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PHOTOS: Cree Struggle to Save the Broadback Forest Goes Global

by Nicolas Mainville

September 16, 2015

A Canadian indigenous community's fight to save its ancestral land from predatory logging is gaining steam.

Mandy Gull in Clearcut Cut Area of Broadback Valley

Mandy Gull, Deputy-Chief of the Waswanipi Cree First Nation, stands in a clear cut area on her Nation's land.

© Greenpeace

This article was originally published by Greenpeace Canada on September 15, 2015. 

One of the last intact forests in Quebec has been making headlines recently. The credit for this goes to the Cree Nation of Waswanipi, located close to James Bay, who have vowed to fight against all forestry companies wanting to log inside the pristine forests of their ancestral lands.

The Cree Nation ancestral land in Quebec has been heavily impacted by the logging industry. At this point, 90 percent of the Waswanipi Cree land has been either logged or fragmented. Since 2002, logging companies have extracted more than 40 million cubic meters of wood from Cree land. As you can imagine, the last remaining 10 percent of forest that is still pristine is extremely valuable.

While Quebec and the federal government are teaming up with the logging industry on marketing campaigns to clean up their image in Canada, the Waswanipi Cree have sounded the alarm. The community is stepping up to tell its story to national and international journalists about what it would mean if forestry companies were to log inside the remaining pristine forest. The stories were told through a media expedition in late August, led by the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi and assisted by Greenpeace. The expedition allowed journalists to see for themselves the destruction already happening in neighboring areas.

Cree Alarm Echoes Throughout the World: The Broadback Forest Is Not for Sale

Last week, Agence France Presse released an article that appeared in the media all over the world: “Native tribe fights to save Boreal forest in Quebec.” Just before that, the Montreal Gazette published two articles on the importance of protecting the Broadback Valley for the Waswanipi Cree, but also for global biodiversity and climate. The previous week, independent news site Ricochet launched a series of three articles on the Cree’s determination to protect their land.

If there is one thing to take away from the Waswanipi Cree, it’s that they won’t back down and are prepared to defend their ancestral land no matter what the cost. With the full support of their Chief, Band Council and the trappers of Waswanipi, Vice-Chief Mandy Gull, Master Trapper Don Saganash and many others who guided the expedition, the message was crystal clear: the Broadback is not for sale!

Their message is even more poignant when you realize that our federal and provincial ministers are bending over backwards to sell the Quebec logging industry on an international scale. While neither Greenpeace nor the Cree First Nation are against logging in general, in this case it’s necessary to remind various levels of government that the industry cannot simply exploit the land indiscriminately and that these last intact areas deserve to be protected.

Pristine Wilderness

When looking at the beauty of an untouched forest that has never been subject to human interference, you can only but be moved by it all. For hundreds of kilometers, there’s not a road, not a clearcut, not a mine, not a power line, not a pipeline in sight — just pure wilderness. Housing calving grounds for the woodland caribou and the last refuge of several other endangered species, the Broadback Valley is a perfect spot for a Cree heritage park. Looking at the deep attachment the Waswanipi Crees have toward their land and their determination to protect it, I still remain hopeful.

Now is the time for the Quebec government to respect its commitment and create a large protected area in the Broadback Valley. Let’s stand together with this brave community to save these last intact areas, before they’re gone forever.

View more photos from Cree land in the Broadback Valley:

By Nicolas Mainville

Nicolas Mainville is a forests campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.

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