After more than a year of discussions, paper and pulp companies in British Columbia have an improved way of accessing fibre for processing.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the companies, including local pulp mill Harmac, Catalyst Paper, Paper Excellence Canada, Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. Partnership and the First Nation Forestry Council was signed to better facilitate trade and negotiations for the mills.

Since companies such as Harmac don’t own any forests to cultivate their product, Harmac fibre manager Cameron Milne said the MOU gives them a chance to secure their stock while also giving First Nations band a say in how their forests are used.

“It’s taken us some time to put this together and now we’re anxious to move to the next stage and actually start talking about some of the details to see how we can work together with the First Nations groups,” he said.

The understanding will also give First Nations bands information on the companies and increase transparency on how their land is being used, Milne said. It will also show job openings within the industry and hopefully provide employment opportunities for First Nations band members.

The First Nations Forestry Council represents 203 bands in B.C. and Milne said their new agreement will streamline discussions.

“The (Forestry Council) represents all of them, so it’s talking to the First Nations groups at a higher level where hopefully the council can coordinate some of those discussions.”

Through a working group on one representative from each company and the council, First Nations bands will also be consulted directly.

NanaimoNewsNOW reached out to First Nations Forestry Council CEO Keith Atkinson for comment but did not receive a reply by deadline.