The northwestern Ontario First Nations of Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls have signed a forest tenure agreement on the Ogoki Forest in northwestern Ontario.
The three First Nations say they will play “a leading role in forest governance” toward obtaining a long-term forest license for the Ogoki Forest Management Unit.
The communities want take control of forest management planning, harvesting, road construction, silviculture, environmental monitoring, reporting and also establish forest-based First Nations business ventures.
Located 250 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the Ogoki Forest is considered part of the traditional land of the communities in providing a place to hunt, fish, trap, and provide medicine.
Matawa Economic Development and Four Rivers Environmental Services are providing technical support, coordination and facilitation to assist the communities in the negotiations with the province.
"One of our hopes in forest tenure is minimizing the rate of unemployment and poverty and the significant lack of opportunities within our First Nations,” said Marten Falls First Nation Interim Chief Bruce Achneepineskum in a news release. “The Ogoki Forest provides a real opportunity to access forest resources while managing the land in an environmentally sustainable way that reflects our First Nations principles.”
Chief Elizabeth Atlookan of Eabametoong First Nation said the communities are well positioned to participate in the forest industry’s rebound.
"Ontario’s forestry labour force has decreased dramatically over the last number of years. Many have either retired or moved away out west. As things improve in forestry, there will be an increased demand for a new labour force. Our First Nations are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this new demand.
Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon said the communities must be given a 50/50 share in Crown revenue stemming from all fibre harvested from this management unit. Gagnon said the money would be used to create resource-related business and job opportunities.