Report of the (Ontario) Royal Commission on Forest Conservation and National Park, Mar. 8, 1983


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[...] The first meeting of the commissioners was held on Friday, the 4th day of November, 1892, for organization and discussion of the methods to be employed in the discharge of their duties. Mr. Kirkwood was elected chairman. A further meeting was held on Friday, the 3rd day of January, 1893, at which this report was considered and adopted. […]

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Location of the Proposed Park

The territory which, in the opinion of the commissioners, is suited for the purposes of a Forest Reservation and National Park is a compact tract of land in the district of Nipissing, south of the Mattawa river and lying between the Ottawa river and Georgian bay, as shown of the map accompanying this report. It is almost a parallelogram in shape consisting as it does of four tiers of four townships each, with two townships on the northwest corner, its greatest depth being from north to south. The townships comprised in this tract are the following:- Peek, Hunter, Devine, Biggar, Wilkes, Canisbay, McLaughlin, Bishop, Osler, Pentland, Sproule, Bower, Freswick, Lister, Preston, Dickson, Anglin and Deacon, eighteen in all. Of these all have been surveyed and subdivided into concessions and lots except Sproule and Preston. Their united area is 983,186 acres, of which 831,793 acres is land and 106,393 acres is water, or 1,300 square miles of the former and 155 square miles of the latter.


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[...] The average length from north to south of the Reservation is about 40 miles, and its breadth from east to west 36 miles.

Deux Rivieres on the Ottawa, some twelve miles distant from its northern limit, is the nearest settlement of any importance, the population in the townships lying between the eastern boundary and the Ottawa, through which the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company runs, being very sparse. Otherwise, for considerable distances on all sides of the Park, north, south, east and west, there is almost no settlement at all, though a few hardy pioneers have pushed far up the Hastings and Opeongo roads, whose northern extremities approach the southern confines of the proposed Reserve.

The Timber of the Park.

This tract forms part of the great forest which once covered the whole of Ontario, and which in this part of the Province consisted of a variety of trees, including the white and red pine, hemlock, tamarack, balsam, cedar, birch, maple, beech, ironwood, ash and basswood. Forest fires and the operations of lumbermen have greatly diminished the quantity of pine, but extensive areas are still well stocked with this valuable timber, and for many years may be expected to send large quantities of it to market. […]

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The Tract a Suitable One.


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[...] It comprises within its limits a large part of the watershed which divides the streams flowing into the Ottawa river from those which empty into Georgian bay, and the preservation of the forest upon this elevated tract of land essential to the maintenance of these important streams in full flow. The interests of the lumberman who annually floats large quantities of timber to market down their waters, of the manufacturer for whose mill-wheels they supply the motive power, and of the farmer to whom a continuous supply of water in spring well and stream, is an absolute necessity, all require that provision be made to keep the hills and high lands of this plateau covered with a heavy forest growth.


Rights of the Timber Licensees.

It is true that the whole of the territory within the proposed Reservation is covered by licenses to cut timber. The rights of the holders of such licenses must of course be fully respected, and there is nothing in the scheme proposed which in the opinion of the commissioners will infringe upon these rights. Part of the territory in question was included in the timber sale of 1892, which conveyed the right to cut the pine timber only, and while as to other portions of the district licensees are not at present prohibited from cutting other kinds of timber, as a matter of fact the chief if not the only object of the lumberman’s quest is pine, which is the only timber found within the Park possessing any considerable commercial value, or which can be floated to market in the usual way. Though the money value of these forests consists almost entirely in the pine, the other species of trees are so numerous and grow so thriftily there that

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even were the pine wholly removed the utility of the forests in their climatic, water-maintaining and other aspects would probably not be impaired.


The prohibition of settlement will also be in keeping with the lumbermen’s views, as the presence of squatters and others in a pine district is, as a rule, regarded by them as a fruitful source of trouble and danger.

As indicative of the attitude which license-holders may be expected to take, the commissioners may say that they have received a letter from Messrs, McLachlin Bros., lumbermen, of Arnprior, who are owners of extensive timber limits in the vicinity of the proposed Rerservation, and who have requested that the boundaries of the Park be so arranged as to take in a number of townships, over some of which they hold the right to cut. […]

No Vested Interests In The Way.

The wisdom of the policy by which the Crown while disposing of the timber retains the ownership of the soil upon which it grows is made strikingly manifest when considering the question in hand. The land belongs wholly to the Crown, and as a consequence there are no vested or private interests in it to be bought up or dealt with.

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In the opinion of the commissioners more advantageous circumstances under which to take action of the kind contemplated could not exist. The land is entirely public land; there are no settlers upon it, except one or two squatters; no rights, ‘whether fishing, hunting, or anything of the kind, have been granted; in fact, with the exception of the lumbering operations which have removed a large portion of the pine, and the fires which have swept over considerable parts of it, nothing has been done to change its condition from that of the untouched primeval forest. Should action be longer delayed, irreparable damage may be done by forest fires, or the extension of settlement may root within the soil a host of vested interest troublesome to deal with and costly to extinguish. […]

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Ends To Be Attained By The Reservation.

In their consideration of the ends to be attained by the establishment of the Reservation and Park the commissioners have enumerated six [...]

1. The preservation of the streams, lakes and water-courses in the Park, and especially of the head waters of those rivers which have their sources therein. […]

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Preservation Of A Primeval Forest.

2. The maintenance of the Park in a state of nature as far as possible, having regard to existing interests ; and the preservation of native forests therein and of their indigenous woods as nearly as practicable. […]

Protection of Birds and Animals.

3. To protect the fish, insectivorous and other birds, game and fur-bearing animals therein, and to encourage their growth and increase. […]

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A Field For Experiments In Forestry.

4. To provide a field for experiments in and practice of systematic forestry upon a limited scale. […]

A Place Of Health Resort.

5. To serve as a sanitarium or place of health resort.

The inhabitants of Ontario have been often recommended, instead of visiting for the purposes of health or recreation the various summer resorts of other countries, to try a season in their own, and find whether in northern Ontario an air cannot be found more pure and more invigorating than in either Europe or the States.

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This large Reservation, with its succession of hill and valley, lake and river, its vast surfaces of level and of rolling ground, its groves of balsam and cedar, its forests of pine and hardwood, will be eminently capable, when certain by no means expensive improvements are effected, of affording the citizen, tired of close-packed houses and of crowded streets, the means of passing summers surrounded by every pleasure which varied scenery can afford, amid the perfect response of a district almost uninhabited by man.

The idea appears to be well founded that pine forests are of specific value in the cure of lung disease. The old Romans sent patients with ulcerated lungs to Libra, where, by breathing the balsamic emanations of the pine with which the country abounded, they are said to have lived many years freed from their complaints. In the Adirondack Forest of New York State a cottage sanitarium has been erected, with the special object of the relief of patients in the early stages of consumption. It offers to such the benefit of climactic treatment, a systematic out-door life, hygienic habits and suitable medical treatment, and its reports show that twenty-five per cent. of the patients are apparently cured ; while twenty-five or thirty per cent. more are sufficiently restored in health to resume their work or support themselves by their own efforts while living in a suitable climate. There can be little doubt that a sojourn in the pine forests of this Nipissing upland, with its pure air, good water and aromatic breezes, would be beneficial to many afflicted with weak lungs. […]

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6. To secure the benefits which the retention of a large block of forest would confer upon the climate and watercourses of the surrounding portion of the Province.

The injurious result of the decrease of the volume of water in rivers and streams on the districts through which they flow has been remarked upon already. The manner in which the forests preserve these watercourses is laid down in all scientific works on forestry as follows : The bed of the forest, being of a deep and spongy consistence, composed partly of humus, partly of decaying logs and branches, holds for a time vast quantities of rain or melted snow, gradually parting with it to the creeks or streams which flow through or by the forest. This moisture, had there been no forest near the watercourses, would have suddenly filled their beds, the water then passing rapidly away, and leaving the streams at other seasons dry or shallow.

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Maintenance, Protection and Cost.

[…] Concerning the maintenance and protection of the Park and the cost of the same, the commissioners are of opinion that, for the purpose of preserving the timber, preventing poaching, protecting game and excluding trespassers, a staff of say five rangers, one of whom should be chief or supervising ranger, would be required. The under-rangers could probably be obtained at the rate of $1.50 per day ; the chief ranger should possess some knowledge of and experience in forestry, and should be paid at a higher rate, say $2.50 per day.


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Hardwood and Young Pine Trees Should be Preserved.

The commissioners would recommend to the Government that they should withdraw from the operation of timber licenses all the timber within the Park but the pine, and that they should prohibit the cutting of any pine under twelve inches in diameter.

When this system was once in operation, the lumberman would rather gain than lose.

When hardwood is fully mature, it should be cut; trees of younger growth should at that time be ready to replace it. It might then be as well cut by the lumberman, he receiving permission to do so, as by any one else; and it is a loss to him or to any one to cut it before that time. Of course this permission would depend on whether for Park purposes these trees were still required; but there should after a time be many such to spare yearly. […]

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Erection of Summer Residences.

If permission to erect buildings were granted, it might be made a condition that such permission gave no privilege of occupancy beyond a certain short term. This would tend to prevent the erection of buildings of a more solid character than the ordinary cheap and easily removable structures which are found to answer all purposes of temporary residence.

The Name of the Proposed Park.

The commissioners suggest that the name of the Reservation be The Algonquin Park, in this way perpetuating the memory of one of the greatest Indian nations that has inhabited the North American continent.

At the time of the discovery of America the Algonquin Indians were lords of the greater part of what was formerly known as Canada, and principally inhabited the great basins of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. After their defeat in the St Lawrence valley by the Iroquois they abandoned that valley and joined their kindred north and west. [...]

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In the opinion of the commissioners it is fitting that the name of a once great and powerful people, who in their savage manner held sway over this territory centuries ago, should bequeath their name to a part of it which is now proposed to maintain, as nearly as possible, in the condition in which it was when they fished in its waters and hunted and fought in its forests. […]


Source: York University Libraries, Scott Library, SD 568 O5 O565, Ontario Royal Commission on Forest Reservation and National Park, "Report of the Royal Commission on Forest Reservation and National Park," 1893, 9-40. Notes: The Report was submitted to the government on March 8, 1893

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