BROADBACK FOREST, Quebec — At a bend in the Broadback River, Don Saganash, 60, listened to the steady, familiar sound of the rapids that to his ears were the “heartbeat of the Broadback.’’ He took in the surrounding forest, the spruce and pine trees rising from a floor of rainbow-colored moss so soft that he had always imagined “walking on air.’’

Nothing had changed in this corner of the Broadback Forest since he was a boy, or since he was picked by his father to become the tallyman of his extended family’s trapline, or ancestral hunting grounds. His reputation among the Crees was well-known. Indigenous Community, the tallyman made certain that there were enough animals in the trapline for future generations.

“Now,’’ his father told him, “it’s up to you to protect our trapline.’’

Mr. Saganash began fighting against threats from industrial logging in the Broadback — a still untouched boreal forest in northern Quebec, reachable only through unmapped roads and boat rides along its river and lakes — two decades ago. In recent years, however, his fight has been part of a global battle against climate change.

It would be possible to save the Broadback and other forests of boreal forest and preserve their huge carbon stocks that, if disturbed by humans, would cause global warming and release carbon dioxide.

Forests like the 3.2 million-acre Broadback are at the center of a growing battle to save the world’s largest carbon sinks, from the rainforests in the Amazon to the peatlands of Indonesia and Central Africa to Canada’s 1.4 billion acres of boreal forests.

Canada’s boreal forests, representing the world’s largest intact forest ecosystem and storing at least 208 billion metric tons of carbon, is considered one of the world’s largest terrestrial carbon vaults.

In part to meet its climate goals, in part to further reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Communities are the Canadian The government is increasingly turning to them to manage the boreal forests, by granting more forest land to them. Indigenous groups. Last year, the federal government made an exception $340 million Support areas that are protected Indigenous Groups and networks of Indigenous experts.

This program covers more than 50 Indigenous The funding was provided to communities to help them establish and manage conservation areas. This will allow them to become stakeholders that can not only resist deforestation but also protect their carbon sinks. This program will also provide support. Indigenous These people will be responsible for supervising these areas.

For Indigenous leaders, the support was a belated acknowledgment of their historical and intimate knowledge of the boreal forest zone — home to 70 percent of the country’s Indigenous communities.

Within the past five years, I have seen a shift and an openness, particularly at the federal level, where I think they’re starting to understand that traditional knowledge acquired over sometimes millennia is as valid as Western science,’’ said Mandy Gull-MastyThe grand chief of Cree National Government is, who represents the Cree communities in Quebec.

The Crees have been pushing for greater protection of their traditional territories in northern Quebec over the years. These territories are mostly located on provincial lands. In 2020, the provincial government agreed to increase the percentage of protected land in traditional Cree territory from 12 percent to 23 percent — a surface equal to the size of Switzerland.

Financially, the federal government is backing the Crees’ efforts to create a network of hydrologically connected protected areas with habitats for endangered animals like the woodland caribou.

“They did information sessions, they did mapping exercises,’’ said Ms. Gull-Masty, referring to tallymen and other local experts from the Cree communities in the north. She added that these protected areas will reduce climate change by protecting forests, waterways, reducing the risk of forest fires, and conserving wildlife.

Marcel Darveau of Laval University, Quebec City is a forestry expert. Indigenous groups have both an “ancient and actual knowledge’’ of boreal forests.

“They keep watch over the territory and are its guardians,’’ he said.

Mr. Saganash is a tallyman who has long opposed logging. He belongs to the Crees, which are centered in Waswanipi. This town is eight hours north of Montreal.

Today, even though there are more protected areas, logging is expanding throughout the region, and it has reached the Broadback Forest. Only a few of the 62 traditional hunting areas in the Waswanipi area are left unexplored by logging.

“They’re coming fast,’’ Mr. Saganash said, worried that loggers or miners will eventually advance into the Broadback’s unprotected area.

The Cree council of Waswanipi suggested a decade ago the creation of a protected area of 1.2 million acres called Mishigamish, or large body, of water. It would have included the Broadback River, lakes, as well as parts of the forest.

The area accounts for about a tenth of the total territory of the Waswanipi Crees — which is roughly the size of Belgium and has been logged significantly over the decades — and represents its last intact patch.

About 70% of the area was already protected. However, Mr. Saganash is concerned about what will happen to the rest. A logging company has built two roads heading straight to the Broadback’s southernmost limit, under a logging plan approved by the Quebec government.

The Waswanipi Crees’ allies, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, say Quebec has not met its earlier promise to expand protection of the Broadback. Officials at Quebec’s ministries of forests and of the environment declined interview requests.

Tallymen have played a central role in maintaining sustainability in Cree territory through their “ability to make sense of a very complex landscape,’’said Gail WhitemanProfessor of Sustainability at the University of Exeter, who spent 18 months with Cree tallymen during the 1990s.

Stanley Saganash (50), and his nephew Stanley Saganash (40) stayed in the camp of Roderick Happyjack (41). There was no sign or trace of any other human being as they crossed a lake, the Broadback River, and into the moss-blanketed forest. This was in an area that was hours from the nearest cell phone tower.

They knew every river bend, every hill and every beach that ran along the lake. Every corner of unmarked territory held a family or personal memory.

Evenings were spent in bed, with the lights on, and Mr. Saganash entertained the younger guys with stories from the Broadback. One story was about a time when someone called a mole and it appeared right outside a cabin.

“Our elders used to say that their home was here first and that their second home was in the reserve,’’ said Mr. Saganash, a retired ambulance driver who is now a member of the Cree council in Waswanipi.

Mr. Happyjack built his cabin after his grandfather died nine years ago, powering it with a generator that provided what Mr. Saganash described as “tradition with a modern twist.’’ He transported a refrigerator, a stove, a freezer and other bulky items in winter, navigating the frozen waterways on a snowmobile.

His grandfather — the tallyman of Mr. Happyjack’s trapline — had taught him to hunt and love the Broadback. His grandfather gave permission for him to build his own camp and invite others, though only two friends at a time to keep overhunting from happening.

“I feel closer to my grandfather when I’m around here,’’ Mr. Happyjack said. “Sometimes he visits me in my dreams.’’

He woke up in his Broadback alone two years ago and dreamed of his grandfather, who was wearing his red-and-black checked coat.

“He turned around and looked at me,’’ Mr. Happyjack recalled, adding that his grandfather then pointed silently at the log cabin he had built long ago. “What is my grandfather telling me? I wondered. I understood that he was telling us to take care his cabin. He worked hard and now I had to work hard to take care of it.’’

Traplines and generations passed on the responsibility of taking care of others.

Stanley Saganash remembered one of his most valuable lessons from hunting with his father.

“I used to kill a lot and my father told me, ‘Whoa, don’Don’t shoot everything. Save some for the next generation,’’ he said, adding that he had applied that lesson this hunting season. “I got one moose and my nephew got one moose. But I saw two more moose, and I didn’t shoot them.’’

The tallyman in each trapline was responsible for ensuring that its members used the land and its resources to ensure that future generations would be provided for.

“We’re thinking three generations ahead,’’ Don Saganash said.

The Canadian The role of the government was not always appreciated by it Indigenous Ms. Whiteman spoke of conservation in communities.

“Now the global discourse is about protecting these carbon sinks — soil is almost the new sexy,’’ Ms. Whiteman said. “But the tallymen always said this land is valuable to human survival.’’