Yakabuski asked to withdraw approval of forestry operations around Acorn Lake

Local residents, conservation advocates and the Ottawa River Institute (ORI) have filed a request to Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski to intervene with the commercial tree harvesting scheduled to commence shortly surrounding Acorn Lake – a popular local fishing and recreational destination. Above: A single pine tree frames snowshoe tracks across Acorn Lake. Photo C.Huggett

The water body named after the red oak forest which dominates the upland site is surrounded by 200 hectares of predominately hardwoods. Due to a heavy beaver presence, a fringe of conifers skirts the lake’s scenic shores. The undeveloped 13 hectare (32 acres) water body is situated north of Stevenson Lake and east of the  Lower Pine River in the Township of Killaloe Hagarty Richards north off Gunns Road.

Acorn Lake is popular local choice for outdoor recreation as these pictures taken in late January 2024 demonstrate. Photo A.Craig

Local residents emphasize that Gunns Road which connects with Round Lake Road and a short five minute walk from the Gunns Road parking area provide easy access to Acorn Lake while still offering a semblance of remoteness. In the 1980s the then MNR earmarked the surrounding region for outdoor recreation by eliminating the presence of perch and restocking the lake with trout. Acorn Lake has a maximum depth of 9 metres. The abundance of acorns attracted deer, bears, wild turkeys, and, hence, numerous local hunters each fall.

Residents fear that is about to change as the surrounding 200 hectares is scheduled  for clear-cutting with only minimal conditions. A thirty metre (100 ft) retention of trees is marked along the lake’s shoreline. Unmarketable, “wildlife” and defective hardwoods are also identified for retention by tree markers. The number, however, equates to less than 10 percent of the forest stems.

Acorn Lake (upper left). Extracted from Areas Selected for Operations Ottawa Valley Forest (MU #780) 2021-2031 Forest Management Plan – Map 45. Click on the image above to download Map 45 in full. (File size 4.15MB)

A small, two-acre parcel  identified as part of the Algonquin settlement lands (parcel 315J) backs the west shore of Acorn Lake and will also be spared under the Land Claim Negotiations. Residents wonder why the 200 hectare cut-block surrounding the lake was not also withdraw from allocation during the drafting of the last Ottawa Valley Forest Management Plan (FMP). In theory all FMPs are required to accommodate multiple uses of public land.

However, over the past few decades forestry gained priority as outdoor recreation declined in the late 1990s. This followed increased leisure time devoted to indoor digital entertainment. Other reasons for lack of interest in outdoor pursuits include diminished public access (gates and berms) to decommissioned logging roads, and a plummet in cold water fish stocks. The Ontario Government’s fiscal priority shifted to charging the public user fees for access to Crown land whenever possible. Hence, organized and operational parks underwent a remake to attract a wider spectrum of the public where entrance and user fees could be controlled and applied. Non-commercial and undeveloped natural sites such as Acorn Lake were sacrificed to industry, where spinoffs from tree harvesting could make a marginal contribution to the local economy.

The local lobby groups who made the request hope that MPP John Yakabuski will seriously consider a moratorium on tree harvesting to leave the watershed surrounding Acorn Lake untouched until stakeholders, including indigenous elders, hunters and fishermen can agree to leave the area free of industrial activities. Meanwhile, as Gunns Road hardens following a short 2023-24 winter season, cutting could commence in days.

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