Update — February 2007
by Christine Hanrahan
Recreational use in Larose Forest
In the last 2 or 3 years, there has been increasing pressure on the forest by various recreational groups. It seems that every week another recreational use is proposed for Larose Forest. There is a perception that because the forest is large, it has unlimited potential for a multitude of uses. At present the following groups are accommodated in the forest by signed agreements with the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR):
- Dog sledding
- All-terrain vehicles (ATVS)
The UCPR maintains trails for skiers in winter. They took over this activity from Ski Larose, a non-profit group, which had previously maintained the ski trails. Hikers, cyclists, bird watchers and others interested in natural history also use the forest.
In addition, off-road vehicles, (4 × 4s that drive on narrow, muddy trails into the forest), and dirt bikes also use the forest.
The most damaging recreational activities are those using motorized vehicles such as ATVs, off-road vehicles, and dirt-bikes. Control of these activities was negligible in the past, in part perhaps, because there were fewer users. However, usage has become excessive in recent years, and damage to the forest habitat and to forest roads and trails is severe. The substantially increased use by motorized vehicles prompted the UCPR to begin looking at ways and means of controlling these activities. At the same time, more recreational groups are approaching the UCPR with requests to develop their own pursuits in Larose Forest. The most recent is from a group of paintball enthusiasts (war-games). While not using motorized vehicles, the damage to habitat and the disruption of wildlife by this type of activity is also substantial.
In an attempt to control and formalize some of the uses, signed agreements between the counties and the above user groups has taken place. For example, ATV users must now be members of the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicle Clubs (OFATV) and abide by their rules, including using only designated ATV trails. However, it seems that the majority of users are not (yet) federation members and the mis-use and abuse of the forest by these very damaging machines continues.
Off-road vehicles, by their sheer size, are even more damaging. Riding on muddy, rutted trails can be challenging, which of course, is one of the pleasures for those who enjoy off-roading. One has only to look at the damage caused to the forest road in the photo below to understand the negative impact off-roading has.
June 2006 – Larose Forest BioBlitz
[For report and results, see Larose Forest Bioblitz 2006]
The first Larose Forest BioBlitz was held on June 15-16, 2006 under perfect weather conditions. The event was organized by the OFNC and the Prescott-Russell Stewardship Council, in partnership with the United Counties of Prescott-Russell. For this inaugural BioBlitz participation was by invitation only with the focus entirely on data collection. We are extremely grateful to the 30 scientists and other experts who took part and provided us with much new data for our Larose Forest biological inventory.
The lunch on both days was provided by the Stewardship Council and was much appreciated as were the snacks, coffee and bottled water. Judging from comments, I think everyone had a great time.
The data are now being collected and a report on the event will be written soon and posted on the Larose Forest pages of this website. A limited number of copies will also be printed.
Many thanks to everyone who came out to the forest and took part in the BioBlitz, your help was greatly appreciated. Stay tuned for news of the 2007 Larose BioBlitz.
The South Nation Conservation Authority (SNC) has officially taken over forestry management for Larose Forest. They are working on 5-year and 20-year plans which will incorporate environmentally sensitive practices. The SNC in conjunction with the Eastern Ontario Model Forests (EOMF) has become Forest Stewardship Council(FSC)certified. Such certification involves ‘green labelling’ of forest products and requires certain environmental standards be met.
Logging will be selective (i.e. plantation stands will be thinned) and will take place primarily but not exclusively in the winter season. Snags (Wildlife Trees) and mast trees (trees with seeds and fruit) will be left standing according to guidelines used on Crown Lands. Buffer zones around nests of accipiters, particularly Goshawks, will be maintained according to provincial guidelines. During the course of tree marking for logging any stick nests including ones apparently inactive, will be left with a 20 metre buffer zone. There will be setbacks and buffer zones around wetlands and watercourses according to guidelines used on Crown Land. The regrowth of hardwood species will be encouraged. It is important to ensure that SNC adheres to these plans and continues to keep wildlife values in mind at the same time as logging continues.
There is increased awareness that Larose has potential for eco-tourism, although no formal measures have been taken by UCPR politicians and staff to recognize this. If and when this happens, it will be important to remind them that visitor accommodation should be provided outside the forest, not within it, and that the forest will be far more valuable if left undeveloped.
OMB appeal update
The aboriginal appellants to the OMB and their lawyer have given up on their attempt to overturn the OMB decision and refusal to hear aboriginal claims. The assessment of total $15,000 in costs against the five appellants therefore is now reinstated.
OMB decision on the Motion for Costs ruling
In a decision dated May 2nd, 2005, the OMB ruled that the Friends of Larose Forest must pay $15,000 to Francoscenie Inc., the development proponents. See the decision [PDF]. As with the previous decision, this one makes for eye-opening reading. Once again, the wording in Makuch’s decision is full of disapproval for the appellants, such that any pretence at impartiality has been discarded.
According to Ontario Nature’s Linda Pim, (author of an excellent article on the OMB in On Naturemagazine, winter 2004) “it is extremely rare for the for the OMB to levy costs against public interest intervenors.” She noted that she could find only two such cases in the past 15 years. It is apparent that the Friends are being made an example of. The threat of significant monetary costs, as well as the demeaning personal accusations, are such that few will be willing or able to launch a similar fight against future development proposals for the forest.
The intimidation of a group of people whose only “crime” was to try their best to save Larose Forest, one of the last large forests in eastern Ontario, from development, is appalling. They were trying to do the job that the United Counties of Prescott-Russell couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
We believe the original decision to allow development in Larose Forest, the Motion for Costs brought by Francoscenie and the levying of the fine against the Friends of Larose Forest, bode ill for all other groups whose last resort to save greenspace is to turn to the OMB in the faint hope that common sense will prevail.
The OMB decision on Larose Forest was handed down in mid-December, 2004 in favour of the Francoscenie group who wish to develop part of the forest. In mid-January, the Friends of Larose Forest, who had sought to protect the forest at the OMB, were informed that Francoscenie had applied to introduce a motion for costs against the them in the amount of $137,000. The motion for costs will be heard in February 2005 and a decision as to whether the Friends must pay all, some or none of the costs will be made.
17 December 2004
OMB decison on Larose Forest finally delivered
The appeal by the Friends of Larose Forest to the OMB to prevent development of a section of the forest, has been lost. Mr. Makush was the presiding judge and his decision can be found at: http://www.omb.gov.on.ca/e%2Ddecisions/pl030382%5F%231920.pdf
The decision makes for interesting if very disturbing reading.
We will be pursuing other means of protection for this remarkable natural resource. Please check back to this website for updates and learn what you can do to help.
The Friends of Larose Forest are considering setting up an interpretive centre in the Forestry Station. A meeting of the Friends and Christine Hanrahan, OFNC representative to the group, will be arranged to discuss the idea further. The goal is to educate the public to the ecological significance of the forest through guided walks, displays, handouts, etc. Funding is required and is being explored.
The OMB hearings that adjourned in mid-December are expected to resume on 16 February. Stan Rosenbaum is the OFNC participant in this hearing.
28 January 2004
Interim site found for Francoscenie’s event
The development proponents, Francoscenie Inc., have chosen the Drouin Century Farm near Casselman. It has everything they need and more; 300 acres, a river, trees, barn, room for parking, roads, infrastructure, proximity to HWY 417, an advertising deal and partnership worked out with nearby St Albert cheese factory. Yet they insist that this is a temporary choice and they’re convinced that they will win at the OMB and set up in the forest permanently. (with information from G. Rozon)
In November, 2002, the OFNC was alerted to a development proposal for the Larose Forest. The group, Francoscénie, is seeking rezoning of 353 acres of forest land to create a venue for production of their theatrical event called “Echo d’un peuple.” Plans call for clear-cutting land to provide parking for over 400 cars and up to 20 buses, building a 2500-seat amphitheatre, and other associated structures. While we certainly applaud the efforts of this franco-Ontarien group in promoting the francophone culture in Eastern Ontario, the forest is simply not the place for such a development. It is also very wrong that 353 acres of the forest will be at the disposal of a private group with private interests for at least 20 years — free of charge. Furthermore, this theatrical development is called “Phase 1,” implying that further development is to follow. When asked about Phase 2 and beyond, those involved in the process have refused to comment. Unbelievably, the city of Clarence-Rockland is considering a zoning change in spite of growing opposition. Alternative sites with the infrastructure in some cases already in place, have been offered and rejected.
In 2006, a request was made to the UCPR to allow dirt bikes to have their own trails in the forest. The last thing the Larose Forest needs is MORE trails. At present, there are too many trails. Rather than creating more trails, many existing ones should be permanently closed.
Larose Forest is not a wasteland, it is a forest full of an astonishing diversity of plant and animal life. It is a rich ecosystem that is under threat by the prospect of yet more vehicular traffic.
Designated trails, respectfully used, are perhaps the compromise. There appears to be little damage from snowmobiles in the forest. As a group, they seem to be willing and aable to stay on their designated trails and not drive off-road. This may be the result of having a long-standing, well-organized federation.
It would be unfair to paint all ATV users with the same brush. There are those who use the forest respectfully and safely and stay on trails. The ones who do not, have created an untenable situation that needs to be addressed. The accelerated use of the last few years has caused many people to change their attitude to this type of activity. When many users were quieter, slower, and stayed on trails, animosity was curtailed. But the unfortunate increase in what can only be called boorish and disrespectful behaviour has altered these previously benign views.
Meeting to discuss use of motorized vehicles in the forest On 27 March 2007, UCPR will be discussing a bylaw to “regulate and promote responsible enjoyment and use of trails in Larose Forest by motorized vehicles.”
The United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) hired Horizon Multiressource in 2006, to develop a Protection and Development Plan (PDP) for Larose Forest. The plan is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007.
On January 25th, 2007, a public meeting held to discuss both the PDP and the 20 Year Forest Management Plan, attracted approximately 130 people. One of the mandates for development of the PDP is to look at recreational use in the forest. Most of the attention from the participants was directed to the PDP and recreation. The vast majority of the people attending the meeting were in favour of either an outright ban on ATVs and dirt bikes, or a severe curtailment of their activities in the forest. Complaints focussed on the destruction of the forest by these vehicles, the disturbance of wildlife, and the noise. All of these points are legitimate and very important and need to be seriously reviewed and addressed.
Further meetings to review the PDP will be held over the coming year. Check this website for updates.
From November 2002, opposition to any form of development in Larose Forest has grown considerably. Unfortunately, reasoned arguments based on some of the points given below, failed to make any impact on the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and the case is now heading to an OMB hearing set for the first two and a half weeks of December 2003.
The Larose Forest:
- is a “Conservation” zone and therefore does not, as such, allow for the construction of a theatre for public amusement
- is a part of the heritage of this region
- is the second most important man-made forest in southern Ontario
- is an important ecosystem providing habitat for a diversity of species as shown by preliminary surveys [See below]
If development proceeds, it will mean
- cutting of close to 1000 mature red pine trees and clearcutting of a large swathe of forest
- high risk of forest fire
- loss of significant wildlife habitat
- noise, traffic, insecticide pollution
- damage to the already fragile water table in this region