By Jamie Mountain
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
BEAR ISLAND- In an effort to expand its forestry operations, Daki Menan Lands and Resources Corporation is receiving FedNor funding of $209,500.
The investment will allow the social enterprise, which is controlled by Temagami First Nation (TFN) on Bear Island, to enhance forestry management, increase firewood production and construct a small, portable sawmill.
Corporation president Robin Koistinen explained that TFN had developed a forest strategy about 17 years ago and included in the strategy was the idea to form a corporation.
“It kind of sat dormant for a little while but over the last seven years we’ve picked up that strategy, including dusting off the articles of the
incorporation to begin really starting to implement the good work that had been laid out in that strategy,” she noted during a virtual announcement of the funding on February 11.
“The strategy, while now a bit dated, had good vision. In that strategy was a small sawmill, so we are pleased today to receive this funding to assist in reaching that vision.”
Koistinen said that in addition to working on the forest strategy, the corporation has had other partners assist it in implementing the strategy.
She explained that the corporation has partnered with the Outland Group, which runs junior ranger camps throughout Northwestern Ontario, and over the last three years they’ve run a First Nation junior rangers camp together at the Esker Lakes Provincial Park in Kirkland Lake.
“This is, too, about preparing our youth for land-based employment,” said Koistinen.
“We’ve also been running training programs on Bear Island, including chainsaw and brush cutting, as well as mentorships from time to time to spend some time with our climate change group to introduce them about how to go out and do land-based monitoring.”
Koistinen stressed that the project is about “creating opportunities and employment” for Indigenous youth.
“Our strategy is near completion,” she said.
“We will need to soon develop a renewed forest strategy and we will need the youth to become active participants in developing that new strategy.”
Koistinen thanked all of the partners, including FedNor, the Indigenous Forestry Initiative and Temagami First Nation, for assisting the Daki Menan Lands and Resources Corporation in making the sawmill project a reality.
“In First Nations we’re really trying to build opportunities for our youth and I think this is a step forward in that direction,”
Corporation general manager Jeff Barton detailed the expected outcomes of the new sawmill for Temagami First Nation and the region.
Barton explained that the overarching part of the vision for the project is to build some capacity within Temagami First Nation in the forestry sector to allow them to become a more meaningful part of the sector in the area.
“So this assistance from FedNor really helps us take another step to do
that,” he noted.
“This project starts to tie some of the initiatives that we’ve dabbled in, or taken some very preliminary steps in over the last few years, but it ties them together and allows us to use some of our harvesting and timber-receiving opportunities into a small processing facility.”
Barton noted that the sawmill will be set-up just south of Temagami likely within the next few months.
“So hopefully in the next few months you’ll see the building come together and the equipment being onsite and for us to start producing some of the materials,” he said.
Barton said the project will allow the corporation to serve the local markets as well as some of the Southern Ontario industrial markets.
Of note, it “also will help us use our own products and our own person power to contribute to projects right on Bear Island,” he said.
“We’re also planning to develop some capacity in terms of forest renewal operations in the area and within Daki Menan, the traditional homelands of Temagami First Nation.”
Barton explained the forest renewal operations would include “tree planting, cone collection and the thinning of stands already established in the area.
“We’re hoping as soon as spring comes we’ll be seeing trees going into the ground on some of the sites that are planned for regeneration,” he said.
Barton said the corporation expects to create six to eight jobs through the project.
And probably even more importantly than the job numbers, he says, “is the fact that we’ll start to develop some experience and exposure to the forestry sector with the hopes and aspirations that some of these individuals will stay in the forestry community and may take a further step in the future to pursue permanent employment and/or forestry education to become a long-term part of the sector.”
Jamie Mountain is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Temiskaming Speaker. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.