Algonquin Park situated in central Ontario is a natural area that serves as a recreation and tourism destination as well as providing social and economic benefits to local communities, the region and the province (Ontario Parks & AFA, 2009). Out of the 339 parks in Ontario, this park is the only one that allows commercial logging. About 65% of this park, which is approximately 1.5 times larger than Prince Edward Island in area, is open for commercial logging (Wilson, 2014). The logging of this park has negative effects on its ecosystem. According to Wilson, at least 16 species of this park are at risk (2014), however, he does not clearly correlate this threat to logging in his article. Nonetheless, in their study, Jones et al. prove that logging in Algonquin Park affects patterns of tree diversity. Moreover, it has been proven that it also decreases or in some cases increases the richness of certain species. For example, the richness of bees and click beetles were increased in Algonquin as a result of harvesting Sugar Maple and Yellow Birch (Nol et al., 2006). Additionally, bird habitats and nesting sites get destroyed in the process (Creasey, 2013). Logging activities have a negative impact on air quality as well since there are many roads and vehicles dedicated to them (Ontario Parks & AFA, 2009).
Why is this a wicked problem?
It might seem like this is a simple problem; the logging of trees is detrimental to ecosystem of the park, therefore, logging should be prohibited. However, when we get a deeper look at this problem, we understand that it’s more complicated than that. Balancing the increased protection of the park and maintaining adequate wood supply for local mills is very challenging (Ontario Parks & AFA, 2009). The main decision makers for this problem are the Ministry of Natural Resources and Algonquin Forestry Authority. The decisions these entities make affect many people and organizations. One of the key stakeholders is the forest industry. The people in the industry presume that reducing the availability of areas for logging will limit opportunities for future investments and diversification in the industry. Additionally, many jobs will be lost as a result and the local economy will be threatened (Ontario Parks & AFA, 2009). In opposition to this idea, environmentalists and environmental organizations believe that logging is a disturbance that could be harmful to the environment if it’s done excessively or not properly. In addition to these social conflicts, scientists have given contradictory results about the harmful effects of logging. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, there’s proof that logging could be harmful to the environment. However, some studies show that the ecosystem is not altered as a result of logging but it adapts to it. For example, Mancuso et al. prove that selection logging does not modify behaviour of sapsuckers—a woodpecker species—significantly; they still successfully use the available trees (2013).
In their book, Balint et al. define ‘wicked problems’ as problems in which “scientific uncertainty coexists with value uncertainty and conflict” (2012, p.9). According to this definition, logging of Algonquin Park is a ‘wicked problem’ since there are differences in values of the forest industry and environmental organizations as well as conflicting findings in various scientific studies.
Ontario Parks board and Algonquin Forestry Authority board have given recommendations to manage this problem. They consulted key stakeholders for these recommendations to keep both sides as content as possible. Here is a summary of the recommendations:
- “Recognition of areas not available for forest management
- Expansion of protection zones
- Proposed operational and planning strategies
- Implementation strategies” (Ontario Parks & AFA, 2009)
Balint, P. J., Stewart, R. E., Desal, A. & Walters, L. C. (2012). Wicked Environmental Problems: Managing uncertainty and Conflict. Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?id=H_6XyO9rQqgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=wicked+environmental+problems&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAGoVChMI0tKt0qWRyAIV1SmICh2PFwFV#v=onepage&q&f=false
Creasey, M. L. (2013). Black-throated blue warbler (setophaga caerulescens ) nesting success and nest site selection in the single-tree selection harvested forests of algonquin provincial park, canada (Order No. MR93875). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1399560762). Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/1399560762?accountid=14656
Jones, B., Molenda, O., Hayward, C., D’Aguiar, M., Miller, N., Rye, L. & Cottenie, K. (2011). Patterns of tree diversity in response to logging in Algonquin Provincial Park. Studies by Undergraduate Researchers at Guelph, 4:2, pp. 56-62.
Mancuso, K., Nol, E., Burke, D. & Elliot, K. (2014). Effects of selection logging on Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sap-feeding habits in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 44:10, pp.1236-1243. Retrieved from: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/cjfr-2013-0498#.VgTaE2TBzGd
Nol, E., Douglas, H., & Crins, W. (2006). Responses of syrphids, elaterids and bees to single-tree selection harvesting in algonquin provincial park, ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 120(1), 15-21.
Ontario Parks Board of Directors & Algonquin Forestry Authority Board of Directors. (2009, September 15). Joint Proposal for Lightening the Ecological Footprint of Logging in Algonquin Park. Retrieved from: http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/planning_pdf/algo/algo_joint_proposal.pdf
Wilson, H. (2014, December 3). Environmental commissioner decries in Algonquin. Canadian Geographic. Retrieved from: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/blog/posting.asp?ID=1388