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OFAH calls on Premier Ford to rescind ban on Crown land camping and to address boat launch closures

The OFAH has sent a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking the provincial government to rescind its decision to close Crown land camping. Please read the full letter below.

Dear Premier Ford:

Subject: Fishing and hunting during the current stay-at-home order

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) is Ontario’s largest, non-profit, fish and wildlife conservation-based organization, representing 100,000 members, subscribers and supporters, and 725 member clubs. We are writing to reiterate our previously expressed concerns about how pandemic response measures are impacting the people of Ontario.

The OFAH acknowledges the need for unprecedented measures to safeguard public health from the threat of COVID-19, but we also know that outdoor activities are extremely important right now. This is especially true for nature-based outdoor activities like fishing and hunting that can be done within public health guidelines while providing essential social, physical, and mental health benefits. Like all Ontarians, anglers and hunters are understandably anxious to return to the outdoors.

We appreciate the government’s approach of allowing spring fishing and hunting seasons to remain open, but many anglers (and some hunters) will not be able to participate because of access closures and prohibitions on Crown land camping. We request that you reopen Crown land camping and provincial park campsites, and encourage conservation authorities, municipalities, and other land authorities to reopen access for the purpose of outdoor recreation.

Backcountry camping, whether on Crown land or in provincial parks, is an important part of spring fishing, particularly in central and northern Ontario. Camping, especially where it does not involve communal amenities, can be a safe activity that is completely compatible with public health guidelines. Camping on public lands is synonymous with outdoor recreation for many residents of northern and rural Ontario. This is the safe spring outdoor escape that many people need right now to help with the increasingly heavy burden of a lingering pandemic.

We are not asking for special treatment for fishing and hunting, but rather recognition that these activities are a part of the solution, not the problem. The Government of Ontario has recognized that other outdoor recreation, such as parks and recreational areas, playgrounds, and off-leash dog parks can remain open as long as two metres of physical distancing can be maintained. These requirements and other public health guidelines can certainly be achieved during Crown land camping, at public boat launches, and through other fishing and hunting activities.

We are confident that anglers and hunters, armed with proper guidance from public health officials and more than a year’s worth of experience putting it into practice, can continue to participate in a manner that does not jeopardize the progress we have made against COVID-19 and within the bounds of the current stay-at-home order (e.g. restrictions on gatherings, regional travel, etc.). This has been demonstrated throughout the pandemic so far.

Thank you in advance for considering our request to remove the prohibitions on Crown land camping and backcountry campsites in provincial parks, as well as the need to provide clarification that boat launches and other public access points should remain open during the current stay-at-home order to facilitate safe outdoor recreational opportunities.

Yours in Conservation,

Angelo Lombardo

OFAH, Executive Director

cc:

Honourable Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation andParks

Honourable John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

OFAH Board of Directors

Matt DeMille, OFAH Manager, Fish & Wildlife Services

Mark Ryckman, OFAH Manager, Policy

OFAH Fish & Wildlife Staff

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