Nova Scotia

Pacific West deal removes 95,500 hectares for protection

If Pacific West restarts the Port Hawkesbury mill formerly owned by NewPage, it does so with a guaranteed wood supply from 522,000 hectares of Crown land in Nova Scotia's seven eastern counties.

Company is guaranteed 522,000 hectares of Crown land

If Pacific West restarts the Port Hawkesbury mill formerly owned by NewPage, which it says it hopes to do next month, it does so with a guaranteed wood supply from 522,000 hectares of Crown land in Nova Scotia's seven eastern counties.

A total of 95,500 hectares have been removed from the old NewPage lease. Those lands will be up for protected area designation.

The Nova Scotia government has also agreed to buy about 20,840 hectares of land from NewPage Port Hawkesbury for $20 million. That money would go to the mill's creditors.

The Ecology Action Centre's Matt Miller says the new lease is an improvement. (CBC)

The draft agreement between Pacific West and the Dexter government is for a 20-year term, with an optional 10-year renewal.

"It's a major improvement for Nova Scotia. The other land uses are now under the authority and control of the province," said Julie Towers of the provincial Department of Natural Resources.

"We don't have to go through the forest company if you're trying to do a wind tower or blueberry lease; that comes directly through the province. This is a licence that speaks to the responsibilities around forest management."

The deal replaces a 50-year lease with multiple previous owners.

Harvesting will now have to meet Forest Stewardship Council standards, which are intended to guarantee sustainable forestry practices.

The provincial royalty on pulpwood will increase by $600,000 annually, more than 21 per cent.

"The stakes are huge; I mean, we're talking about 11 per cent of the landmass of the province, almost half the Crown land we own," said Matt Miller of the Ecology Action Centre.

"On first glance, we're happy with a lot of the elements that have been included in the lease — things like removing the eventual protected areas so we don't have to buy them back, FSC certification, commitments to the public and First Nations."

Pacific West maintains management control of the land, but five sawmills from Pictou to Cape Breton are getting access to hardwood.

The province will have the right to intervene in case of dispute.

The actual terms and conditions of the deal will not be released until the mill reopens.

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