Local environmentalists may go to court to block a logging road proposed for Grass River Provincial Park and to persuade a judge to force the Doer government to live up to its commitment to protect woodland caribou.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/8/2009 (4486 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Local environmentalists may go to court to block a logging road proposed for Grass River Provincial Park and to persuade a judge to force the Doer government to live up to its commitment to protect woodland caribou.

A court battle would be the final salvo in what has already been a two-year fight to prevent Tolko Industries in The Pas from building a 17-kilometre logging road from Highway 39 north through the park so it can have quicker access to a 20-year supply of timber.

Eric Reder of the Wilderness Committee said Wednesday a court fight is possible. The environmental group recently celebrated a court victory in British Columbia in which a Federal Court judge ruled federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice broke the law by refusing to identify critical habitat in a recovery plan for the endangered greater sage grouse.

"We do want real protection," Reder said. "This is as big a battle as we're going to have to fight."

Reder said the proposed Dickstone Road -- just approved by the province this month -- also defies the spirit of new legislation that bans logging in all but one of Manitoba's 81 provincial parks. The Forest Amendment Act went into effect June 11.

"This makes a sham of the park logging ban they're been trumpeting," Reder said. "Commercial forest activity includes logging roads."

Gail Whelan Enns of Manitoba Wildlands said the road also threatens a woodland caribou herd in the area, as it cuts through their migration route. A new road also allows hunters easier access. Woodland caribou gained protected status under the province's Endangered Species Act in 2006.

"The reality is everyone else comes down the road," she said.

Under the licence granted by Manitoba Conservation, the road is to be gated to the public, with only Tolko logging trucks allowed to use it, Tolko Manitoba solid wood manager Doug Hunt said. The licence can be appealed, but the two environmental groups said they wanted to get more information about its conditions before deciding their next step.

Hunt also said the road is the shortest and most economical route to a huge timber cutting area -- the future of the Tolko mill and the jobs it provides.

He said it also means big trucks hauling wood won't go through any community. During the winter cutting season, trucks have gone through Snow Lake to the northeast, but that is no longer feasible because of the higher cost.

"To go around the park, it would add to extra costs, like fuel," Hunt said. "It means one truck would take an extra four hours."

But environmentalists and Manitoba's Liberals and Green party are unconvinced. They say an alternate route to the west would improve road conditions and the access of northerners to The Pas and Flin Flon.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca