Course:FRST370/The Opportunity for Indigenous Community Forestry in Manitoba, Canada

From UBC Wiki


In Manitoba, Canada, expanding indigenous community forestry could one day be a framework for inclusive and equitable forest management in the province and beyond. 63 indigenous communities live in Manitoba’s forested areas and have long-standing traditions linked to the land.[1] The large indigenous communities in Manitoba’s boreal forests, paired with the unused timber allocations have created a demand for indigenous involvement in these forest areas. This case study will examine specific local cases of the expansion of community forestry in Manitoba to highlight stakeholders, governance systems, land use management, as well as the partnerships formed between the Manitoba Indigenous communities and forestry companies. Community forestry is an evolving field. With collaborative indigenous community forestry the forests of Manitoba can be managed for productivity, sustainability, and benefit for all residents of the land.


Boreal Forest Near Thompson, Manitoba.

As of 2016, the province of Manitoba has a population of 1,278,365 people, with 223,310 people identifying as aboriginal (17.5%).[2] Many of these aboriginal people in Manitoba live in one of the 63 indigenous communities located in often forested areas of the province. [1]

A large amount of Manitoba is forested. The boreal forest covers 57,060,675 hectares of the province. [3] Manitoba also has active forest management and harvesting operations, harvesting 7,644 hectares of wood in 2016. [4] While harvesting a significant amount of timber, the province imports over $79 million worth of wood products to meet market demand. [4] Despite this, 94% of forested land is owned by the provincial government, demonstrating an exclusion of other stakeholder groups. [5]

The gap in indigenous land tenure is apparent in Manitoba. As affected stakeholders of Manitoba's forests, the greater inclusion of indigenous peoples in forested land management is important and equitable. Whether creating land management agreements for timber harvesting, non timber forest products (NTFPs), environmental protection or otherwise, indigenous community forestry could serve as a pathway to stronger and healthier management of Manitoba's forests. The government of Manitoba has made strides to improve indigenous involvement in land management, but the opportunity for much greater expansion is realistic and reasonable.

Tenure arrangements

Within Canada, the majority of forestland (91.4%) is publicly owned, with its provincial governments exercising jurisdiction over natural resources, and federal government presiding over matters of indigenous affairs and reserve lands.[1] In Manitoba specifically, apart from historical treaties that delineate transfers of land ownership in the province, a number of First Nations groups hold forest tenures. [5]

Similarly to other provinces in Canada, natural resources in Manitoba are managed by the provincial government (the Crown). In the case of forest management, the Manitoban government acts as the most powerful actor in the decision making process. [6] The Manitoban government awards 3 main types of harvesting rights to forestry companies: Forest Management Licenses (FML), Timber Sale Agreements (TSA), or Timber Permits.

Forestry companies traditionally receive Forest Management Licenses; which are long-term arrangements covering a specified land area. Forest Management Licenses account for just under half of Manitoba’s total forestland, at 12.2 million ha. [6] Currently, two Forest Management Licenses dominate the west side of the province, managing approximately 43,900,800 ft³/year (14.5%). An additional 19,900,200 ft³/year (6.5%) are allocated through smaller timber sale Agreements. [6]

Historical indigenous tenure agreements have been signed, but lacked any substantial follow through, and remain unresolved. In 1997, 400,000 ha of land were put under the management of 19 First Nations under treaty land entitlements, however half of that land to date remains inactive and outstanding.[7] In 2006, First Nations held the equivalent of merely 154,000 m³ of land in forest tenures. [8] While attempts for indigenous forest tenures and co-management have been made, they have been on much smaller scales than those of the forestry companies within Manitoba, and often remain outstanding for years after.

Administrative arrangements

Provincial Management:

Administrative arrangements of indigenous community forestry in Manitoba follow a top down model of governance. All forestry and land planning are administered by the provincial government. Two separate agencies in the provincial government administer the land. The Department of Conservation is focused on land management and the Provincial Department of Intergovernmental Affairs is focused on land planning.[5] The provincial government also funds the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin organization, a land planning organization representing First Nations groups in Northeastern Manitoba. [5] The government of Manitoba has created plans to be more inclusive of indigenous groups in the forestry sector, but improvement has faced multiple challenges. [7] When harvesting rights are granted by the province to forestry companies often little participation by First Nations is evident. [7] It is important to note harvesting companies are required to consult First Nations if planning to harvest on indigenous occupied land. [6] But, in a survey of 50 Manitoban indigenous communities, only 6 had economic collaboration in forest management and only 9 communities were involved in decision making processes.[7]

Local Management:

With some constructive government policy in place, such as the "East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Act, [provide a date and URL] indigenous communities have greater framework for forest management in Manitoba. [5] Land planning and development on traditional lands in the future will be in collaboration with the indigenous communities in the area. [5] Although there are still challenges present, indigenous community forestry in Manitoba has great potential for success. Whether communities operate on area-based or volume tenures, forest protection groups, or some other form, the opportunity for local management of forest resources (community forestry) has many avenues for success. Because of changing legislation, abundant forests, and multiple local communities the expansion of local forest management is prepared to excel in the future.

Affected Stakeholders

Affected stakeholder groups in Manitoba's forest include major actors and minor actors:

Major Actor Involved:

  • First Nations Communities

The First Nations 63 Communities, 100,000 Status Indians, and 70,000 Metis [2] of Manitoba are currently the most affected social actors in the province’s forestry industry. Broadly, there are five First Nations linguistic groups in Manitoba: Cree, Ojibway, Dakota, Ojibway-Cree and Dene. [9] The First Nations communities are represented by key actors, who are either employed, to operate and sit on resource management boards, or who initiate negotiations. There are also First Nations advisory committees within the province, that are vocal and visible groups that speak on behalf and represent First Nations matters in the forestry industry. [6]

First Nations people in Manitoba are employed and receive revenue from the forestry industry as loggers, independent contractors, as well as participants in forestry management planning and consultations. [6] Many Indigenous folks have subsistence ties, in which they are reliant on the land for livelihoods. Furthermore, they possess ancestral, cultural and spiritual ties, and geographical ties to these areas. Some communities have focused their advocacy on establishing protected lands, rather than the government's harvesting for profit agenda. A recent example has been the Poplar River First Nation’s involvement with the Canadian Boreal Initiative to protect 50% of the boreal forest. [7]

The First Nations' most relevant objectives in the management of the province’s natural resources can be classified into local control, local benefits, local values, and supporting conditions.[1] This includes but is not limited to the devolution of control from the current closed network system [explain what this means] to smaller, local communities, indigenous self-governance within these forestry communities, as well as the implementation of the sustainability principle of subsidiarity.

The communities expect to be included in the benefits derived from their traditional, and ancestral forested lands, as well as the use of traditional ecological knowledge and practices on these lands. The communities expect supportive conditions when pairing their needs, abilities, and goals with areas of forested land to be managed. Lastly, the support of legally binding policies, tenure agreements and financial and skill based support in the management of lands upon the assignment of tenure agreements.

  • First Nations Led Organizations/Initiative
    • Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin

There have been many attempts to create Indigenous and non-Indigenous partnerships in order to co-manage forested areas. However, often the non-Indigenous actors would ultimately withdraw due to financial concerns. In the wake of these events, the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin Initiative was created; a collaboration between 16 First Nations communities who have become consultants on the planning processes with non-Indigenous forestry actors, including large corporations and the provincial government. [7]

Minor Actors Involved:

  • Manitoba Agriculture and small-scale forestry businesses.

On the west end of the province, 19,900,200 ft3 (6.5% of total forested land) is allocated through smaller timber sales.[1] These are small-scale businesses who are reliant and make their livelihoods from the management of forestry resources.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Interested stakeholder groups (including group employees) in Manitoba's forest include major actors and minor actors:

Manitoba Provincial Legislature Building

Major Actors Involved:

  • The Government of Manitoba
  • The Government of Canada
  • Forestry Companies: [6]
    • Tembec Forest Products Inc. (Not Currently Operating in Manitoba)
    • Tolko Industries Ltd.
    • Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd.

Minor Actors Involved:

  • Rural Municipalities
  • Consumers of Harvested Timber Products
  • Environmental Groups

Major Actors

The division of power in Manitoba's forest management is similar to British Columbia. The government of Manitoba manages natural resources and ultimately decides on the assignment of crown forests to be harvested. [6] They are the most powerful interested stakeholder. The government of Manitoba also creates forest management policy. In a 2015 survey of major stakeholders in Manitoba's forest sector, a majority of the stakeholders agreed that receiving multiple benefits from forest management was the main objective of the Manitoban government. [6] Many stakeholders also believed economic benefit was the main objective.[6]

The government of Canada, as an interested stakeholder, plays more of an important role in funding, promoting, and assessing all of Canada's forest sector. [6] The Canadian Forest Service is the branch of government, under National Resources Canada, that advocates for sustainable forest policy. The Canadian Forest Service also completes research on Canada's forest management and Canada's role in the international forest products markets.[10]

The Forestry Companies operating in Manitoba are interested stakeholders with the main objective of creating profit. [6] As these companies bring in revenue for the province, they also have influence on government decision making. [6] Forestry companies in Manitoba must speak with local First Nations when harvesting on First Nation inhabited land. As an external, interested actors in forestry, conflict between natural resource companies and affected stakeholders such as First Nations would seem likely. However, the relationship between forestry and indigenous communities in Manitoba is mostly managed by the provincial government. [6]

Minor Actors

Rural Municipalities have minimal power in forest management in Manitoba. They represent local affairs in the process, but ultimately the provincial government has control over forest licenses. [6]

Like the forestry companies in Manitoba, Environmental Groups have some influence on the decision making process of forest management. [6] Some environmental groups such as Boreal Forest Network (BFN), Manitoba Forestry Association, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), work directly to protect and conserve Manitoba's boreal forest. For example, the Boreal Forest Network supports a project initiated by First Nations to convert 4.3 million hectares of Manitoba's boreal forest into a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This project has the support of the provincial government. [11]

Consumers of Manitoban forest products are interested stakeholders with very little power of the state of forestry in the province.


During the 1990’s in Canada’s "regulation for revenue generation" forestry era, Manitoba’s forest regime was described as a closed policy network, where a dominant relationship in the industry existed between the provincial government and the forest industry, with a very small and exclusive core of central policy decision makers. [6]

There has been a recent shift in the increase of public involvement in Manitoba’s forestry industry. This can be accounted for in part by the introduction of new actors, and a push for and demand for transparency and accountability. The introduction of stakeholder advisory committees and non-regulatory guidance documents [6], were means to promote public involvement and transparency. Specifically the Next Steps document is a strategic document outlining key priorities for sustainably managing Manitoba’s forests, while advocating for the increase of co-management, and employment and economic development for Aboriginal communities. [7]While effective in the inclusion of historically excluded groups in decision-making processes, these steps lacked any tangible results in the manner in which land was managed.

Manitoba has abundant opportunities in terms of forested and wooded land, however the discrepancy lies in matching unallocated and inactive land with First Nations' communities and their capabilities to manage. Concerns are present and stressed by First Nations about the economic developments prioritized over the establishment of protected areas. however these concerns continue to go unanswered because of the lack of Indigenous decision-making power and lack of long-term Indigenous tenure agreements.

Assessment of the Major Powers in Manitoban Indigenous Community Forestry

With increased collaboration and a changing environment, community forestry has ever increasing potential in many Manitoba communities. Major actors have different strengths, areas to improve upon, opportunities, and challenges to evaluate moving forward.

Power Assessment
Major Power Strengths Areas to Improve Opportunities Challenges
Provincial Government
  • Highest Level of Power
  • Policy and Law Creation
  • Ownership of Vast Majority of Land
  • Improve Collaboration in Planning
  • Increase Openness in Decision Making Process
  • Initiate Communication
  • Create Forums for Collaboration
  • Create Positive Public Image
  • Balancing Economic, Environmental, and Social Benefits
  • Satisfying All Stakeholders
Major Forestry Companies
  • Infrastructure and Equipment for Forest Management
  • Capital for Major Projects
  • Greater Inclusion in Consultation
  • Increasing Local Influence on Projects
  • Hiring Indigenous Workers with Traditional Land Knowledge
  • Promoting a Positive Public Image with Environmental Initiatives
  • Remaining Profitable/Increasing Profits
  • Adjusting to New Policy and Plans
Manitoban First Nations
  • Provincial Land Management Policy Continues to Improve for Inclusive Land Management
  • Traditional Land Knowledge and Practices
  • Capitalizing on Economic Opportunity While Maintaining Core Values
  • Collaborative Projects in Forest Management
  • Introduction of Manitoban Boreal Forest as UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Deconstructing Discriminatory Colonial Framework


The Government of Manitoba, as the entity with the power to allocate forest resources to different actors and stakeholders, must strongly increase their efforts towards matching First Nations communities, their skills and financial means, with forested land areas that are currently unallocated. In the past two decades a strong emphasis was placed on enhancing public participation of First Nations communities in matters concerning natural resource management in Manitoba, and while this was effective in shifting from a closed network system to a more transparent one, it did not significantly meet any objectives of the First Nations forestry communities; which included the sustainable management of Manitoba’s forests, increase of co-management, and employment and economic development of First Nation communities. [7]

A suggested recommendation that could involve new actors in Manitoba’s forestry industry is layering; in which new policies are placed on top of older ones to support actors who otherwise do not have the resources or means to change the structure, or political dynamic of the management of forests. [5]In order to move past consultation and participation of First Nations groups towards concrete management, supporting conditions must be put in place. By putting in place policy frameworks that address the inactive and unallocated land that is going unmanaged, on top of those tenures and policies that already exist, it may be effective in integrating First Nations and their interests in forestry. While the land is unallocated, and desire is present from First Nations to manage, the Government of Manitoba must intervene and support Indigenous forestry through the supply of natural capital, and human resources (albeit it be labour or educational training) and financial resources.

Many First Nations communities in Manitoba expressed support for the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) to protect 50% of the boreal forest, and ultimately would follow practices to follow that protection should they be appointed forest tenure owners. A similar case study of the Little Prairie Community Forest (LPCF) in British Columbia saw the Saulteau First Nations and the West Moberly First Nations attempt to manage their tenured forest area in order to protect the integrity of the forest and the diminishing populations of bison, caribou, moose, and elk, from logging and silviculture practices. [12]The approach the two communities took was community-level contributions in planning and management before undertaking action, accompanied with the dissemination of education on traditional forestry practices to community members, as well as allowing trial management strategies. [12]This case study can be used as a basis for understanding the type of intervention in forest operations that may be productive in Manitoba’s forests, for both the Government and the First Nations communities. As seen in LCPF, the emphasis on educating the community, and teaching traditional forestry practices were valued. Given the sheer amount of natural capital, human and financial resources that the Government of Manitoba could supply, it would allow for the First Nations communities to work collaboratively, combining their traditional practices with the government's knowledge and resources on forest operations.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Lawler, Julia H., Ryan C. L. Bullock, A Case for Indigenous Community Forestry, Journal of Forestry, Volume 115, Issue 2, March 2017, Pages 117–125,
  2. 2.0 2.1 Statistics Canada. 2016. Census Profile, 2016 Census. Manitoba and Canada. Available online at
  3. Boreal Songbird Initiative. n.d. Provincial, and territorial forest facts: Manitoba. Available online at; last accessed Nov. 15, 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Natural Resources Canada. 2014b. Statistical data: Manitoba overview. Available online at; last accessed on November 15th, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Wellstead A.M., Rayner J. 2009. Manitoba: From provincial-based planning to localized Aboriginal governance. Policy Soc. 28(2):151–163; last accessed on November 15th, 2019.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 Griffith J., Diduck A.P., Tardif J. 2015. Manitoba's forest policy regime: Incremental change, concepts, actors, and relationships. For. Chron. 91(1):71–83; last accessed on November 15th, 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Fortier J., Wyatt S., Greskiw G., Hébert M., Natcher D., Smith M.A., Trosper R., Nadeau S. 2012. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal collaboration in forestry: An inventory of practices across Canada. Sustainable Forest Management Network, Edmonton, AB, Canada. 84 p; last accessed Nov.15, 2019.
  8. Brubacher, D (2003). "Aboriginal Held Forest Tenure in Canada".
  9. "Indigenous and Northern Community Affairs: First Nations in Manitoba". Government of Canada. 2014. Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  10. National Resources Canada. 2019. About the Canadian Forest Service. Available online at
  11. Heart of the Boreal. 2014. About the east side. Available online at
  12. 12.0 12.1 Booth & Muir. ""How far do you have to walk to find peace again?": A case study of First Nations' operational values for a community forest in Northeast British Columbia, Canada". Natural Resources Forum: 153–166.

Sharing Permission

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Mark Buglioni and Tyler Doucet. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.