Ancient forests are places to escape the human-centered world. Whether it's the rare thrill of hugging a 400 year old tree, or seeing pitcher plants growing in a bog that's three days paddle from the nearest road, ancient landscapes are special; and often the time to see them is running out.
Temagami is the home of the giants. In Temagami's remaining ancient forest, trees between 200 and 400 years old are not unusual. Temagami still has the densest concentration of old growth red and white pine forest in the world, but the area has been heavily impacted by logging since the 1940's, and is increasingly fragmented
Temagami is a world-class canoeing area, and also has a number of interpretive trails that explore the ecology of old growth pine forests.
Since establishment of the Save the Maple Mountain Committee in 1973, citizens have been joining forces to challenge resource management activities that threaten the character of the Temagami wilderness. Perhaps the single most intense battle was fought over the proposed logging of the Obabika Lake old-growth pine stand which resulted in 344 arrests of protesters blockading the Red Squirrel logging road in 1989. Afterwards, resource exploitation in Temagami was minimal and non-threatening to wilderness advocates until 1995, when the Temagami Comprehensive Planning Council released a plan that proposed large-scale industrial development, including mining, logging, road building and bridge construction. For example, it was recommended that 58% of Temagami's remaining old-growth pine stands be opened to logging under this plan. The remainder was to be protected. Many parts of this plan have since been implemented by the provincial government.
white and red pine forest was sought out wherever it stood by the lumbermen of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Few species of tree in North America have been so heavily exploited for so long. The Lower Spanish Pine Forest is the largest more or less contiguous tract of red and white pine forest in the world that remains untouched by logging.
Most of the 45,000 hectares of red and white pine forest in the Lower Spanish is pristine, or ancient. It is generally not as old as some parts of Temagami or Algoma. There are about 7,000 hectares of old growth in The lower Spanish Forest, which is a little more than a quarter of what is found in Temagami. But the Lower Spanish Forest is more ecologically intact than Temagami; it is the least fragmented red and white pine dominated forest in the world. There are still pristine roadless areas and a sense of wilderness. It is not uncommon to see otters, wolves, black bears, bald eagles, and nesting osprey.
A mapping analysis commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Spectranalysis 1993) has shown that the largest concentration of white and red pine (over 50 yrs.; and over 10% of a stand) is located in The Lower Spanish Forest. Further work by Quinby et al. (1995) has shown that 40,000 hectares of this area is pristine pine landscape. It was also documented just recently that The lower Spanish Forest has the largest pristine white and red pine landscape remaining in the world (Quinby and McGuiness 1996). This global significance and pristine character did not, however, persuade the Ministry of Natural Resources or E.B. Eddy Forest Products Ltd. to protect the entire 40,000 hectare area despite recommendations from Geomatics International (1994) to do so. The Spanish River Provincial Park, which was created in March 1999, is a partial victory and protects a majority of key areas adjacent to the Spanish River, while abandoning many interior areas to logging. AFER conducted research identifying pristine watersheds and studying the forest landscape in the Lower Spanish Forest from 1993-1995
The old-growth white pine, sugar maple, yellow birch and jack pine forests of the 120,000 hectare Algoma Highlands is one of the largest areas of pristine forested landscape remaining in the Great Lakes basin. It supports healthy populations of lynx, pine marten and bald eagle - sightings of the endangered eastern cougar have also been made there. However, about 35,000 hectares of The Algoma Highlands is scheduled for logging over the next five years, most by clearcutting. Although physical damage to a site may be minimized using shelterwood logging in some areas, recent scientific studies of Algoma white pine forests have shown that shelterwood logging can reduce genetic diversity of white pine populations by as much as 54% (Buchert et al. 1995).