Grassy Narrows band and council in partnership with two other area First Nations are considering a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposal to take an active role in forest management planning and operations in the Whiskey Jack Forest.
Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister met Monday, March 21, with representatives from Wabauskang and Whitefish Bay First Nations to discuss the possibility of the bands assuming responsibility for the Sustainable Forestry Licence.
“The Minister (Bill Mauro) has offered to put a new forest management regime in place for the Whiskey Jack Forest and a new forest management licence will be given over to the new management group to take on the SFL,” Chief Fobister explained in a telephone interview. “We would be the forest managers and I think we would make good forest management planners.”
He noted the invitation followed two years of negotiations with the ministry.
Grassy Narrows has long sought an end to clear cut logging on its traditional land use area within the Whiskey Jack Forest. The band has denied logging companies access to timber harvest areas in its traditional area for more than a decade. In 2014, the band’s request for an environmental assessment of the 10-year management plan for the Whiskey Jack Forest was rejected by the Ontario Court of Appeal, the same year the Supreme Court declined to hear the band’s challenge regarding federal jurisdiction over the province’s forest resource.
While the legal challenges failed to go in the community’s favour, its stand on clearcutting appears to have made an impression.
“We would implement our Anishinabe values in forest management planning,” Chief Fobister said. “The result would look different than the clear cuts of the past 100 years without loss of habitat or respect for the land,”
He noted a decision on the management proposal may be years away as it will be presented for consultation to the three member First Nations as well as stakeholders including neighbouring communities and forestry companies.
Comment from Minister Mauro’s office was not available at press time.