The Ministry of Forests says it welcomes a Forest Practices Board audit exposing “unsound” practices at Meadow Creek Cedar, while industry and professional groups are praising the report.
Ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke said the document released Friday “supports our reasons for suspending the company’s license.”
“As recommended by the board, we will examine options to act sooner should similar situations arise,” he said.
The report, which laid out several areas where the company failed to lived up to legal requirements, also found gaps in government policy and made four recommendations.
Forest Practices Board chair Al Gorley said the ministry needs to be able to act much more quickly where there is a “continuous and prolonged contravention of a licensee’s obligations.”
Compliance and enforcement staff are still investigating other alleged contraventions by Meadow Creek Cedar, which could result in further penalties.
The company’s license suspension for silviculture infractions, announced in February, was recently upheld by the ministry’s regional executive director, along with a remediation order.
An appeal of a $42,000 fine is expected to go before the Forest Appeals Commission sometime this summer.
QUESTIONS RAISED FOR FORESTERS
Randy Trerise, registrar of the Association of Professional Foresters of BC, commended the Forest Practices Board for the report.
“My initial reaction is the board has done a very good job,” he told the Star. “They certainly have identified some very serious shortcomings with regard to forest practices and ensuring good stewardship.”
The report noted the company ignored several letters from its former registered professional forester expressing concerns about the soundness of its practices, particularly around silviculture and road construction.
It also said the company’s failure to implement plans prepared by professionals raised other questions, such as whether Meadow Creek Cedar remove registered foresters from advising, supervising, or assessing the impact of forestry activities, and whether this violated the Forester’s Act.
“These questions are outside of the scope of this investigation, but may require further examination by government and the Association of BC Forest Professionals,” the report says.
“Those are excellent questions, absolutely,” Trerise says.
“We have been reviewing what’s been happening at Meadow Creek for some time. We were alerted by one of our members and are very concerned Meadow Creek may not have been following the requirements of the Forester’s Act.
“It certainly appears to us there isn’t good stewardship going on in some areas and our members have not been employed properly to ensure good stewardship.”
The association previously red-flagged the company and said it was considering legal action, but according to Trerise, they haven’t made any decisions.
While its license suspension prevents Meadow Creek from doing any more harvesting, Trerise adds he’s concerned rehabilitation work is needed to prevent erosion, landslides, and long-term environmental problems.
MEADOW CREEK ATYPICAL, INDUSTRY SAYS
Two industry representatives also spoke highly of the report and said Meadow Creek Cedar was not typical of BC forest companies.
Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association president Jim Hackett stressed Meadow Creek hasn’t belonged to his organization since Dale Kooner bought the company in 2005, and called the case “unique.”
“Companies like Kalesnikoff, Atco, and Porcupine, who are members, are adhering to the law and doing a good job,” Hackett said. “Most companies in BC, I think, try to.”
Hackett said although not a member, Meadow Creek would have been discussed in their forestry committee meetings as an example of how not to do business.
“If we’re tarred with the same brush, it could impact markets, social license, and public opinion. We take that all seriously.”
Archie MacDonald, general manager of forestry for the Council of Forest Industries, commended the board for a “straightforward, to-the-point, thorough assessment” of Meadow Creek’s practices and believed government would take it seriously.
“We’re very strong advocates of good forest management, sustainable practices, and absolutely don’t condone the actions going on at Meadow Creek Cedar, based on the findings of the report,” he said.
MacDonald said the “vast majority” of tenure holders in BC have third-party certification of their practices and are regularly audited. Compliance levels are very high, he added, even with assessments focused on highest-risk areas.