La forestière  communautaire

Une sylviculture exemplaire chez les membres de la Première nation de Eel Ground Les succès découlant de l'exploitation des terres de la Première nation de Eel Ground et les formations offertes en sylviculture ont créé des possibilités d'emplois à long terme, à la fois sur les terres de la Première nation et à l'extérieur. La qualité de vie des membres de la communauté et de leurs familles en est améliorée. Depuis 1989, la Première nation de Eel Ground a établi des pratiques de sylviculture sur ses terres avec l'aide du Programme forestier des Premières nations et du Programme provincial de création d'emplois. Conjointement avec le Centre d'emploi du Canada et le Service canadien des forêts, plusieurs membres de la Première nation ont été entraînés et ont reçu des certificats dans diverses techniques d'exploitation forestière respectueuses de l'environnement. De nombreuses préoccupations environnementales sont venues en ligne de compte dans la planification de l'exploitation forestière. Par exemple, de larges sections sauvages sont restées tel quel pour permettre aux animaux de traverser la forêt sans obstacles. D'autres sections sont restées intactes autour des sources d'eau potable. Des zones tampons ont été réservées le long des cours d'eau afin de protéger l'habitat des poissons et les plantes médicinales. Une exploitation respectueuse des ressources forestières cadre bien avec la culture et la philosophie des
Premières nations et permet aussi à la communauté d'en profiter. La participation de la Première nation de Eel Ground dans les programmes d'entraînement et d'exploitation forestière et la formation du Comité forestier micmac et malécite soulignent leur dévouement à exploiter la forêt de façon durable.

Success at Eel Ground
Community Based Forestry - A First Nation leading the way.

Stephen Ginnish,
Forestry Officer, Eel Ground First Nation
July 1998

s.gif (348 bytes)ince 1989, Eel Ground First Nation, together with the ever-changing Federal Native Lands Forest Management Programs and Provincial Job Creation Programs, has established silviculture practices on forest land holdings in Eel Ground. Formal training opportunities were created in partnership with Canada Employment Center and Canada Forest Service, which resulted in Native crews acquiring professional certification in a wide assortment of forestry techniques, scalers, trainers, and sawmill operators, just to name a few. The successes enjoyed through rehabilitation of Eel Ground lands and silviculture training have created opportunities for long-term employment both on and off this First Nation, thus enhancing the quality of life and standard of living for community members and their families.

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(photo: Stephen Ginnish)

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"Large uncut areas are left around springs to protect drinking water sources for animal and people..."
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Community Involvement

Natural habitat and environmental concerns have played a big role in forest planning. In Eel Ground's case this was brought about by a community meeting held during the off season in order to gather concerns identified by members who utilize the forest for other reasons. Changes were initiated as a result. Wildlife corridors are left so large game animals can traverse the forest uninterrupted.  Cavity trees remain to provide shelter for nesting birds. Large uncut areas are left around springs to protect drinking water sources for animal and people. Buffer strips are left alongside water courses to protect fish habitat and medicinal plants which grow there, such as muskrat root.

Native medicine has also became an integral part of the Eel Ground Forestry Plan. The community is dependent on the conservation of certain species of plants and trees that are considered undesirable for commercial purposes but, because of their medicinal properties, they have high value to the people of Eel Ground. Teas made from showy mountain ash and speckled alder are known for their beneficial effect on ailments such as colds, and infusions made from the balsam fir, the traditional Christmas tree, are used to treat chest problems. Other plants traditionally used by our elders
for medicinal purposes, such as golden thread (another cold remedy found in black spruce swamps), are protected by only performing management activities in winter when soil damage will be minimal. During this operational season we have started to catalogue medicinal plants within our management area so that we can fully protect these plants through a partnership arrangement with the Fundy Model Forest Partnership and the First Nations.

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"Other programs have been utilized in the development of trails used for walking, hiking, skiing, and snow-shoeing..."
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(photo: Stephen Ginnish)

Economic Revival

As well as being environmentally beneficial, the economic impact has been substantial. The Eel Ground First Nation has purchased a mobile dimension sawmill, planer, dry kiln and truck and is now processing dimension lumber, tongue-and-groove boards for flooring, and value added outdoor furniture from trees salvaged from First Nation Lands. These products have been sold both off-reserve and within the Eel Ground community. This business has also been able to secure outside contracts to produce products from under-utilized species like aspen and tamarack. This has contributed to more long-term employment for community members, thus creating a sense of pride.

It is fact that for every dollar spent at Eel Ground on supervision, four have been spent on forestry site activities. For every dollar coming into Eel Ground, another five was found through other sources like pulpwood and fuelwood contracts, training contracts, etc. Other programs have been utilized in the development of trails used for walking, hiking, skiing, and snow-shoeing, with other major trails being developed to become part of the provincial ski-doo network.

Employment

Employment results have been impressive. By the end of this year, more than 65 individuals from Eel Ground (9 % of total membership) had completed at least one training program, and more than one-third of those took part in additional specialized upgrading sessions as the program progressed. As skills improve, employment opportunities have been increasing in all forestry sectors, resulting in a more self-sufficient operation that is less dependent on government subsidies from Employment Insurance or Social Assistance.

Since the early days of training, supervisory roles began to increase within Eel Ground. A forest development officer and two on-site supervisors manage the crews at Eel Ground. One of these supervisors received his Forest Technician Certificate from the Maritime Forest Ranger School in Fredericton in 1996, and the other graduated from a forest management upgrading course at the Community College in Miramichi. It has been noted that people in the industry have been very willing to give natives a chance once the necessary skills are in place.

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(photo: Stephen Ginnish)

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"A careful holistic management of forest resources is consistent with native culture..."
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The indirect impact of the programs has also been far-reaching. The increased skill levels have resulted in a sense of pride and accomplishment for participants. Band members who have received training pass their knowledge along by training other members within our community. Growing conditions have been improved within forest stands, and road construction has opened up access to the forest resource for forest management and a wide variety of others purposes.

Government Links

During the time between 1989 and 1998, Native Lands Forest Management Programs expended roughly $1,600,000 on forest management on all First Nations lands in the Province of New Brunswick, under a number of programs delivered through the Canadian Forest Service - Natural Resources Canada. These funds have been and still are utilized for: the development, execution and updating of forest management plans; silviculture treatments such as reforestation, pre- and semi-commercial thinning, release cutting and residual removal; and the road construction necessary to provide access for silviculture activities on the 16,000 hectares of reserve land in New Brunswick.

During the 95/96 season the formation of the Micmac Maliseet Forestry Association was established in order to coordinate efforts among the First Nations in New Brunswick to secure future forestry funding and share information and expertise concerning community and natural resources issues. The committee has prepared a draft Native Forestry Program for discussion with the government on the continuation of the Native Lands program and the direction Native Lands Forestry should take in the future. The formation of the Micmac Maliseet alliance has spurred interest of those First Nations who have not yet taken part in the program. They see the impressive result the program has had for Eel Ground in areas such as community empowerment, self- reliance, forest rehabilitation and job creation; therefore, they want to become part of the success story.

Conclusion

A careful holistic management of forest resources is consistent with native culture and is a natural progression from the Native philosophy of caring for the land for the benefit of the community. Eel Ground, through their participation in the forest management and training programs, and by the formation of the Micmac Maliseet Forestry Committee both at the provincial and the community level, have shown their continued commitment to the well being of their community and sustainable forest management. Although Eel Ground land management practices are not necessarily profit-motivated, this First Nation looks forward to a future when they will be able to become more self-sufficient by enjoying what we have accomplished to date and what we will be incurring in the future.