Clear-cutting along Highway 34, south of Vankleek Hill. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

New committee to look into loss of forest cover

How to literally save the trees is the idea behind a new committee established by the South Nation Conservation Authority.

The committee is made up of 22 members. The majority, 17, are representatives of the agricultural community, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and Union des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontarien. The other five members are representatives from municipalities within SNC’s jurisdiction.

Jackie Pemberton, the committee’s chair, says SNC has always had a “good working relationship” with the agricultural community.

“With agriculture being the largest economic driver within the region, we understand the public pressures placed on our municipalities and the challenge that creates for them,” says Pemberton.

Pemberton adds that Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry has “the largest agriculture concentration in Eastern Ontario.” Based on a 2015 report, SD&G’s cumulative agri-food businesses were estimated at $2 billion. Along with agri-food business in the Prescott-Russell, Pemberton says the two counties “represent almost one third of Eastern Ontario’s agricultural businesses.”

“We’re very pleased that they’ve reached to what is perceived as a problem and they want to be part of the solution,” she says.

Pemberton says the committee’s main goal is to come up with solutions that ensure sustainable forest cover and “provide value for both agricultural and non-agricultural communities.”

The committee wants to come up with these recommendations by the end of April—before the farmers are back in their fields. 

Last year, SNC released a report that showed forest cover within its jurisdiction fell to 28 per cent— below the 30 per cent minimum outlined by the federal government.  This 30 per cent is a bare minimum that “will only support half of the potential species richness.”

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