Eagle Lake Farabout Peninsula

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History of the Farabout Coalition

In 2008 people with homes, cabins and businesses on Eagle Lake learned that a clear-cut of trees was planned for Farabout Peninsula. This is the most highly populated area of Eagle Lake with 8 fishing lodges in close proximity to the planned clear-cut. The Farabout Coalition was created to contest the proposed clear-cut. Members of the Coalition collected 187 signatures in 3 days on a petition to protest the proposed harvest of trees. The signatures on this petition largely came from full-time and part-time residents of Machin Municipality.

Following the submission of the petition to the Ontario Ministries of Natural Resources, Tourism and the Environment, a letter writing campaign was initiated to these Ministries. This drew media coverage from newspapers in Dryden and Thunder Bay. Newspaper coverage included both special articles on Farabout Peninsula, as well as a series of letters to the Editor from concerned citizens and local owners of sport fishing lodges. The issue was covered in radio interviews with the CBC.

In 2008 the Coalition made a formal presentation to the Mayor and Council of Machin Municipality. The potential negative impact of the proposed clear-cut of trees on Farabout Peninsula to permanent and seasonal residents, to the local tourist industry, and to the habitat and water quality of Eagle Lake was itemized. Further, attention was given to the impact of forest harvesting operations on the peninsula to local roads, in particular to Townline Road (which is the main traffic route for local residents and tourist fishing lodges). Local residents and businesses are concerned about the damage to Townline Road if heavy trucks use this main thoroughfare for the transport of equipment and wood fibre over the winter months. The costs of repairs that would be required to this road by forest operations would usually need to be borne by the taxpayers of Machin Municipality. Question was raised as to whether Machin Municipality would seek to secure funds from the Dryden Forest Management Company to repair road damages that were resultant from the planned hauling of wood fiber from the peninsula if the clear-cut was approved and proceeded as planned.

In the Spring of 2009 the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources announced that a moratorium was placed on the proposed road building and tree harvest on Farabout Peninsula, and that the proposed clear-cut on Farabout Peninsula would not be included in the 2011-2021 Dryden Forest Management Plan.

The moratorium has been recognized as a temporary reprieve from clear-cutting on the peninsula and the Coalition has continued its work. Little biological inventory work has occurred on the Farabout Peninsula in the past. Over the Spring and Summer of 2009 and 2010 a number of local naturalists, as well as bird and plant experts from Thunder Bay, spent time studying the ecology of the peninsula. Local residents have reported sightings of nesting areas (which includes 8 eagle nests), and documented locations of muskie and bass spawning areas that immediately border the peninsula. In 2010 the Coalition was awarded a grant by the Baillie Fund to support the development of an area search and inventory of bird species breeding and living on the peninsula. The Baillie Fund is affiliated with Bird Studies Canada and provides small grants to high quality projects.

In the Summer of 2011, a well attended public presentation took place at Eagle River Hall in Machin Municipality, which involved local and Ontario experts providing detailed information on the birds, plants and wildlife found during the surveys conducted on Farabout Peninsula. Attending this presentation were local permanent and seasonal residents, visiting tourists, fishing lodge owners, and members of Machin Municipality Council.

All naturalist surveys conducted to 2011 were summarized in a formal report presented to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Dryden Forest Management Company. There have been significant bird and plant discoveries on the peninsula (some of which fall under the species at risk classification). The Farabout Peninsula has one of the few old-growth forest areas that are important to moose in this locale in Northwest Ontario. It deserves to be recognized and protected as a special forest habitat in Machin Municipality.

The Farabout Peninsula Coalition believes that the peninsula should be included in the Eagle Lake Conservation Reserve, which would allow it to remain a wilderness area that is protected from forestry and mining activities.

Beliefs and Aims of the Farabout Coalition

The Coalition supports responsible logging activities in Northwest Ontario, but objects to logging operations close to the shores of Eagle Lake; particularly those proposed for Farabout Peninsula. We believe it defies common sense to plan clear-cuts of trees in one of the most populated areas of Eagle Lake, an area that is of high importance to the local tourist industry, and in a location that is unique as a micro-climate that contains a special wilderness area with many species of plants and birds that are uncommon in this part of Ontario.

What creates a major risk to the shoreline waters bordering the Farabout Peninsula is the proposed building of a logging road across the narrow isthmus that links the peninsula to the mainland. This narrow isthmus is all that keeps Farabout from being an island rather than a peninsula. At high water times of the year there is barely enough land available to support the requirements of a single lane logging road (approximately 90 feet across). The proposed road would transverse rocky outcroppings, and would need to cross spruce swamps. Any road construction to Farabout Peninsula would require tree cutting that will be visible from both Outlet Bay and Littleneck Bay of Eagle Lake.

The Coalition opposes the proposed plan to build a road across the narrow isthmus because of: (1) its potential negative impact on fish breeding areas that run along the shoreline of the isthmus, (2) because of its proximity to sports fishing businesses with guests fishing in weed-beds close to the peninsula (Eagle Lake Lodge, Evergreen Lodge, Big Eagle Lodge, Island View Lodge, North Shore Lodge, Temple Bay Lodge), (3) because of its potential to introduce pollutants, that can create runoff and leach into Eagle Lake, and that can affect water quality for residents living along Outlet Bay, Little Neck Bay, the intake to Eagle River and (4) because of disrupted use of the isthmus by wildlife as it is a natural bridge between the peninsula and the mainland (for example, regular sightings are reported of animals such as moose, deer, wolves, fox, etc.).

Clear-cut of Trees on the Peninsula and Tourist Lodges

The rich inventory of fish species that live and breed in proximity to the peninsula is of high importance to the fishing lodges in the immediate vicinity. Three issues are of concern: threat to the fish spawning areas, particularly for Muskie; impact on the wilderness experience of tourists; and potential water pollution from run-off from the clear-cut areas.

There is a growing research literature, including recent studies done in Ontario and Quebec, that suggest that clear-cutting close to shoreline areas results in chemical leaching that can have a significant impact on Northern Pike and on Muskie (as large predator species) particular on their levels of mercury contamination. This is a complex issue, with speculation about such things as concurrent effects of things like “acid rain”, but carefully controlled studies (such as in Quebec and Scandinavia) have suggested that runoff of water from forest clear-cuts is a factor that cannot be ignored. There is recent scientific evidence from a research team at the University of Alberta that large blocks of clear-cut trees have detrimental and long-term impacts on mammals such as moose.

There have been recent clear-cuts in areas adjacent to Eagle Lake shoreline (for example by Lost Bay and Camp Bay) that have not left adequate “visual barriers”. That is, these harvest areas can be easily seen by people in boats. Some individuals are not bothered by the sight of stripped blocks of land that remain after a clear-cut of trees, however for many tourists their wilderness experience is diminished when facing sections of land that are cleared of trees while fishing on Eagle Lake.

Water pollution is a growing concern on Eagle Lake, particularly mercury levels. This is already an issue in large fish taken from the lake, and for people using the lake to access their drinking water.  It is not uncommon for these people to now use water filtration systems or to purchase bottled water. This was unheard of in the past on Eagle Lake. This situation suggests that care and vigilance needs to be exercised to prevent any further pollution and deterioration of the water quality on Eagle Lake.

The tourist industry is a major industry in Machin Municipality and contributes significantly to the local tax base. Further, it employs dozens of local people, particularly through the months of sports fishing and hunting. It makes little sense to allow a relatively small logging operation in a highly contentious geographic area, which would hold little financial gain to the forestry industry, yet would be of negative value to the local tourist industry.