CBC NEWS — A First Nation in northwestern Ontario and a local conservation group want a piece of land that extends into Eagle Lake near Dryden removed from future forestry management planning and set aside so it becomes permanently off-limits to logging.

That comes as the company that holds the sustainable forest license for the area that includes Farabout Peninsula says it hasn’t yet determined how much, if any, harvesting it intends to apply to do on the peninsula within the timeframe covered by the next planning period. Work is underway to develop the next forest management plan for the years 2021 to 2031.

Forest management plans effectively dictate how woodland areas in Ontario are managed, including guidelines around logging, development of infrastructure, like roads, as well as sustainability and renewal.

Eagle Lake First Nation Chief Arnold Gardner told CBC News that Farabout is home to breeding grounds for a large number of species, like moose, eagles, and osprey — muskie also reportedly spawn in the area; additionally, the narrow isthmus, or strip of land that connects Farabout Peninsula to the mainland, is home to archeological sites where Indigenous artifacts, like arrowheads and pieces of pottery, were found this past summer.

“It was a very neat find,” Gardner said of the artifacts. “To know, to confirm that our people must have inhabited that area in a big way a long time ago.”

“The historical finding itself, it’s really, really excited our people, our elders, our young people,” he continued. “We’re … thinking that it’s probably an area that was inhabited so if any activity goes on in terms of building a road into that area to log that area, they’ll ruin all the artifacts that are below that certain area.”

The archeological sites on the land bridge are now protected areas, meaning they can’t be disturbed, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, but Gardner said he’s concerned about the overall lack of space where the sites are, and that any future operations, even with buffer zones in place, will still do damage.

“We’re concerned that [they’re] talking about building a road so they can access timber.”

The First Nation is due east from Farabout, across a span of Eagle Lake’s northeast corner; Gardner said the peninsula encompasses Eagle Lake First Nation’s traditional territory.

The general manager of the company that has the forest licence for the area — Dryden Forest Management Company — said the current forest management plan in place doesn’t propose harvesting and none was approved. During the development period for the current plan, which came into effect in 2011, Dave Legg said there were, at one point, proposals for such harvesting but they weren’t pursued.

“They’ve stopped any activity, or even proposed activity, ’cause we were involved,” Gardner said.

Legg said the company analyzes how much of a given area can be harvested sustainably in advance of developing a new management plan. That modelling hasn’t been done yet for the 2021 plan, he said, but acknowledged that the peninsula is currently listed as a potential area for logging.

“We don’t know how much … feasible harvesting operations can or may take place.,” he said, adding that the company considers the forest there “prime or just a bit past its prime from a harvesting perspective.”

Legg said, in terms of the size of the available timber on Farabout, the peninsula represents “roughly one year’s harvest, which could have a big impact on the operation of my company.”

He said the company is aware of the archeological sites on the isthmus, as well as other “values” on Farabout that need to be considered during the current planning process.

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