Parks will monitor the deer populations in these areas to determine whether values are being affected by not allowing hunting. The results of monitoring will be used to inform resource stewardship discussions in future planning.”

“This consultation was about boundary regulation and any future planning could deal with use management such as hunting. Those who have requested to be added to the mailing list will be updated to receive information about future planning and consultation opportunities,” the EBR notice indicates.

“What is being looked at is establishing Strawberry Island and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother M’Nidoo M’Nissing as recommended provincial parks, and a recommended addition to Misery Bay Provincial Nature Reserve,” said Mr. Kershaw. “As far as hunting on the M’Nidoo Mnising Queen Mom Park, when the NCC (Nature Conservancy of Canada) bought the Queen Mom Park, they had inherited a hunt that had been organized from the time it was under the Donohue company ownership. The hunt has carried on as it always had, and we found a mailing list of 200 names used for the hunt, who we have notified every year since 1999 when we bought the property.”

Mr. Kershaw pointed out, “there has been a slight decline in the number of hunters but we are maintaining good numbers and last year we had 177 people hunt on the property.”

There is no hunting at the Misery Bay Provincial Nature Reserve, and “when Strawberry Island was purchased, we contacted the previous and original owners of the property as to whether notification and authorization of hunting had taken place, and the answer was no,” continued Mr. Kershaw. “I understood there has been some hunting take place but there was never any authorization for hunting to be carried out on the land.”

Mr. Kershaw pointed out, “The next step in the process is for the provincial cabinet to give the final regulations (approval). And when this takes place the plan is to go the public with a management direction and hold discussions on what is being proposed and we are looking at it taking place in this calendar year.” This would include discussions on access to the properties and snowmobiling, he said.

“The way the process works is here is the boundary and our preliminary thinking on uses for the properties, and the best way to get input and hear concerns and responses is by meeting with the public to go through the preliminary management plan that will be presented,” said Mr. Kershaw.

Tom Sasvari