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Indigenous, industry partnership handed control of northwestern Ontario Crown forest

Ogwiidachiwaning Sustainable Forest Management given licence for Kenogami Forest
Kenogami Forest 2

Management of a Crown forest near Geraldton in northwestern Ontario is under the control of an Indigenous and forestry industry partnership company.

Ogwiidachiwaning Sustainable Forest Management Inc. (OSFMI), a new company overseeing the Kenogami Forestry, has been handed a provincially-issued Enhanced Sustainable Forest Licence.

It's the fourth such licence to be issued under a forest tenure business model developed years ago by the provincial government that allows for direct First Nations participation in the management of Crown forests.

The licence is good for 20 years and allows the holder to harvest and use wood along with being given the responsibilities for forest management and planning.

The 1,939,000-hectare Crown forest is situated near the communities of Geraldton, Nakina, Longlac, Schreiber and Terrace Bay, along with several First Nation communities including Pays Plat, Ginoogaming, Long Lake No. 58 and Aroland. Other indigenous communities in the region also have traditional territorial claims.

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The Kenogami partially feeds AV Terrace Bay Inc.’s pulp mill plus other sawmills in the area.

“As First Nations people our future and livelihoods are intricately tied to the forests," said Theresa Nelson, OSFMI president and chief of the Animbigoo Zaagii igan Anishinaabek First Nation, in a news release.

"By working together our First Nations have made accomplishments, and by working with the forest companies we will all benefit in the long run."

OSFMI members include Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek, Aroland First Nation, Long Lake 58 First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation, Red Rock Indian Band, AV Terrace Bay Inc., Columbia Forest Products Ltd. and Lecours Lumber Co. Ltd.

The first such enhanced licence was issued to Ondaadiziwin Forest Management to run the Lac Seul First Nation in March 2018. The next went to Westwind Forest Management to manage the French‐Severn Forest in October 2019. The Boundary Waters Forest Management Corp. received the third for the Crossroute Forest in June 2020, which was later amended to include the Sapawe Forest.

"Trust and respect have been the guiding principles in our engagement with our First Nation partners," said AV Group Canada CEO Mike O'Blenis. "We could not have arrived at this collective achievement otherwise".

"The first pillar of our government’s forest sector strategy includes a commitment that economic benefits from forestry will create opportunities for Indigenous communities and businesses,” said Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford.

"This new company will help realize the tremendous potential in Ontario’s forests and support economic prosperity in neighbouring Indigenous communities.”

The Kenogami was created in 1997 by amalgamating the former Geraldton Company Management Unit with the Longlac Forest, Nakina Forest and a portion of the Onaman Crown Management Unit. Forest harvesting has been occurring in this area for 70 years.