Developing the land management plan was an intensive endeavor by Poplar River, led by Rabliauskas and a few others within the First Nation under the direction of their elders. Their efforts resulted in a full-scale blueprint of how they intend to document, protect and sustainably manage Poplar River’s forests, wildlife and other natural resources. The land use plan outlined the following core components: respecting traditional knowledge; benefiting from environmental analysis; developing economic opportunities, including protection of traditional hunting, trapping and fishing activities; and creating sustainable tourism opportunities.
One year before the plan’s completion, in 2004, Rabliauskas helped secure five more years of “interim protected status” for Poplar River territory, which continued to prohibit any logging, hydro, gas or mining development within the two million acres. The Manitoba government announced its intention to grant permanent protection to Poplar River’s land, yet to date has not granted that protection.
While physically isolated from the resources and conveniences of urban life (the main reliable route in and out of the territory is via air), Poplar River is considered highly successful and thriving among First Nations especially.
Canada’s vast boreal forest, which includes the lands of Poplar River First Nation, plays a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, as its intact forests and wetlands store massive amounts of carbon. Threats to the health of Canada’s boreal forest are numerous: less than 10 percent of the boreal is strictly protected from development, and, despite awareness of the area’s global importance, about one-half of Canada’s annual wood harvest comes from the boreal.
Canada’s boreal forest comprises 25 percent of the world’s and more than 90 percent of the country’s remaining large intact forests, and is home to more than four million people, including many First Nations peoples. Covering nearly 1.4 billion acres and 58 percent of Canada’s land mass, the boreal forms a green belt across the center of the country, stretching from Newfoundland to the Yukon. Thirty percent of this coniferous old-growth forest is covered by wetlands, an estimated 1.5 million lakes and some of the country’s largest river systems. This area is also home to some of the world’s largest remaining populations of woodland caribou, wolves and bears, and more than 75 percent of North America’s waterfowl.