ONTARIO—Domtar, operator of Espanola’s primary employer at its mill there, has sold a large portion of its boreal forest holdings near Hearst to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The sale has been described as the “largest private land conservation agreement in Canadian history.” NCC will use the land, which Domtar has not operated in the area for several years, for research and conservation.
The project includes more than 100 lakes and 1,300 kilometres of rivers, streams and shoreline, known as the Hearst Forest, all of which contributes to freshwater quality and fish habitat in Ontario’s north.
“Domtar is excited to be engaging with the smart men and women at NCC, who share many of our values regarding sustainable forest management, science-based research and public transparency,” said Rob Melton, Domtar’s senior vice-president of commercial, pulp and paper in a release. “The transfer of this land allows NCC to transition the management of this forest landscape to research and conservation.”
Paige Doff, vice-president of sustainability for Domtar, told The Expositor, “we haven’t harvested this area of property for over 10 years. “We are pleased to partner with NCC because they are looking at science-based management. Even though they will not be harvesting the property, they will manage and use the property to educate the public.”
Kristyn Ferguson, NCC’s program director for large landscapes in Ontario, said, “conservation opportunities of this magnitude are incredibly rare and NCC is thrilled to have the chance to work at this scale to make a difference for nature, for wildlife and for people. The more we learn about this area, the ability of its wetlands to store carbon, the wildlife habitat it provides, the cultural significance of the rivers within it, the clearer it become that boreal wildlands will have measurable positive impacts at scale from the local to the global.”
Domtar has agreed to transfer ownership of the land to the NCC for $7 million below its appraised value and NCC has launched a public campaign to raise the remaining $13 million.
Once the sale is complete, it will encompass an area twice the size of the city of Toronto.
The announcement was made April 22. “This Earth Day, we are excited to show Canadians that global impact starts with local action. The Boreal Wildlands project provides a unique opportunity to make a difference for nature and for people. It is a model for modern conservation. We are grateful to the partners who have inspired us to undertake conservation on this scale. We enthusiastically invite everyone to donate to help complete the project and make history,” said Catherine Grenier, president and chief executive officer of the NCC.