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Fort Nelson First Nation hits back against pellet facility criticism

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The Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) has hit back against claims that wood pellet facility plans would be harmful to the environment.

A Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report criticised the project, for which FNFN has partnered with Peak Renewables, suggesting that ‘forest exploitation plans are back on the front burner’.

FNFN fought back, stating that ‘certain environmental organisations’ have recently made public statements drawing ‘erroneous conclusions’ about the forestry plans, without talking to the FNFN.

In a statement, the FNFN said it has a long-term vision for a diversified economy in the territory that includes a ‘vibrant, sustainable’ forestry sector, including a wide range of local opportunities. The partnership with Peak Renewables on a pellet plant and associated forestry operations is designed to ‘catalyse’ such a sector, and ensure its success.

The FNFN will hold a large equity stake that can grow over time and it believes the project paves the way for stable, long-term skilled employment and contracting opportunities for FNFN members and the town of Fort Nelson.

“Public statements by people far removed from our community and the project have wholly failed to mention the project’s strong commitment to the development of both existing and future local value-added businesses,” the community said in a statement, “including FNFN’s forestry tenures and the FNFN Community Forest partnership with the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM).

Chief Sharleen Gale said: “The FNFN partnership with Peak allows us to lay the foundation for sustainable economic opportunities for our people.

“Our partnership allows us to own these opportunities, to create sustainable jobs and to chart a sustainable course for future generations. The partnership is committed to both existing and future local value-added opportunities. This is reconciliation in action.”

Peak Renewables and the FNFN have committed to adopting the FNFN Land Management Framework for the pellet and forestry project. Developed over the years under the guidance of leading ecologists and FNFN Indigenous knowledge holders, this framework includes a collaborative long-term harvesting planning process that integrates traditional and ecological values.

“Our people hold an inseparable attachment to our lands and waters,” said FNFN lands director, Lana Lowe. “FNFN, as a nation, has a long and unquestionable track record of defending our territory and treaty rights when faced with unacceptable impacts from commercial activity.

“We take our rights and responsibilities to the land and water very seriously and we are applying that ethic to our forestry initiatives.”