The professional body that regulates foresters in BC is considering legal action against Meadow Creek Cedar.
The Association of BC Forest Professionals says the Lardeau Valley operation doesn’t have a registered forester overseeing its logging, in breach of provincial legislation.
A newsletter item to members reads: “Meadow Creek Cedar Ltd. is or has been engaged in activities that may involve the unauthorized practise of professional forestry by its employees or contractors, without the services of a member of the ABCFP in contravention of the Foresters Act of British Columbia.”
It further says the company has been told it must comply with the Act by ensuring timber harvesting and road building is done by or under the supervision of a professional forester.
“In the event that the company chooses not to comply, the ABCFP will be seeking an injunction … to restrain any person from contravening the requirements of the Act,” the newsletter reads.
Mike Larock, the association’s director of forest stewardship and professional practice, said in an interview that the item was intended to alert their members and other regulators — as well as put the company on notice.
“We want to make sure foresters in particular know there is an issue with this licensee in case they’re called to fill in,” he said. “They need to know some of the background. Other resource professionals on the ground like biologists and engineers also need to be aware.”
Larock says they heard concerns from several members as well as the general public about Meadow Creek’s forest practices.
Their investigation revealed the company was hiring a registered forester when it believed it necessary, “but there were many times where it was still necessary and they chose not to get a professional on the ground.
“They left it up to the people actually doing the work — the hoe and skidder operators — which is not fair. They have enough to do trying to get logs out safely.”
Larock says when they first talked to Meadow Creek Cedar, the company indicated they knew their obligations under the Foresters Act and were “actively seeking” a professional forester.
The association gave the company a February 1 deadline, which it didn’t meet — but continued harvesting. As a result, Larock says they issued the notice to members and are “looking at opportunity for legal action.”
In the wake of the notice, which went out last week, Larock says they received many calls from other agencies and companies who have had dealings with Meadow Creek Cedar, wanting to know the implications.
If the association successfully obtains an injunction against the company, Larock says they would present it to the Ministry of Forests to prevent any further work requiring a practicing forester.
He adds their primary concern is that without professional oversight, environmental values may be compromised: “There could be hydrological issues, slope stability issues, a number of different issues that commonly crop up with harvesting.”
There is also a risk of lost revenue.
“You need appropriate people to make sure government gets sufficient revenue from their own resource as well as that roads are put to bed and sites left in good condition.”
The association previously cited Meadow Creek’s former professional forester, Rodney J. Arnold, for violating his obligations “by incompetently engaging in the practice of professional forestry and/or acting in a manner unbecoming a member of the ABCFP.”
According to a discipline summary published in January 2011, Arnold moved a road without consulting a geotechnical engineer and misrepresented the status of a cut block.
As part of a negotiated settlement, he agreed to provide a written apology, not do any independent work on unstable terrain without direction from a geotechnical expert for three years, and have a letter of reprimand placed on his file.
Arnold later complained in a letter to the association’s magazine that he didn’t feel the case was handled fairly.
“I believe several pieces of critical evidence were not considered by all parties — the registrar, the discipline panel and the investigation committee,” he wrote. However, “High financial risk forced me to choose not to go to a full hearing and accept a negotiated settlement instead.”
A series of documents obtained by the Star also showed Arnold repeatedly warned the company it was not meeting silviculture obligations in letters carbon copied to provincial forestry officials.
Arnold says the company asked him this week to return to work for them, but he refused.
Larock says their previous investigation allowed them to “move quicker” this time.
“We didn’t want things to develop where another member of the profession would be exposed or there might be some environmental damage,” he says. “Certainly we understood the circumstances having done that [earlier] investigation.”
The Association of BC Forest Professionals, which enforces the Foresters Act, has more than 5,400 members, including registered professional foresters and technologists.
Meadow Creek Cedar’s sawmill has been idle for the better part of a year, but the company continues to harvest and ship logs out of the valley.
Owner Dale Kooner did not respond to a request for comment.
FINAL PAYMENT MADE
Meadow Creek Cedar has made its last payment under a proposal for creditor protection.
“The proposal was satisfied November 7, and the fourth and final distribution to creditors was issued on December 1,” Ben Franklin of bankruptcy trustee Murphy and Associates said in an email.
When the proposal was filed in early 2009, the company owed $427,000 in payroll deductions to Canada Revenue Agency, a secured creditor, while over 50 unsecured creditors were collectively owed almost $1.5 million. Under the proposal, they were to receive 25 cents on the dollar.
Meadow Creek made five out of six payments to the tax collector and three out of four payments to unsecured creditors, but defaulted on the final payments in 2010.
The deadline to pay the outstanding $71,000 to Canada Revenue Agency and $91,000 to the unsecured creditors was extended several times.