The Grand Council of the Crees

The Grand Council of the Crees Responds to Controversy on Burnt Wood

The Grand Council of the Crees Responds to Controversy on Burnt Wood

Posted: 2005-10-05

Nemaska, Eeyou Istchee. The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) wishes to address the controversy related to perceived delays with forest management planning in connection to this summer's forest fires. There have been several inaccurate accounts regarding how these events unfolded this past summer, much of which stems from a September 27, 2005 press release by the Coalition for the Survival of Chibougamau and Chapais.

In the press release, the Coalition claims that no permits have been granted to salvage burnt wood found in Eeyou Istchee. We wish to inform the residents of the Territory and members of the Coalition that the Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife (MNRW) has issued two permits that authorize salvage operations. The first one was granted on September 13, 2005 and the second was granted on September 26, 2005. For the benefit of everyone involved, the Crees recommended sending these plans to the Minister for approval on September 9, 2005. To suggest that the Crees are blocking or delaying these activities is incorrect.

In total, the Crees and their MNRW counterparts recommended to the Minister to allow over 700 000 cubic meters of burnt wood to be harvested in the next seven months. In the coming weeks, the Crees and the MNRW will review and assess plans for a further 5 fires that will most likely result in similar amounts of burnt wood to be recovered.

Although the Grand Council of the Crees sympathizes with those anxious to access these burned areas, it must also be recognized that the surface area and the amount of wood involved is significant. According to the spirit and intent of the Adapted Forestry Regime of the Paix des Braves Agreement, planning on this scale cannot be done irresponsibly in a free-for-all fashion.

We have a duty to our Tallymen and trappers to ensure that their traplines are protected even during these salvage operations. The forestry companies must realize the Cree hunters do not view forest fires as simply lost economic opportunity. They often view these fires as an opportunity for habitat restoration. The last thing they want to see is expansive salvage clear-cuts said Grand Chief Matthew Mukash.

Accordingly, the Crees and the MNRW have taken a very cautious approach to their work. Particularly in light of the Law 71 and the recommendation of the Coulombe Commission to significantly reduce the Annual Allowable Cut to offset years of over harvesting in the Territory.

With respect to these reductions and the progress of the salvage operations, the Grand Council of the Crees finds it unfortunate that the Coalition for the Survival of Chibougamou and Chapais has opted to lash out at the Crees, given the Grand Council's earlier offer to support their efforts to have the wood supply redistributed from areas outside of the region to offset the impacts of Coulombe.

The majority of large fires this past summer occurred in Lac St. Jean. There were over 7 million cubic meters of burnt wood available in this region. As early as June, the Grand Council had suggested, as per the Coalition's previous lobby efforts, to have some of these supplies transferred to Chapais and Chibougaumau mills, only to be told that there was no interest in this proposal. It is disappointing that the Coalition chose to abandon this strategy and the support of the Crees.

In response, Bill Namagoose, Executive Director of the Grand Council of the Crees, said: "the Coalition should be aware that our Forestry Engineer, Robert Beaulieu who has given the Crees 15 years of loyal service, is part of a team that takes its directions from the Grand Council of the Crees. Any attack on him, this team or its work is an affront to the decisions made by the elected Council/Board." Mr. Namagoose was making reference to a story run in La Sentinelle newspaper on September 28, 2005 that erroneously reported that Mr.Beaulieu was a hired consultant misleading the Crees.

In its final report, the Coulombe Commission suggested that there may be a link between global warming and an increase in the frequency of forest fires and advised on a precautionary approach to natural disasters. Since the Paix des Braves Agreement was signed in 2002, there have been two significant events related to fire. For this reason the Grand Council of the Crees will continue working with the MNRW to develop sound management strategies that respond to the needs of the Crees and maintain the integrity of the Paix des Braves Agreement.