Some of its trees predating Saskatchewan’s birth as a province, there are many arguments against the alleged plans to clearcut the old-growth Torch River Forest.
“I think the whole idea is to protect the forest as an ecosystem,” Saskatchewan NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule said. “You know what happens once you go in -- it becomes a tree farm, basically, even with modern reforestation.”
The Torch River Forest is the easternmost of the four Island Forests that surround Prince Albert, which together encompass more than 200,000 hectares of crown forest land.
Called the “Island Forests” because they’re pockets of forest surrounded by farmland, they provide a unique environment that is important not only from an ecological standpoint, but a social and economic one as well, Sproule said.
Located northeast of the Village of Love, the Torch River Forest has a unique fungal growth at the base of its 140-year-old jackpine trees that accompany trembling aspens and other plant life in producing an ecosystem that’s ideal for mushroom enthusiasts.
Chanterelle, pine and morel mushrooms accompany various others as sought-after delicacies.
“The problem with a lot of modern style harvesting is that you can destroy the forest floor, which means the mushrooms will be gone,” she said, adding that the affect on mushroom pickers will be immediate.
“You should not be cutting where people are able to make a living using alternative forestry.”
During Thursday’s question period in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Sproule debated with environment minister Ken Cheveldayoff, who repeatedly denied that clearcutting was in the agenda of the updated Island Forests Forest Management Plan, labeling allegations of clearcutting as “misinformation.”
I think the whole idea is to protect the forest as an ecosystem ... You know what happens once you go in -- it becomes a tree farm, basically, even with modern reforestation. - Saskatchewan NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule
He did, however, admit that approximately five per cent per year is planned to be harvested over the next 20 years to “ensure that the forest is indeed renewed. It is over-mature at this time. It is in decline. It’s an increasing risk for fire.”
Fighting against political jargon, Friends of the Torch River Forest is actively petitioning the government against clearcutting, working under the slogan “100 per cent against clearcutting the Torch River Provincial Forest.”
In a recent article posted to their website, www.torchriverforest.com, member and mushroom enthusiast April Griffin advocates for the creation of a community-managed forest, to prevent its politicization.
“A community managed forest would be the best economic answer,” her article reads. “We will plant the trees where trees are needed by hand and carefully so as to not harm the bio mass. We will self police to combat litter.”
Friends of the Torch River Forest member and Nipawin-based real estate agent Linda Swehla said that the forest is important to the region as a whole.
“For me, it’s more the beauty of the forest and having it right here,” she said. “It’s a big tourist attraction, as well. People will go to the Torch River to go canoeing, because the Torch River is just a perfect size … it’s not just a little trickle of a river -- it’s not big, but it’s fast.
“I don’t think they have to clearcut it. I think they just need to (selective cut) what needs to be cut.”