Historic wood deal for Huu-ay-aht

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation is the first tribe in British Columbia to sign a First Nations woodland licence.

The Huu-ay-aht are the first tribe in British Columbia to sign a First Nations woodland licence with the provincial government.

According to a government news release, the 25-year licence entitles the 700-member tribe to cut 70,000 cubic metres of timber per year within a 9,500-hectare area next to their treaty settlement land, which is 10 kilometres northeast of Bamfield on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The types of wood to be harvested include hemlock, balsam, cedar and Douglas fir. The logs will be marshalled at the tribe’s dry land sort yard and stored at their booming ground before being sold by a third party.

The license “…is an opportunity for greater involvement in the forest sector and helps us to build a self-sustaining community,” Huu-ay-aht chief councillor Jeff Cook said.

“This…licence gives Huu-ay-aht the ability to plan their future and build for longer-term economic certainty,” said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson.

The First Nations’ woodland licence is a new, long-term, area-based tenure. Long-term tenures, starting at 25 years, provide increased tenure security and improve First Nations’ ability to secure investment and loans.

The length of the license means stability. “We can now plan long term instead of piecemealing it every year just trying to survive,” Cook said.

The tribe also previously operated its forestry using a non-renewable forest license, which had to be renewed every year. “The turnaround time was reasonable, but we had to divert significant resources to doing it every year. Now we don’t have to,” tribal development corporation chair Joe Jack said.

The new deal also means more tribal jobs in the forestry. Currently, there are 15 Huu-ay-aht members who work in the industry. “In time we want to more than double that,” Cook said. “We don’t have capacity right now and have to contract out.”

Having long-term tenure plus a constant supply of wood fibre gives the tribe a chip in the big game as opposed to benefiting parochially as loggers, Jack said.

The tribe envisions eventually building a mill to process the logs but that will come in the long term. “It has to fit economically into the community so we’re watching for the right opportunity,” Jack said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com