For the second time in little over a year, the Meadow Creek Cedar forest license is on the brink of being cancelled.
The notice, announced by the Ministry of Forests on Monday, is effective Aug. 7, barring any postponements. The Forest Act requires a 90-day notification period and a chance for the license holder to request a review or appeal the notice.
In a statement, the ministry said it issued the notice due to its dissatisfaction with steps taken to date by Meadow Creek Cedar to meet remediation order deadlines and its “extensive history” of non-compliance in managing financial and legal obligations under the license.
It’s still possible for Meadow Creek Cedar, owned by Surrey’s Dale Kooner, to sell and transfer the license, but only if the ministry is satisfied a qualified buyer can be found before cancellation takes effect. Kooner is believed to be in negotiations with several parties.
If cancelled, the license would revert to the Crown to decide how best to use the volume. However, it probably wouldn’t be transferred until the next timber supply review. The license has an annual allowable cut of 96,500 cubic meters, with most of the operation located around Kootenay Lake north of Kaslo.
Rural Kaslo regional director Aimee Watson said if the license is cancelled, there is no guarantee whoever gets the timber would rebuild the mill at Cooper Creek that burned last year or have a stake in the immediate community’s well being.
“Nothing in legislation gives preference to local capacity,” she said. “It’s really just hoping at this point the Crown recognizes how important [the license] is to North Kootenay Lake economic activity and chooses an outfit that keeps the mill open. Without it, the logs will be transferred somewhere else.”
Watson said some local contractors were trying to team up to buy the license, and the cancellation notice, with its looming deadline, may or may not help.
“It changes the game a bit and could be advantageous or not,” she said.
Meadow Creek Cedar met some but not all of the requirements of a remediation order by a March 31 deadline. District forest manager Garth Wiggill said last month the company ordered trees for planting this spring, but the ministry seized about 11,000 cubic meters of unmilled logs to sell to other mills and service Crown debts. However, at the time the ministry was waiting on a legal opinion before deciding how to proceed.
Wiggill wasn’t available for an interview this week, but Watson said he has “been fantastic” about doing his best within limited legislation to look out for the community’s interests.
The Meadow Creek license was previously issued cancellation notice in January 2014. However, the cancellation was rescinded after Kooner worked out a deal to sell it to San Group, which paid off $150,000 in accrued debts, “substantially met” a remediation order and restarted the sawmill at Cooper Creek.