Forest management

forestryThe James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) stipulates that forest management plans for the James Bay Territory are to be submitted to the JBACE for its consideration and comments. As early as 1980, the JBACE stressed the importance of multiple forest use: commercial timber harvesting had to take Cree hunting, fishing and trapping activities into consideration. Whereas harvesting areas were expanding northward, no provision was made for consulting the Crees whose traditional pursuits would be disturbed. 

a) Environmental impacts of forest management

Under the JBNQA, forest management plans (FMPs) submitted to the JBACE are exempt from impact assessment and review. Consequently, it is up to the JBACE to review the plans on the basis of environmental and social considerations. However, at the time, the plans barely addressed environmental and social impacts.

In 1986, the Ministère des Forêts entrusted the responsibility for preparing FMPs to the holders of timber supply and forest management agreements (TSFMAs). Four years later, the JBACE pointed out major flaws in this new system: TSFMA holders did not have sufficient knowledge of forest dynamics, wildlife habitats and Cree land use to enable adequate forest management planning. The JBACE asked for the governments’ collaboration in creating a data bank that would shed light on these issues.

In 1996, the Cree Regional Authority (CRA) produced a series of synthesis maps showing the extent of forest disturbance: the surface area logged each year in James Bay had doubled since 1975. In addition, over 60% of the productive forest area of seven Cree traplines had been disturbed. The JBACE called for a moratorium on logging on those traplines. Despite the demonstrated extent of their negative impacts, forestry operations never underwent a genuine impact assessment.

In 1997, the JBACE developed a suite of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management in the James Bay region. The goal was to enhance FMPs by incorporating the interests of Cree trappers and help the JBACE study FMPs for compliance with the environmental and social protection regime. In 1998, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRN) retained 14 of the proposed indicators and instructed TSFMA holders to incorporate them into the FMPs they were preparing.

b) The forestry regime under the “Paix des Braves”

In 2002, the Québec government and the Crees signed the Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between le Gouvernement du Québec and the Crees of Québec (ANRQC), the so-called “Paix des Braves” agreement, which sets out the terms and conditions of an adapted forestry regime for the James Bay Territory. The JBACE informed the signatory parties of its desire to monitor changes in forestry practices, coordinating its action with that of the Cree-Québec Forestry Board, a body established by the ANRQC.

In reviewing the FMPs for 2008-2013, the JBACE noted deficiencies in terms of information on Cree land use and Cree involvement in the plans’ preparation. It noted improvements in 2009, however, when it reviewed the amended FMPs submitted following adjustments to reflect the new allowable cut calculations. For example, several TSFMA holders had put measures in place to harmonize their forestry operations with Cree activities in the bush; in fact, the measures exceeded the requirements of the adapted forestry regime under the ANRQC.

In 2009, the JBACE submitted comments on the bill enacting the Sustainable Forest Development Act, in which it stressed the importance of involving the Crees in the process of transferring responsibility for forest management to the regions. Several of the bill’s provisions, including those pertaining to ecosystem-based management, necessitated amendments to the ANRQC adapted forestry regime before entering into force.

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