A partnership involving three First Nations has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to harvest and manage the 11,000-square- kilometre Ogoki Forest.
Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls own the Agoke Development Corporation (ADC), which they established in 2015.
In an announcement Wednesday that described the deal as "historic," the First Nations said ADC now has the right to implement an interim forest management approach in the forest while it negotiates a long-term management license with the MNRF.
The agreement includes the right to harvest and the responsibility for silviculture and road programs.
ADC has been providing fibre for the Longlac sawmill since 2016. According to a news release, it continues in partnership discussions with regional mills and is working on a plan to re-start the sawmill at Nakina.
"I congratulate our Agoke working group and Matawa for working hard throughout the past few years to make this a reality," said Aroland Chief Dorothy Towedo. "With our First Nations taking a leading role in the Ogoki, we will ensure that the right decisions are being made for the future generations."
Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said "Finally, the Ministry has taken action and have heard us. The partnership with Ontario is important and in the spirit of Treaty 9. It moves us in a direction towards reconciliation."
Eabametoong Chief Elizabeth Atlookan also issued a statement, describing the agreement as "a new pathway to prosperity for our youth."
Atlookan said federal and provincial government funding will be needed for training and other support, including additional provincial road funding.