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Forest amalgamated into Boundary Waters region

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The Boundary Waters Forest Management Corp has officially taken the reigns of the amalgamated Crosroute-Sapawe Forests.

As of today, April 1, three pieces of the local forestry puzzle fell into place - the former Crossroute and Sapawe Forests Management Units merged into the Boundary Waters Forest Management Unit, the 2020 -2030 Forest Management Plan will received full approval, and the Boundary Waters Forest Management Corp (BWFMC) will take charge of its implementation.

The BWFMC is a for-profit company, comprised of a 12 member board, with equal representation from both industry and municipal and First Nations shareholders. Currently, the Crossroutes Forest Unit - which historically fed the Fort Frances pulp and paper mill until its closure in 2013 - has been licensed to Resolute, with the Sapawe Forest Unit licensed to the Rainy Lake Tribal Resource Management Incorporated.

The creation of the new 18,000 square kilomentre crown forest under the singlular Boundary Waters licence has been many years in the making, said BWFMC President Mike Willick. It grew from discontent over how forests were managed in the past, often with a single corporation being solely responsible for the authorship and implementation of the Forest Management Plan. By diversifying the voices around the table, the forests can be manged to benefit everyone, said Willick.

“It's transparent," he said. "Everyone knows what will be cut and when. What's consumed. Where the roads will be built. Everybody knows the rules.”

Around the table is a for-profit company, of 12 board members, with half coming from forest companies who utilize the forest, including Resolute, Norbord, Manitou Lumber and Nickel lake Lumber. Municipalities, through their economic development agencies and First Nations communities make up the other half.

Together, they decide how best to divide and rebuild forest resources, including where and when cutting takes place, and by who, where and when roads will be built, and all replanting work. They can identify surplus fibre, and have the ability to seek out new businesses to use it effectively, said Willick. All the bills are paid by the forestry companies working in the area, he added.

The model allows them to develop financial efficiencies - the first of which was to amalgamate the forests.

“Developing a Forest Management Plan is extremely expensive. It takes several years and about $1 million for each one. The document alone can fill a wheelbarrow by the time it's done," he said. "It's much more efficient to manage a larger tract of land.”

Outsourcing road construction, tree planting and other jobs to tendered contracts will also add efficiencies. The BWFM corporation itself will only have up to three employees on the payroll, with the rest of the work being tendered, he said.

It's a model that's endorsed by the province, and gaining in popularity, said Willick. Timiskaming and Lac Seul have variations on the program. “More and more are moving this way,” he said.

The public had until March 22 for a final review of the Approved Forest Management Plan Inspection. It was authored by Beau Johnson of Resolute. As the licensee, Resolute was legally obligated to author the document, noted Willick. It has undergone two years of public, First Nation and Metis consultations and engagement to reach its current state. The plan will be posted online for the duration of its 10 year term, along with annual reports, at www.ontario.ca/forestplans.

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