Submission Comments RE: Proposals to amend O.Reg.244/97 and the Aggregate Resources of Ontario Provincial Standards under the Aggregate Resources Act (February 2020)
By Malcolm Cockwell RPF, Managing Director, Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve – 06 March 2020
I am a Registered Professional Forester and currently serve as the Managing Director of Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve. Our property includes approximately 100,000 acres in Haliburton County. On this property, we operate a sustainable forest management operation as well as a diverse public land use and ecotourism business. We also run two sawmills and a variety of value-added wood processing operations. We are among the largest employers in our community. There are over 400 km of roads and trails in our property.
In addition to Haliburton Forest, our group of companies also owns 145,000 acres near Timmins as well as 10,000 acres near Huntsville. There are at least another 400 km of roads and trails within these properties. Accordingly, our total land holdings in Ontario amount to over 255,000 acres. All of our properties are certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council and are currently enrolled in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program.
Most of our concerns within the document, Proposals to amend O.Reg.244/97 and the Aggregate Resources of Ontario Provincial Standards under the Aggregate Resources Act (February 2020), concern Section 2 – Prescribed Rules for Minor Excavations, and specifically Sub-Section 2.1 Excavation from Private Land or Land Owned by a Farm Business. We have other concerns with this document but our comments at this point are focused on Sub-Section 2.1
Our general concern with this document is that it presents unrealistic, unenforceable, and unnecessary regulations on the use and management of aggregate resources on private land. Our specific concerns are as follows:
• There is no reference to “forestry operations” on private land, nor properties that are enrolled in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program. If “farm operations” are specifically referred to, so should “forestry operations” on private land, particularly if those properties are enrolled in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program. Any exemptions or privileges that apply to “farm operations” should be extended to “forestry operations,” particularly if those properties are enrolled in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program.
• Landowners should not have to register their exempt activity with the Ministry. This is not currently required and there is no reason to require it now. Forcing landowners to register their activity with the Ministry to prove that an exemption is warranted will create unnecessary paperwork and administration, presenting unnecessary costs for everyone involved, including the Province of Ontario.
• Furthermore, given the number of criteria described in the proposed revisions, it is unlikely that provincial regulators will simply accept a submission from a landowner, without requiring a site visit or multiple site visits to confirm that all criteria are met. Waiting for Ministry staff to schedule a site visit, then actually conduct a site visit, then confirm the outcome of the site visit, will cause unnecessary delays without a clear benefit to any stakeholders.
• Not allowing blasting or crushing of aggregate is unnecessarily restrictive and prevents to the efficient use of aggregate. Blasting and crushing are critical activities to ensure the cost-effective and environmentally-sensitive development of road infrastructure in private managed forests. Not allowing crushing will mean that aggregate is excavated unnecessarily because, during road building operations, for example, larger volumes of aggregate will need to be used to cover large stones in newly built roads, which should have been crushed.
• Restricting excavation to above the water table is unnecessarily restrictive and will cause aggregate to be wasted. It is important to excavate aggregate below the water table, then backfill with overburden, lower quality aggregate, or organic material, to ensure that the entire resource is used effectively, thereby reducing the overall area of a given pit. Many aggregate deposits in central Ontario are layered, with good material on top and poor material on the bottom. Restricting excavation below the water table would force landowners and others to “cream” the good material on top rather than mixing it with the poor material on the bottom to create a usable medium quality product, causing unnecessary waste during operations.
• The requirement that “only one excavation is occurring on a property at a time” and “the excavation will only occur over a period of up to three consecutive years” is entirely unrealistic (and probably unenforceable) as private managed forests need to have multiple pits open at all times in order to service infrastructure, perform road building activities, and generally go about managing their business. New pits are opened frequently and left open for years or decades so that material can be recovered on an as-needed, when-needed basis. These long-term, open pits are environmentally benign.
• The proposed limitations on the volume or area of an excavation are unrealistic. Specifically, the volume limitation of 300 cubic meters and the area limitation of 0.50 ha are both unrealistic. The same is true of the volume limitation of 1,000 cubic meters for farm businesses. There should not be a volume limitation or an area limitation.
• If there must be a restriction on the movement of aggregate – and we do not agree that there should be such a restriction at all – the proposed restrictions of “the excavation could only be undertaken by or on behalf of the landowner on their own private property” and “excavated aggregate would not be removed from the property from which it was excavated” should be deleted and replaced with the proposed restriction for farm businesses, being “excavated aggregate would not be removed from the property from which it was excavated or would only be moved to another property owned by the same registered farm business.” The former restriction is unrealistic as many properties are disconnected and utilize multiple access points; the latter restriction is still overly restrictive but at least somewhat realistic, as it acknowledges that many properties have multiple access points and are not always internally interconnected.
In summary, we submit that the terms in Sub-Section 2.1 Excavation from Private Land or Land Owned by a Farm Business are unrealistic, unenforceable, and unnecessary regulations, particularly with respect to their imposition on large private properties or managed forest properties. We do not understand why these revisions are being recommended, and we do not recognize the problem for which these revisions would function as a solution. If these revisions are not solving a problem, then these revisions should not be made.
To illustrate this point, we would like to be very clear that these restrictions are incompatible with our existing business operations, which is widely recognized as a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable operation. Were these restrictions imposed precisely as they are written, our sustainable forest management operations, as well as the complementary public land use and ecotourism operations, would have to shut down within a short period of time.
It is our general position that the use of aggregate and related materials within any private managed forest in Ontario for internal purposes (i.e. the excavation within a property is strictly for use within the same property for the development of infrastructure and related initiatives), particularly if that property is enrolled in the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program, should be entirely exempt from the Aggregate Resources Act. These private managed forest properties are already being held accountable to implement “good forestry practices,” which inherently relates to the sustainable use and development of aggregate resources.
My colleagues and I are willing to provide follow up comments if further details would be helpful. We are also willing to host a tour of the within our property in Haliburton County to provide context for the comments and concerns submitted in this document. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions at email@example.com.
[ END ]
Submitted March 7, 2020 2:12 PM