In a move to expand its control over Sarita Bay, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations has bought property from Western Forest Products with hope that the land will be part of a mult-billion-dollar LNG development in the area.
The $3-million acquisition was announced Wednesday, May 17. The deal entails the Huu-ay-aht’s purchase of three privately owned properties from Western Forest Products, plus a dry land sort facility that will be leased back to the forestry company as part of the agreement.
Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said that the First Nation plans to use the newly acquired property for a proposed liquefied natural gas project the Huu-ay-aht are currently exploring with Steelhead LNG. This multi-billion-dollar facility would have the capacity to export 24 million tonnes of LNG to overseas markets annually.
“The lands were purchased so that the Huu-ay-aht can proceed,” said Dennis. “We have agreed that we would provide these lands for the LNG project.”
The acquisition also allows Western to harvest 200,000 cubic metres of timber from Huu-ay-aht Treaty Settlement Land near Bamfield, activity that Dennis hopes will entice members of the 750-person First Nation to return to Huu-ay-aht territory for work opportunities.
“I’d like to see over the duration of the agreement that we have with Western a target of 36 Huu-ay-aht people to be working at full-time sustainable jobs,” he said, adding that these positions could entail administration, harvesting, planning and development duties with the forestry operations.
In a media release the Chief Councillor stated that the development demonstrates how the Huu-ay-aht are “opening the door to economic opportunities that will bring our people home and create a strong future for the next generation.”
The land purchase follows a vote at a Special People’s Assembly in February, when 78 per cent of the 118 ballots cast favoured the aquisition. This vote took place in Port Alberni, but collected ballots from satellite locations in Anacla, Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver as well.
Western Forest Products is the largest forestry company operating on B.C.’s coast, annually harvesting 6.1 million cubic metres of timber. Nearly all of this activity takes place on Crown land.
In the May 17 release Western’s CEO and president Don Demens said the transaction helps both parties.
“We recognize the importance of the Sarita area to the Huu-ay-aht and are pleased to have delivered a mutually beneficial transaction to support increased economic benefits from the forest sector to First Nations communities and to Western,” stated Demens.