Interfor’s planned $60-million purchase of Canfor’s timber rights is being opposed by the Simpcw First Nation unless the band has a role in management of the area forests.
Canfor last week announced it will close its sawmill in Vavenby, near Clearwater, in July and sell timber rights for the operation to Interfor, which intends to use that product at its Adams Lake sawmill.
The timber rights sale needs approval from the provincial government.
“It’s a non-starter,” Simpcw Chief Shelly Loring said. “Unless and until Simpcw has a meaningful role in management of our forests, this transaction will not go forward. The loss of 178 jobs in a small community is most definitely not in the public interest. Simpcw is not only looking out for our own interests, but the local interests up and down our valley.”
Loring said Canfor’s timber rights are in the heart of the First Nation’s territory, noting Simpcw has consistently expressed its focus on acquiring tenure to grow its forestry operations, including in a meeting in May with Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
“We were clear that forest tenure and forest management is a key component to Simpcw’s economic sustainability and reconciliation with the province,” Loring said.
“We have also had discussions with Interfor and Canfor. 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.”
Tina Donald, a Simpcw councillor and manager of the First Nation’s natural resources department, cited Bill 22 as a tool for the province to level the playing field between larger private companies and First Nations.
Bill 22, implemented in April by order-in-council, means that any sale or transfer of timber rights must be approved by the forests ministry. The aim of the bill is to address concentration of timber rights among the few larger forestry companies by allowing First Nations, employees and the general public to have input.
“We are prepared to work collaboratively with the province on this, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate action to ensure that our rights are protected and we are preserving our forests for our future generations,” Loring said.
Simpcw First Nation covers about five-million hectares in the North Thompson region and has a band membership of more than 700.
KTW has a call in to Canfor for comment.