Profit in parks, not lumber

Don Hogarth The Financial Post August 20, 1991

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RECREATIONAL use of Ontario’s forests has the potential to bring far greater riches to the provincial econ­omy than logging, a new study com­missioned by the province suggests.
The year-long study by Environment Probe, a Toronto-based envi­ronmental group, estimates provin­cial parks are worth as much as $6 billion a year to Ontario’s economy and could be worth billions more through parkland expansion and the addition of new campsites.
“Our parks are worth a lot of mon­ey,” said Environment Probe re­searcher Adam White, who sur­veyed more than 4,000 park users for the study. “That is largely unknown to the government and ignored by the forest industry.”
On a per hectare basis, government revenue from tourism in pro­vincial parks is more than double the revenue from timber harvesting, ac­cording to the report.
The government earned $45.5 million from parks compared with $105.5 million from stumpage fees and all other sources of logging reve­nue. However, only 6.3 million hect­ares or 5.5% of Ontario’s wilderness is dedicated to provincial parks vs 32 million hectares of forest where logging is permitted.
“By ignoring the value of wilder­ness to Ontario’s tourism industry and giving the land to industrial for­estry, we are shortchanging ourselves and defrauding future generations of Ontarians,” White said.
There are almost 20,000 devel­oped campsites in Ontario provincial parks, each generating an average 197 camper nights per year. Each camper night contributes $500 to $1,600 to the province’s economy, the study found.
However, the number of devel­oped campsites has shrunk by about 1,000 during the past decade.
“In simple economic efficiency terms, not to mention social benefits, we should be allocating more land to parks,” White said.
The study notes that tourism con­tributes more to the province’s gross domestic product and employs three and a half times as many people as forestry, “without cutting a single­ tree or polluting a single stream.”
A 1987 study prepared by Woodbridge, Reed and Associates for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources concluded the forest industry has “only a modest impact” on the provincial economy. The study found the forest industry directly and indirectly employs less than 4% of the province’s workforce.
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