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Policy Network Formed at Community Forestry Conference

THUNDERBAY, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 01/28/13 -- First Nations, government and industry representatives, community forest practitioners, NGOs and researchers from across Canada met in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario January 16-18 to build on the startling growth of Canadian community forestry and to develop a national network for analysis and policy engagement. "NORDIK Institute and the Northern Ontario Sustainable Communities Partnership (NOSCP) hosted the more than 150 delegates who came from as far as the Yukon and BC's Haida Gwaii through to the Maritimes," stated Dr. Gayle Broad, Research Director of NORDIK.

"This is a growing movement," said Laketoor,head University professor Dr. Peggy Smith. "There are 58 community forest projects in BC, numerous examples in Quebec, and the new government in Nova Scotia passed legislation in December to enable community forestry. In Ontario and New Brunswick, First Nations and municipalities are asking for community forests that would operate on a regional basis."

Dr. Jesse Ribot, a leading expert on democratic decentralization of natural resource management from the University of Illinois, drew on his experience in Africa and around the world. "The new system in Ontario looks to me like the same kind of fraudulent community participation I see in Africa. It is NOT representative and NOT democratic. For forestry to be truly democratic, significant forestry decisions must be made by people who represent the forest-dependent communities. It matters which decisions are decentralized and it matters that they are made by those whom they affect most."

"Community-based forestry is actually more efficient than conventional industry-based tenures," said economist Dr. David Robinson from Laurentian University. "Community forests mobilize more brains, they do a better job with environmental and social issues, and they generate more wealth from the same land base. No wonder so much of the forest industry resists them."

Representatives from BC talked about how First Nations and others are working together to build a new kind of forestry. "It's tough," said Kaslo Mayor Greg Lay. "We are working with forest land avoided by the large companies and have been successful in providing small, rural communities with increased prosperity."

"The conference discussions were at a high level with respect to issues of our shared history, voice versus authority, Aboriginal rights, and the challenges to cross-culturally managed community forests," said Larry McDermott, a member of the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation. "The conference was dynamic and gave the young people I was associated with a sense of hope and enthusiasm I rarely see."

At the conference Dr. Ryan Bullock launched his new book Community Forestry: Local Values, Conflict and Forest Governance (Cambridge University Press). "People in this room have contributed a lot to my book and to building community forestry in Canada," he said. "My research shows that it is the politicians and the bureaucrats who know the least about what is coming at them. It will be a struggle, but I expect to see a lot of change in the next few years."

Network planning benefitted from the advice of Honduran speaker and director of a national NGO Melvin Cruz. Conference organizers are already determining the next steps for the newly-formed policy network.

Conference presentations and videos will be posted on the NOSCP website:

Dr. Peggy Smith
(807) 346-4704 or 343-8672 or 251-3717 (cell)

Dr. Gayle Broad
(705) 949-2301 ext. 4351

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