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"This blockade started for two main reasons", said Vice Chief Gladue. "The first is that grassroots people feel that we are not in touch with their concerns. This is a message that concerns the Chiefs greatly and is something that we will work hard at changing."
"The second cause of this blockade is that there are some very serious concerns of local residents regarding employment, environmental, and economic issues. As a Tribal Council, along with our corporate partners of Mistik and NorSask, we have the keen desire for the forest to exist in perpetuity and for there to be employment opportunities for local residents. We already have plans in place to deal with these concerns and part of the problem is that we have some of the most innovative and exciting forest management approaches anywhere being practised and we have to get information to the grassroots people" added Gladue.
"We think that it's important for people to know that the companies:"
* Utilize relatively small patch cuts as opposed to large scale clear cuts.
* Harvest only 1/2% of the land base in a given year.
* Plant approximately 2 million trees a year.
* Utilize a combination of harvesting methods including line skidders and mechanical harvesting, and even horses it the more sensitive areas.
Gladue also added "when the blockade started, the Elders at the blockade said that they had four main concerns: (1) clean cutting; (2) mechanical harvesting; (3) employment opportunities; and, (4) compensation. We met with the Elders and drafted an understanding of Good Faith with them to ensure that it adequately reflected their concerns. The main focus for addressing their concerns--and in fact of all local people--is to establish co-management boards which would give local people far greater direct say into the forest management practices in their local area.
"We shared the wisdom of the Elders at the blockade with Elders from all nine Meadow Lake First Nations and they adopted it as the basis for signing a Tribal Council Understanding of Good Faith. We now have agreement from close to 50 Elders and from the Chiefs that we should proceed with the establishment of local co-management boards. It is clear that local people want to speak with their own voices and not have someone else speaking for them", continued Gladue.
"When, however, we got the Contractual Agreement that we are being asked to sign, we were shocked. Instead of dealing only with the concerns the Elders had expressed to us, they have now added new ones. These include shutting down both the saw mill and pulp mill until a complete environmental impact study is completed. This would take at least two years to complete and would put close to 500 people from the area out of work, many of whom are Aborginal. The companies are currently completing an Environmental Impact Assessment in accordance with the law which has to be completed by 1994.
"They do not wish to see the establishment of local co-management boards but rather one large one for the whole Forest Management License Agreement (FMLA). They do not not want to see any people duly elected to represent their people involved anywhere in the process. They would like the FMLA signed over to them and thereby totally exclude the companies' input and involvement.
"The other communities in the north are excited about the co-management process and are ready to proceed. We will he investing our time now in the establishment of these boards as the arena where we will try to combine traditional knowledge and land use values with modern science and technology in arriving at a truly integrated forest management practice", finished Gladue.