Ne-Daa-Kii-Me-Naan Inc, or Nedaak, the Forest Manager for one of the largest Sustainable Forest License Managers (SFL) of Ontario, is pioneering a modern approach to sustainable forest management in the province.

Established in 2012 by the Chief and Councils of Ginoogaming First Nation, Long Lake #58 First Nation, Aroland First Nation, Pays Plat First Nation, Red Rock Indian Band, Constance Lake First Nation, and Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek First Nation, Nedaak is incorporating First Nation traditional knowledge and providing economic opportunities for area First Nations. The Kenogami Forest is the second largest area of forest resources in Ontario and is vital to the overall economy of this area of the Ontario and to each of the First Nation’s.Located in the Nipigon District of the Northwest Region, the Kenogami Forest is a Crown Forest located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, in the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry Northwest Region of Ontario, within the Territorial District boundaries of Thunder Bay and Cochrane.

Nedaak’s goal is to help realize the tremendous potential in Ontario’s forests and support economic prosperity in neighbouring Indigenous communities, says Deanna Hoffman, General Manager. “Sustainable forest management is truly a complex balancing act. All forest management activities on the Kenogami Forest are governed by the Forest Management Plan, a plan that provides the direction required to manage the forest in a sustainable manner, ensuring all environmental values and stakeholder interests are considered.”

Nedaak is ideally positioned with a Registered Professional Forester and staff with the knowledge, experience, and skill sets to deliver high quality Forest Management Planning services.

Nedaak is born out of the Ontario government’s policy to secure greater Indigenous community involvement in forest management. Originally established to perform forest management services on the Kenogami Forest on behalf of the Crown, Nedaak has evolved over the past 9 years and was instrumental in the establishment of the eSFL (Enhanced Sustainable Forest License) company, Ogwiidachiwaning Sustainable Forest Management Inc., a not-for-profit First Nation and Industry partnership.

“The first pillar of our government’s forest sector strategy includes a commitment that economic benefits from forestry will create opportunities for Indigenous communities and businesses,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and Minister of Indigenous Affairs.

“Nedaak looks forward to being a part this long-term arrangement and to the continued opportunity to enrich their member First Nation Communities by providing the quality forest management services they are known for, ensuring the sustainability of the forest for generations to come,” says Hoffman.

“We directly manage all the silviculture operations on the Kenogami ensuring harvest areas are renewed,” says Hoffman. “We have 7 full-time and 1 part-time staff, and during the summer season employ 2-5 seasonal staff. During this past season there were approximately 3,600,000 seedlings planted, 200 hectares manual tended and 500 hectares of ground site prepared in preparation of planting in 2022. We piled slash in many blocks to reclaim productive land.”

Nedaak also oversees the harvest operations by completing spot checks on the harvesting to ensure compliance with the conditions within the Forest Management Plan.

“The priorities of our 7 First Nations guide our operations in terms of protection of values, provision of economic benefits to our communities and employment opportunities,” says Hoffman. “During the development of the 2021-31 FMP, there were concerns regarding the drop in moose populations and the emphasis in caribou management.”

Nedaak was able to provide ways to encourage moose habitat within the caribou management area—they were the first FMP to have “moosification” within the caribou zone.

In September, 2021, Nedaak was selected to receive the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Award for the “6-10+ Years in Operation” category at the 30th Annual NADF Awards. The recognition reflects Nedaak’s success not only to its communities, but also within the forestry sector. “We have been successful for almost 10 years, are able to provide employment opportunities to local First Nation people and are being recognized for our efforts in the forestry field,” says Hoffman.

“I believe we were chosen for this recognition as we have been managing the Kenogami Forest for almost 10 years very successfully, meeting all requirements set out by the NDMNRF and successfully produced the 2021-31 Forest Management Plan,” continues Hoffman. “We were also very involved in the creation of the eSFL company, Ogwiidachiwaning Sustainable Forest Management Inc.”

“Nedaak is distinguished in this field operating as a board of 7 First Nations, that come together on a business level. We are able to impart local knowledge while understanding the needs of industry.”

Nedaak believes sustainable forestry means that there will be a forest for the next generations to come, that it is here for the long-term. “The decisions we make today affect the future generations,” says Hoffman. “We understand how Industry and First Nation values need to respect each other and develop ways to see this happen.”

In terms of continued forestry management services, the future for Nedaak is bright, says Hoffman. “We will continue to provide high-quality forest management and silvicultural services on the Kenogami. We are able to expand to other forests and are managing Ginoogam Development LP, a First Nation owned forestry services company. There are opportunities to expand our services to adjacent Forests and we will be keeping our options open.”