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First Nation negotiating with WFP to buy Vancouver Island assets

Western Forest Products Ltd. is in negotiations that could see the company selling its Tree Farm Licence rights on southern Vancouver Island to the Pacheedaht First Nation and a private partner.

“The Pacheedaht have expressed an interest in some of Western's non-core assets,” said WFP spokesperson Gary Ley. While Ley said he couldn't say specifically what is for sale, he said WFP is trying to focus its business on central and northern Vancouver Island. Nothing has been finalized, he said.

A representative of the Pacheedaht, which has offices in Port Renfrew, said the first nation has signed a confidentiality agreement with WFP and therefore could not answer questions.

WFP owns 12,000 hectares of private land on southern Vancouver Island, as well as the rights to TFL 25 on Crown land, which includes a large section of the southwest Island between Sooke and Port Renfrew. The TFL also includes sections on Haida Gwai, northern Vancouver Island and the north and central mainland coast.

The Pacheedaht First Nation and the Vancouver-based forestry company Canadian Overseas Group are negotiating to purchase the rights to the TFL on the south Island, three sources told the Tyee.

Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan said he would like to see the Pacheedaht gain the economic opportunity of having access to trees on Crown land, but added the government should have been making such an arrangement when it allowed WFP to remove its private lands from the TFL in 2007.

The key question is who will benefit from a transfer of cutting rights, he said. “We'll have to see how it goes,” he said. “We don't need a third party to benefit, in my view. We don't need WFP to take a cut.”

The provincial government should also benefit in some way when companies transfer TFL rights, but it's so far unclear if it will, he said. Before the government changed the Forest Act in 2003 the province would have taken back five percent of the tenure whenever TFL rights transfered.

The forests and range ministry has not received a request from WFP to transfer TFL 25, a ministry spokesperson said in an e-mail.

The company has, however, applied to subdivide the TFL so that the section near Jordan River would be its own TFL, she said. The subdivision will require approval from forests minister Pat Bell.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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