The Ministry of Forests has upheld a local forest company’s license suspension.
Meadow Creek Cedar’s license was yanked in February for silviculture infractions. The company appealed the district forest manager’s decision to the ministry’s regional executive director, but it has been sustained along with a remediation order, Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall says.
The company can still take its case to the independent Forest Appeals Commission.
The commission is expected to hear an appeal of a $42,000 fine imposed for the same contraventions, although a hearing date has not been set. Mungall says it could be in July, August, or September.
Meanwhile, a long-awaited Forest Practices Board report on Meadow Creek Cedar will be released tomorrow.
The audit is expected to be a wide-ranging — and unflattering — assessment of the company’s operations. Investigators have been compiling the document since last summer.
Kootenay Lake district manager Garth Wiggill is also reviewing another contravention file relating to exceeding soil disturbance limits on a cutblock and a small timber trespass.
Mungall said she expected the regional executive director to uphold Wiggill’s ruling.
“Garth did his due diligence, no doubt,” she said. “I’m not surprised his decision was upheld.”
Mungall acknowledged, however, that it would be a “lengthy process” before the company exhausts all of its appeals.
“It’s unfortunate for the community that it’s taking this amount of time. It’s hard for them to move forward and know exactly what direction they’re able to go.”
On Wednesday in Victoria, Mungall asked forests minister Steve Thomson whether any programs existed to help displaced workers, similar to the jobs commissioner that existed in the 1990s.
She said while Thomson couldn’t list anything specific to support workers directly, he did mention broader programs, and invited her to meet with him soon to discuss them in more detail.
“I’m really pleased the minister is so willing to continue on a non-partisan approach with this, because that’s definitely where my efforts have been put,” she said.
Meadow Creek Cedar’s license suspension and fine followed a hearing last December in which the company’s former professional forester acknowledged violations in an agreed statement of facts.
An investigation by ministry compliance staff found the company didn’t achieve “minimum restocking requirements” on six separate cutblocks where harvesting occurred in 2006 in 2007.
The company has had numerous other problems as well.
“This has been really devastating for the community at the north end of Kootenay Lake,” Mungall said. “Not just Meadow Creek, but the entire Lardeau Valley and Kaslo as well.”
Mungall met with the community in December and believes there is economic development potential in the area, but support is required to identify opportunities and turn them into reality.
Surrey resident Dale Kooner, who also runs a blueberry farm and is affiliated with several trucking firms, bought Meadow Creek Cedar in 2005 from a Japanese concern.