The Manitoba government has signed a forestry option licence with a group of four First Nations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to explore Indigenous-led forest development, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires announced on February 28.
“This licence is a first-of-its-kind forestry development agreement in Manitoba between the provincial government and Indigenous governments,” Squires said. “This agreement has the potential to renew the area’s Crown forest and pursue economic development opportunities while adhering to our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable forest management.”
The province signed a two-year forest management option licence with Black River First Nation, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Hollow Water First Nation and Sagkeeng First Nation. The consortium will investigate options such as:
• determining wood supply and suitability for commercial forestry;
• pursuing private partnerships and investment for commercial developments;
• preparing a proposal for an Indigenous-owned and operated company to manage, develop, harvest and renew the area’s forest; and
• making an application for a long-term forest management licence as well as supporting greater participation by Indigenous communities in economic development and sustainable management of the province’s natural resources.
“With this forest management licence, we can finally realize the dream we have been working on all these years,” said Chief Sheldon Kent, Black River First Nation. “It will still take time, energy and capital, but we are ready. It is a win-win for everyone including all the communities and stakeholders involved in this project.”
The Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM) has been working with the First Nations on this initiative for three years,” said Edmond LaBossière, chair, CDEM. “We are pleased to support this historic partnership and promote the economic development of a region in which the First Nations are providing outstanding leadership.”
This option licence represents over 5,000 sq. km. of land on the east side of Lake Winnipeg and northeast of the Winnipeg River, which has been without commercial forestry activity since the closure of the Tembec Industries mill in Pine Falls in 2009. It’s expected the First Nation consortium will pursue private partnerships and investment for commercial development in the area, Squires said. The province will have an opportunity to consider value for money when a business plan and forest development proposal are submitted by the four First Nations within the two-year licence period.
“Our government is committed to meaningful and respectful partnerships with First Nations communities across the province,” said Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke. “This agreement represents greater participation by Indigenous communities in economic development in the province and in the sustainable management of our natural resources. I’d like to acknowledge the work the four First Nation communities have done to get this agreement finalized and look forward to the positive outcomes that will emerge as a result.”