The Ministry of Forests has partly lifted Meadow Creek Cedar’s license suspension to allow for some “targeted logging” this winter.
Blue Ridge Land and Timber Management Ltd. signed an agreement in September with plans to bring the license back into compliance and eventually take ownership. The new company is affiliated with South Slocan’s Gold Island Forest Products and Selkirk Truss.
Ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke said in an email it’s “too soon” to completely lift the suspension, imposed in February for silviculture violations.
“However in recognition of positive steps, the suspension has been varied to allow some targeted logging on several existing cutting permits this winter,” he said. “The intent is for the management company to demonstrate its capacity, re-start some jobs in the north end of Kootenay Lake and address some forest health issues that have been identified in the operating area.”
Clarke said the ministry is taking a “probationary approach” to the license, and any changes to the suspension’s terms will be based on performance.
No new cutting permits will be issued for now, he added.
Blue Ridge general manager Trevor Kanigan said in a phone interview that in recent weeks they have opened an office in Kaslo and over the next three months expect to create eight to 12 full-time positions. Locals are expected to fill most of those jobs.
Kanigan said they’re also talking to a handful of contractors about doing some harvesting through the winter, considering options for a sort yard in Cooper Creek or Meadow Creek, and looking at setting up a field office in that area to be used by operations staff in the summer.
“Nothing’s definite, but things we’ve thought about are starting to take shape,” he said.
Meadow Creek Cedar has also transferred ownership of its seed inventory to Blue Ridge, and additional seedlings have been ordered for spring planting, Kanigan said.
Meanwhile, Meadow Creek Cedar’s appeal of its license suspension and $55,000 in fines to the Forest Appeals Commission has been abandoned.
Several days were set aside in January for hearings, but Kanigan said they have accepted the district manager’s decisions.
“We just decided it wasn’t worth the risk of continuing the appeals based on the information we had,” he said. “So we chose to abandon them and accept responsibility for dealing with the issues.”
The appeal hearing was originally scheduled for September, but delayed when Meadow Creek Cedar didn’t provide documentation to flesh out its case.
Despite some disappointment expressed last month by readers on nelsonstar.com that Blue Ridge’s plans don’t involve Meadow Creek Cedar’s shuttered sawmill, Kanigan said that’s at odds with other comments he’s heard.
“By no means is that representative,” he said. “I’ve received nothing but positive feedback.”
Kanigan says based on the resumes and phone calls they’ve received, many people are interested in helping re-establish the license.
“We’re seeing that as very positive, as people looking forward to the changes,” he said. “We’ve had a wide variety of people interested — contractors, consultants, professionals, forestry-related staff, you name it.
“We’ve had a lot of people say ‘We’re interested in what you’re doing, and we’d like to be part of it.’”
Kanigan will be at an information meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Lardeau Valley community hall in Meadow Creek to field questions about his company’s plans.
The meeting will also discuss an economic development project being undertaken by the Southern Interior Beetle Action Committee, targeting the Kaslo/Meadow Creek area.
Project manager Chris Ortner is expected to attend as well and meet with various interest groups this week.
Blue Ridge is also seeking feedback on its forest stewardship plan for the Meadow Creek license.
A 60-day comment period begins Wednesday. The plan can be viewed by appointment at Blue Ridge’s office in the Kemball building in Kaslo, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall says she is “very pleased” that a local group has stepped forward to work with Meadow Creek and the north end of Kootenay Lake on economic development.
“We have to be happy all is not lost and hopeful we can build on where we are starting from.”