Community control basis for prosperity

September 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

The world’s seven billion people live on the 30% of the planet’s surface not covered by water, over half living in the relatively small fraction devoted to urban development, cities.  All are dependent on the far greater proportion of land producing the basic elements of life, food  water and air. Millions around the world lack adequate potable water needed for drinking, cooking and food production. In particular, water is basic for hygienic purposes without which millions die annually from a variety of  water-related diseases as well as starvation.

Food production world-wide depends on adequate moisture. Standing trees direct a proportion of precipitation into aquifers acting as reservoirs to be released as regulated flows of water to surface features, wetlands, creeks, rivers and lakes as well as providing  for irrigation, enhancing yields of agricultural products.  One outstanding example has been the Great Green Wall of Africa as noted in earlier articles. 

The primary purpose for planting drought-resistant Acacia species south of the Sahara Desert across the continent is to limit the expansion of desert conditions. While the primary intent is to limit encroachment of sand dunes, the greater advantage has been rehabilitation of moisture balance regionally, supporting crop productivity and minimizing poverty levels for farmers.

The bottom line is land. Mankind faces problems of inadequate supply of life’s essential elements with which he is unable to deal with directly. However, by working in close relation with nature it is possible to manipulate management of vegetative cover to provide essential services for humanity, i.e. influence climate change while providing adequate ground water, the basic element of agriculture.

There are many examples globally where abuse of quality and  availability of resources needed for human survival has resulted in poverty and starvation.  A recent TVO documentary focused on the Colorado River, where excessive withdrawal of water has meant loss of flow to the extent that the lower reaches, once deep enough for ships are now not even suitable for walking.  Conversion of Ontario’s Oak Ridges to agriculture resulted in flooding and drought conditions.

Another documentary highlighted highly successful water conservation policies in Missouri supporting wildlife rehabilitation. Ecological efforts have converted the Oak Ridges Moraine into prosperous and productive land use. Here the biggest factor has been  rebuilding of vegetation cover on over 300,000 acres, re-establishing groundwater balance for agricultural and residential purposes. Key to success has been municipal ownership of abandoned marginal land, reverted to public ownership for non-payment of taxes. Provincial policies supported rehabilitation efforts.

Much of Ontario consists of crown lands.  Provincially controlled management has consisted of issuing licenses for tree cutting rights to forest industries. Crown dues are charged for products removed from the land contributing to provincial coffers. Profits accruing to harvesting companies were centered in the industrial south. Local communities benefited from forest employment which during my lifetime diminished from many thousands of manual labourers to mechanized harvesting requiring few workers. Reforestation at one time involved the production and planting of over 35 million seedlings, a program cancelled by the provincial government to save costs 15 years ago.

Efforts were made to change resource development to benefit local residents i.e. community forestry. A primary example was seen in a visit to Menominee Forest in Wisconsin, where the aboriginal community had successfully managed ten townships of forest deeded to them by Congress. Remuneration from harvesting had paid for community infrastructure yet stand functions remain as effective today as they did over the past 200 years,

Stewardship of land is basic to supplying the basic resources needed for human life. Management of cover enables us to work closely with nature to maintain the world’s productivity as exemplified by the management of the Oak Ridges Moraine but the key to success has been the cooperation between local land control and provincial support policies. 

This prime example must be extended to watersheds around the province with local control in management of resources on crown lands adjacent to communities.


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