It was unthinkable 10 years ago, but loggers now have their eyes on the most northern commercially viable trees in Iyiyuuschii.

Montreal-based Donohue is reaching out to the end of the treeline with a new forestry road in the Waswanipi territory.

The company wants to start work on a new 94-kilometre logging road this summer. About half will be an upgrade of existing road, but the plans include building a bridge across the Broadback River and 29 km of road built on the other side of the river.

The road will cross virgin Category III land in four Waswanipi traplines close to the Nemaska territory.

“It is the northern-most road in the system of forestry roads that will be built,” said Ginette Lajoie of the Cree Regional Authority. Lajoie said Waswanipi has now almost been encircled by the network of logging roads heading east from the James Bay Highway and another network snaking west from the Route du Nord.

Little information has been provided to the Crees about the new road, except for a small-scale map vaguely outlining its path. Few people in Waswanipi knew anything about the Donohue road when The Nation called.

Andre Dupras, a vice-president at Donohue, said the road will give the company access to 155,000 hectares of forest it wants to cut on the other side of the Broadback.

The company is now in the process of getting approval from the Quebec Environment Ministry. In recent memory, only two roads in Cree land have ever gone to environmental-impact hearings. Both were approved anyway.

Donohue’s road is now before the COMEV committee, whose two Cree representatives are outvoted by two from Quebec and two from Canada COMEV is now deciding whether Donohue will have to do a report on the road’s impacts on the environment and, if so, what questions the company will have to answer.

The Cree representatives, Philip Awashish and Brian Craik, will argue that the company should study the impacts of the road and resulting forestry operations on the Cree way of life, culture and society.

But the government representatives are expected to demand far less. Donohue will probably be asked only to answer technical questions about the road, and nothing about impacts on Cree society.

COMEV’s next meeting is in early May.

Awashish said forestry roads have given non-Natives uncontrolled access to the heart of Cree territory. Crees have lost equipment and other property from their cabins due to theft, something unheard of only years ago.

Awashish also expressed concern about the impact on wildlife from forestry operations, increased vehicle traffic and the resulting noise.

Forestry companies often don’t follow government rules, which adds to the problems, said Awashish. For example, culverts are often not properly installed, which causes major damage to river eco-systems.

“The trappers have become social victims of development. They are not compensated for the loss of use of their trapping territories, nor for the loss of their rights. The impact that clearcutting has had on the life of Crees is a grave major concern.”