Starting today, a team of scientists is converging on the reserve to conduct an intensive species count, part of an ongoing effort to document the diversity of creatures that call Wolf Lake home.
According to a media release from the Wolf Lake Coalition, if the team finds any Species at Risk it would bolster efforts to protect the area permanently.
Wolf Lake is considered the world's largest old-growth red pine forest. Considered ecologically unique by many, the roughly 300-hectare forest reserve is in the southwestern part of the Temagami area, 50 kilometres northeast of Sudbury. It is growing increasingly popular with tourists and campers.
Among the scientific team taking part in the species count are: Dr. Peter Quinby, an old-growth ecologist; Prof. Madhur Anand, University of Guelph expert on forest response to climate change; Prof. Peter Beckett, a Laurentian University wetland ecologist; James Paterson, with the Ontario Nature Herpetology Atlas; and Ramsey Hart, a field ornithologist and Canada Program co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada.
Besides their work documenting the species in the reserve, scientists, as well as those fighting to have the area protected, are making themselves available to the media for interviews on the ecological and scientific importance of Wolf Lake.
The Wolf Lake Coalition led the charge in urging the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to let a mining lease in the Wolf Lake old growth forest expire May 31, which would have paved the way for the old-growth forest to be rolled into the Chiniguchi Waterway Park. That effort failed, however, and the lease held by Flag Resources was renewed for another 21 years.
Franco Mariotti, a scientist with Science North and a member of the Wolf Lake Coalition, called that decision “short-sighted.”
“This is short-sighted,” Mariotti said. “Wolf Lake is worthy to be a national treasure and the coalition will not stop. We will continue until it is totally protected.”
Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci said the decision was made with an eye to “balancing economic development opportunities with environmental sustainability.”
“We have listened to various perspectives, and are ensuring the old growth red pine in the Wolf Lake area is protected,” Bartolucci said. “Our recent decision to keep the Wolf Lake Old Growth Forest as a forest reserve does not open the area up to new prospecting and mineral claim staking.”
Opponents to mining in the area though wondered why the lease was allowed to be renewed when its holder, Flag Resources, has, according to the coalition, not benefited from its holdings there.
“If they continue, and they're not finding any valuable minerals, why keep renewing it?” Mariotti asked.
Flag is currently holding 40,000 acres in two townships. The company began looking for gold in the region in the 1980s, followed by exploration for base metal deposits. In the McNish and McBeth townships, it is searching for nickel, copper, zinc, lead, silver and gold.
Flag is also exploring for platinum group elements.
Posted by Arron Pickard