Saving the World’s Largest Old Growth Red Pine Forest

Located in Ontario, Canada, Wolf Lake faces the threat of mining for the next 21 years

Wolf Lake
Produced by Rob Nelson

Six hours north of Toronto lies the largest old growth red pine forest in the world and it’s under attack.

The preservation of Wolf Lake has been a topic of debate among the Ontario government, mining companies and preservationists trying to protect a forest that has remained relatively undisturbed for hundreds of years.

In 1999, the Ontario government committed to preserve the region’s ancient forest and created the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park. Because of existing mining leases in the surrounding area, the government decided to classify that area a “Forest Reserve.” That status allowed for exploratory mining but prohibited logging.

“Typically what happens in those situations is when the mining leases come up for renewal, they aren’t renewed and the area is grandfathered into the rest of the park,” said Rob Nelson, member of the Save Wolf Lake Coalition.

In March of 2012, however, the mining leases were renewed for another 21 years leaving the surrounding area open to further exploratory mining, which could disturb the forest.

In June of 2012, the Sudbury Star reported that despite the leases being renewed, very little mining is actually occurring.

Naomi Grant, of the Wolf Lake Coalition, said extending the claim clearly runs counter to the ministry’s own guidelines.

“According to public records, very little activity has occurred on this lease for the past 30 years,” she said.

“Not only is this area not in production—it is not remotely close. Under our own legislation, this lease should not be renewed.”

In an email to The Sudbury Star earlier this week, Flag Resources’ spokesman Murdo McLeod confirmed the company has not been active in the lease area, but plans to open a Sudbury office “soon.”

Nelson, who has been coming to Wolf Lake since 2006, is an avid photographer and has led many canoe trips throughout the area. After taking photographs of many of the remote places within Wolf Lake, he produced a slideshow and posted it online.

“I was able to act as a resource for a lot of the visuals to show people what the area is like,” said Nelson.

From the recognition he gained through his slideshow, Nelson became the creative director for the Wolf Lake Coalition and came up with the idea of putting a video together. Working with two other photographers, Nelson spent five days shooting 27,000 photographs of different locations around Wolf Lake within the threatened area. He then stitched the photographs together using computer software to create the final timelapse video you see above.

The battle for Wolf Lake continues and with the recent discovery of 210 species in the area and a recommended moratorium on further industrial disturbance from a team of scientists, Wolf Lake and its unique ecosystem may receive the protection it desperately needs.

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