Anthony Laforge, Magnetawan First Nation Chief William Diabo, Turtle Island Conservation Centre representatives Katie Akey and Mathew Brill, and Magnetawan Species at Risk technicians Ryan Morin and Jenn Baxter-Gilbert.

Anthony Laforge, Magnetawan First Nation Chief William Diabo, Turtle Island Conservation Centre representatives Katie Akey and Mathew Brill, and Magnetawan Species at Risk technicians Ryan Morin and Jenn Baxter-Gilbert.

By Joey Krackle
The Turtle Island Conservation Centre at the Toronto Zoo considers Magnetawan First Nation (MFN) a leader in the field of preserving and protecting the critical habitat of the Blanding’s Turtle which is considered a Species at Risk.

The Turtle Conservation Centre invited Magnetawan First Nation Director of Lands and Resources Anthony Laforge and their former Species at Risk technician to attend an information gathering session on Species at Risk on September 2013. The Turtle Island Conservation Centre expressed great interest in protecting the Blanding’s turtle which Magnetawan has abundance of, in and around their territory.

“This initial meeting resulted in a meaningful partnership for both parties and the improvement of the knowledge base on the critical habitat of the Blanding’s Turtle,” said Laforge.

Following this meeting, in 2014 the coordinator of the Turtle Island Conservation Centre requested MFN involvement in a Cultural Mapping Project and also assisted MFN with wetland evaluation, training and employment of their youth and education resources and outreach events.

“MFN believes that this is a great opportunity to expand our Lands and Resources program to include wetland evaluation and potential resource data collection and to provide educational opportunities and employment for our youth,” added Laforge.

Ryan Morin, SAR biologist took the lead on data collection and educational awareness and an MFN youth citizen, was hired by the Turtle Island Conservation Centre at the Toronto Zoo to compile the cultural mapping information.

On Jan. 22, 2015, Magnetawan and the Turtle Island Conservation Centre hosted a traditional feast and workshop for the community members. Over 50 MFN citizens attended and 41 citizens provided information on MFN lands, the Magnetawan River, cultural harvesting, gathering, trapping, forestry, hunting, spawning and other information.

In an effort to foster a network between First Nations, universities, government agencies, Mr Laforge also organized an Environmental Stewardship and Anishinabek Lands Management Workshop at MFN on February 18, 2015. Over 75 participants attended this workshop which featured speakers on the topics of Anishinabek Land Management and Environmental Stewardship. MFN is planning to hold another conference in 2016, but has not set the date yet.