Manitoulin Longbeards chair says club will continue despite MNR decision to cancel study

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Longbeards club will continue to operate in the future despite the recent announcement by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) that the environmental assessment process that was being carried out to look at relocating wild turkeys and pheasants on Manitoulin Island has been indefinitely postponed.

“I haven’t heard anything officially from the NWTF (National Wild Turkey Federation) about this, but we are completely disappointed with the announcement that has been made by the MNR,” stated Scott Willis, chair of the Manitoulin Longbeards, last week. “But in reflecting on other announcements of cutbacks the MNR is making in Northern Ontario, this one concerning wild turkeys is not a surprise. This has been their pattern recently.”

“It would be nice if the government would show some integrity,” said Mr. Willis. “We’ve had three ministers over the years say they would give their approval to the release of wild turkeys-pheasants on Manitoulin based on the environmental assessment being carried out and our MPs and MPPs have said they would give their approval and support.”

“My biggest letdown is that I live on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario and the government is not investing in it,” said Mr. Willis. “This EA would have been an investment in Manitoulin Island that could have benefited the Island on so many levels. What the ministry needs to do is an inventory of what is here and what isn’t compared to other areas of the province.”

“But this government is not willing to invest in us,” stated Mr. Willis. “The MNR is looking at closing 10 parks in the North which means they are cutting jobs and saving millions of dollars. Even our outdoor licencing tag system is based out of the US.”

“Another thing that bothers me is that our hunting heritage seems to be getting tighter––hunting privileges are getting to be fewer and further between. The EA on a wild turkey release would have gone a long way to re-establish turkey on the Island that could be hunted,” said Mr. Willis.

“Look at the Young Rangers project, which the MNR has also cancelled. This was a very good, important program for young people and they did so much good work at improving the environment. They had done work near our residence this summer. It’s a crying shame the province has cut this program as well, but it isn’t shocking.”

“The Manitoulin Longbeards number 120 plus members and our members love the annual banquet-auction we hold and want to have and continue this, as well as the programs we offer, such as our Jakes and Wheelin Sports programs,” Mr. Willis said. “And our members will continue as they have in the past to travel off the Island to hunt for turkeys and wild pheasants. Not having turkeys-wild pheasants released on the Island will not stop them from hunting.”

“We were in support of the MNR decision from its origins when they said they would start the process of rehabilitating and relocating wild turkeys-pheasants on the Island; we put our hands up and said this was a good idea,” continued Mr. Willis. “We know they (turkeys-pheasants) can flourish here on the Island and all we’ve done in the past is try and support the MNR on this idea.”

Mr. Willis said, “all you have to do is look at the deer hunt study that was carried out by MASC (Manitoulin Area Stewardship Committee) a few years ago which outlined how many dollars is brought through the annual deer hunt and how much could be brought forward with a turkey-pheasant release and hunt locally.”

“A turkey hunt in the spring would benefit with spin-off tourism and economic benefits for restaurants, accommodations, food and gas stores and the like––it would all benefit the local economy,” added Mr. Willis. “And it would have benefited those people who own property who could have allowed hunters to hunt on their property. It would have cost the MNR and Manitoulin nothing to trap and release wild turkeys to bring to the Island and the NWTF would have carried this out.”

“We will just have to wait and try again in the future I’m sure this issue is not dead in the water,” concluded Mr. Willis.

Tom Sasvari