One side-effect of COVID-19 restrictions has been a renaissance in our collective appreciation for nature. All over the province, people have flocked to forests, wetlands and beaches to seek solace, wildlife sightings and places to safely be with others. Many parks and conservation areas were overwhelmed. In fall 2020, Algonquin Provincial Park was forced to limit visitors who wanted to see the spectacular autumn colours due to crowds, overflowing parking lots and a highway dangerously clogged by vehicles and pedestrians.

Nature at risk: auditor’s report
This surge of recognition for the benefits of wild places is encouraging, especially if it translates into broad support to see them conserved and expanded. That’s why the scathing series of annual reports on the environment released last November by Ontario’s auditor general should be of concern to anyone who has spent time in nature over the past year. They expose alarming deficiencies in the province’s management of protected places, biodiversity and processes to add to the network of parks and conservation reserves.

The audit specifically calls out the 65 per cent of Algonquin open to commercial logging, logging roads and gravel extraction as an example of a protected place that’s not really protected. It’s not the first to do so. In 2014, Ontario’s environmental commissioner called for an end to logging in Algonquin, and the Wilderness Committee has been advocating for real protection for the park for years.

By Katie Krelove
National Observer
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