Canada: Enviros raise concerns about new biofuel agenda

“It is irresponsible for the Ontario Government to pursue a
questionable economic policy that may pour fuel on the bonfire of
climate change’, said Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS
Wildlands League. “Bio energy is being touted as a carbon neutral
energy source but may actually vacuum up forests and burn them. What
we really need is natural carbon storage in growing and maturing
forests and soil,” Sumner adds.

Further, the group warns that energy
for transportation and processing biofibre may offset any gains from
the plan and notes that taxpayers may end up subsidizing an industry
to mine our forests of essential nutrients and habitat. “Ontario must
not put our climate and forests in jeopardy while hiding behind a very
real global economic crisis to do so,’ stated Sumner. Biofibre refers
to trees that are converted into wood pellets burned to generate
electricity. These trees would largely come from logging ‘waste’ and
‘non commercial’ trees. OMNR promotes this as a bonafide green
alternative to other forms of energy production and a way to save the
foundering forest economy. Wildlands League is highly sceptical of
both claims. “In the natural world, there is no such thing as waste”,
Trevor Hesselink, Wildlands League’s Forest Program Director explains.

“Dead wood provides essential ecosystem functions like carbon storage,
nutrient recycling, seedbeds and habitat for everything from
salamanders to marten. Ontario’s logging practices create ‘waste’
because most logging skids whole trees to roadside where the logs are
trucked away and the branches and tops left in mounds where they do
little for forest function.” Wildlands League suspects removing slash
and commercially undesirable species may be the thin edge of the axe.
Biofibre harvesting would encourage even more full-tree logging, and
it may exert pressure to harvest trees at younger ages. “Right now,
cutting trees at 100 years is putting pressure on wildlife that needs
mature forests. What if we start harvesting every 40 or even 20 years
for biofibre?” questions Hesselink. “As it is, OMNR has little
capacity to oversee current practices. It is irresponsible to promote
additional harvesting pressure that indiscriminate biofibre
utilization would cause.”

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