By: The Working Forest Staff
As a Nation, we are excited to announce that Huu-ay-aht has reached an agreement with Western Forest Products (Western) to purchase 7% of tenure ownership of TFL 44 for $7.2M. This will be done by Western transferring the main assets related to TFL 44 to a newly formed Limited Partnership (LP).
This deal builds on the Reconciliation Protocol Agreement the two parties signed earlier in 2018. Huu-ay-aht and Western share the same goals, and together we have demonstrated a track record of cooperation and a willingness to work together to achieve reconciliation and forestry revitalization. We believe by purchasing this tenure, our Nation is working toward creating opportunities for citizens on our traditional territory. By working together, we believe we can revitalize forestry in the Alberni Valley.
Western has demonstrated respect for our Nation and our sacred principles, and we are proud to be partners.
“As Tayii, it is my responsibility to make sure our hahuuli (traditional territory) is protected for future generations,” explains Tayii Hawil iisin (Derek Peters). “Our sacred principles of iisaak, ?uu?aluk, and Hišuk ma cawak guide us as we focus on using our resources sustainably, and to create wealth for our Nation in a way that protects those resources for present and future generations.”
This deal is subject to the approval of Huu-ay-aht citizens and the provincial government. If approved, it will represent the next step toward a new and better business model for forestry within the Alberni Valley, one that brings the fibre basket together once again.
“This is about generating opportunities and options for our Nation, while playing an active role in forest management in our territory,” Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. points out. “By having a seat at the table, we will advance Huu-ay-aht’s decision-making control in iisin’s hahuuli (Huu-ay-aht’s traditional territory), and it will ensure everyone will benefit from the steps we are taking today.”
“Forestry revitalization in the Alberni Valley and economic reconciliation with First Nations go hand-in-hand. To succeed with one, we need to succeed with the other,” said Rob Botterell, Huu-ay-aht Legal Counsel. “Today’s announcement by Western and Huu-ay-aht is the first step toward implementing an innovative new framework for the ownership, cooperative management and operation of forestry on TFL 44 and throughout the Alberni Valley that will achieve these twin goals.”
Looking forward, this deal addresses key priorities of the Nation. It has the potential to create jobs, training, and business opportunities for Huu-ay-aht citizens close to home, including opening the door for our citizens to become entrepreneurs and operators on our own land.
“Our economic development plan focuses on diversifying our revenue streams in order to build our economy both in the short and long term, and for now forestry remains our bread and butter,” explains Huu-ay-aht Councillor Trevor Cootes. “Not only is this deal going to generate revenue and strengthen our economy, but it will provide good paying jobs that will encourage more citizens to come live at home.”
Huu-ay-aht continues its commitment to sustainable forestry practices and before undertaking any project we strive to exceed provincial forestry standards.
“We are defining reconciliation, and this is the next step in the efforts of Huu-ay-aht and Western to pursue reconciliation and revitalization of the forestry sector together,” Chief Councillor Dennis explains. “Next we will participate in a joint study of manufacturing capacity in the Alberni Valley, including possible milling on Huu-ay-aht’s Treaty Settlement Lands (TSL), explore with other First Nations their business interests in TFL 44, and look at how the cooperative management framework can help us increase the value of activities within TFL 44.”
It is still early days, and the Nation will continue to provide information to citizens, answer questions, and ensure citizens have enough information to make an informed decision when the time comes to vote on the deal at People’s Assembly. We will be holding community engagement sessions to discuss details of the deal with citizens in January 2019.