Interfor says it wants to explore various forest stewardship and partnership opportunities with the Simpcw First Nation, which is opposing its proposed $60-million purchase of Canfor’s timber rights.
Canfor will close its sawmill in Vavenby, near Clearwater, this month.
Its proposed sale of timber rights for the operation to Interfor, which intends to use that product at its Adams Lake sawmill, requires approval from the provincial government.
Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring has said the transaction will not go forward unless the band has a role in management of the area forests.
Ric Slaco, Interfor’s vice-president and chief forester, told KTW the company recognizes the band has interests in the region and has reached out, expressing a desire to wants to engage in talks.
Slaco said he expects Interfor and the band will meet “sometime in the near future.”
He said the company doesn’t want to focus on any one particular option at this point, noting possibilities such as joint decision-making and economic opportunities for the Simpcw’s forestry development business as areas of discussion.
“We’d like to be open-minded in terms of what that might be and hear from them directly in terms of how this decision may be able to go forward in a way that make sense to both parties,” Slaco said.
Loring said Canfor’s timber rights are in the heart of the First Nation’s territory and Simpcw has consistently expressed its focus on acquiring tenure to grow its forestry operations, including in a meeting with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson in May.
We have also had discussions with Interfor and Canfor,” Loring said. “They were both aware of our interests. It’s unfortunate that with this knowledge, instead of working with us, they were making a deal in another room.”
According to Slaco, Interfor was not able to discuss the plan for the tenure acquisition with third parties ahead of the announcement because of a confidentiality agreement.
He said the province has a role to play in consulting with First Nations regarding their interests before proceeding with approving the transaction.
“We have offered to assist and be a part of those discussions,” he said.
Interfor expects a decision on the acquisition to be made by government sometime in August, Slaco said.