A major forest management deal is imminent between the province and Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq, one that will see 9,500 hectares of land near Digby turned over to First Nations.
The negotiations have been underway for months, and Nova Scotia Natural Resources Minister Zach Churchill says he hopes a deal will be finalized in the early new year where the Mi’kmaq will assume "managerial responsibilities."
"We’ve been very pleased with the relationship we’ve built with the Mi’kmaq partners, and we’re excited about the socioeconomic opportunities that this particular deal will have for that community," he said.
The land will be used for timber, along with traditional hunting and fishing.
The first parcel identified to be set aside was bought from J.D. Irving Ltd. three years ago, and sits near Bear River First Nation.
"Getting the land is one thing," said Eric Zscheile, a lawyer for the Mi'kmaq. "Now, how do we start creating those management plans. How do we start creating those economic and business plans."
Zscheile likens it to a Crown lease where the province maintains ownership of the land, but assigns forest management to a paper company. Instead of a paper company, it’s a First Nation.
Another, bigger block has been identified from former Bowater Mersey lands north of St. Margarets Bay. Discussions on that piece are also underway with the province.
"We’re looking at doubling the size of land that’s available to Mi’kmaq currently to use," Zscheile said.