Maple Sugar Bush Management and Forest Biodiversity Conservation in Eastern Ontario, Canada
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- Clark, K. & McLeman, R.A. Small-scale Forestry (2012) 11: 263. doi:10.1007/s11842-011-9183-x
As in many parts of the world, rural and forest-dependent communities in Ontario are struggling with a variety of economic and demographic challenges. Ontario government ministries are seeking to enhance rural sustainable development while at the same time maintaining forest habitat and preventing forest biodiversity decline. Commercial maple sugar bushes, which in Eastern Ontario are typically family owned and operated, have the potential to play an important role in biodiversity conservation and habitat protection, while at the same time contributing to sustainable development. Existing research has shown the social and economic benefits of small scale maple sugar bushes, but room remains for greater study of the environmental impacts, particularly in terms of forest biodiversity. In this study, woodlot management practices on twenty-two sugar bushes in Eastern Ontario were compared against established forest biodiversity conservation guidelines, using information obtained through detailed interviews with operators. Sugar bush operators reported the presence of many important habitats on their properties. The interview results show that many standard sugar bush management practices are consistent with biodiversity conservation principles. Operators were found to be receptive to biodiversity conservation ideals, and could enhance their contribution to the provincial government’s official biodiversity strategy with additional guidance, incentives, and formal planning. The findings suggest that through sound management and planning, small scale commercial sugar bush operations generally can be made environmentally sustainable, and become important components in broader rural development strategies.