NORTHERN ONTARIO BUSINESS — Domtar sold a large swath of boreal forest near Hearst to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), which will use the land for research and conservation.

The deal impacts 1,450 square kilometres of land — in an area known as the Hearst Forest — that had been managed as a wood supply to Domtar’s pulp and paper operations. The company has not operated in the area for several years.

Domtar said it agreed to transfer ownership of the land to the NCC for $7 million below its appraised value.

The transaction is being described as the “largest private land conservation agreement in Canadian history.”

“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 an April 22 news release.

“The transfer of this land allows NCC to transition the management of this forest landscape to research and conservation.”

The NCC said it was attracted to the area for its unique ecosystem and cultural significance.

“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,” said Kristyn Ferguson, NCC’s program director for large landscapes in Ontario.

“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 becomes that boreal wildlands will have measurable positive impacts at scales from the local to the global.”

In Northern Ontario, Domtar operates a pulp mill in Dryden, which produces northern bleached softwood kraft pulp, and a pulp and paper mill in Espanola, which produces more than 200 different grades of technical and specialty papers, as well as high-quality northern bleached softwood kraft pulp.

Domtar was acquired by British Columbia’s Paper Excellence last November and now operates as a division of that company.

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