The Grand Council of the Crees says many forestry companies are still not respecting logging guidelines established under the Paix des Braves agreement.

Under the agreement signed with Quebec in February 2002, one per cent of each tallyman’s trapline is protected from cutting. Another 25 per cent of the harvestable land can be identified as wildlife areas. The problem is the forestry companies are still harvesting the land as they did pre-2002.

“The forestry companies do not fully understand the agreement,” said Sam Etapp, the Forestry Coordinator for the Grand Council of the Crees. Etapp also tried to clarify the fact that the forestry companies are still able to harvest their allowable number of trees, but the problem is the new territorial map created by the Paix des Braves. The forestry companies are now limited as to where they can cut.

“Right now, we’re in what they call the transition period,” Etapp explained. That’s because the current five-year management plan – signed before the Paix des Braves agreement – doesn’t expire until 2006.

“So the cutting plans have been approved, but the companies are having all sorts of difficulties maneuvering around the new provision,” Etapp said. “There’s a lot of maneuvering that’s done on both parts, on both sides – the Minister of Natural Resources and with the Grand Council. Each time a red flag is put up somewhere, we go in and try and assess the situation and accommodate both party’s needs, the people in the community and the company. No company has ever been told that they cannot cut 100 per cent where they did before, there’s always accommodations made.”

The tallymen have to designate the one-fourth of their land that needs protecting soon; otherwise the forestry companies will continue to cut wherever they want.

“Most of the time, it’s the company’s that are now submitting modifications from their expecting plans and that has an effect or an impact on the areas that have been designated as wildlife areas where there is supposed to be special or specific cutting plans,” Etapp cautioned.

The forestry companies are aware of the new agreement with Quebec, but they continue to lobby against it in hopes that the old agreement will take precedence over the Paix des Braves. They claim no changes should be made, at least until 2006.

“I certainly could not speak for other forestry companies, but I’ve spoken to our people that are managing the forest for Domtar in that area and they’re assuring me that they are respecting what’s inside the agreement [between the Cree and Quebec],” said Lynda Leith, the manager for external communications at Domtar.

She went on to say that when permits are issued to forestry companies by Quebec to harvest certain areas in the north, the companies are fully aware of the new provisions in the Paix des Braves and they respect that.

The problem with that is not all of Cree territory has been mapped out. The forestry companies could be cutting an endangered area without knowing it because the tallyman has yet to identify the protected areas of his trapline.

“We have our own forestry policy which we follow that specifically states that we will protect the forest, and certainly not harvest into any endangered areas,” said Leith. She went on to add that Domtar has recently become a member of the Canadian Boreal Initiative and supports the protection of boreal forests in Canada.

“We are responsible forest managers and we react accordingly.”