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Professional forester tried to warn employer

His own transgressions aside a series of documents show Meadow Creek Cedar’s former forester told his employer they weren’t requirements.

His own transgressions aside (see front page story), a series of documents obtained by the Star show Meadow Creek Cedar’s former registered professional forester repeatedly told his employer they weren’t meeting their silviculture requirements.

In the first letter, dated February 25, 2008, Rodney Arnold warned of a “pending negative situation developing regarding silviculture obligations,” which exposed the company to fines of up to $170,000.

He also said cancelling a seedling order intended to help them catch up on reforestation commitments was a bad idea that would likely cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars more in additional brushing.

“When the silviculture obligations fall behind this devalues the license on the books and reduces the net value of the company in the event you wish to sell,” he told owner Dale Kooner.

Arnold urged Kooner to invest in reforestation, or set aside a portion of revenue from the sale of logs for silviculture purposes.

“I think the issue of meeting the silviculture obligations in a cost effective manner requires your attention to... prevent the above pending situation from jeopardizing the viability of the company’s forest license,” he said.

On August 22 of the same year, Arnold wrote again to Kooner, copied to the district forest manager, to say results reporting had not been provided to the Ministry of Forests for three years on all aspects of the operation, and no brushing had been done for four years.

“The silviculture liability increase caused by the above work not being done will reduce the price received for the company when it is sold,” he said. “The risks of penalties (increased liabilities) to the new owner will show up in the due diligence investigation he would conduct before buying the company.”

He added the Ministry of Forests could also contract out the work not done and bill the company — and if the amount was not paid, stop issuing cutting permits.

“The license is approaching the point that if the Ministry of Forests determines the obligations are in serious enough default, the license can be cancelled and re-advertised,” Arnold wrote. “In my opinion other licensees in the area are waiting for that to happen rather than purchasing the company.”

In a memo of January 28, 2009, Arnold laid out what it would cost to bring Meadow Creek in line with its outstanding silviculture obligations, and noted they might have trouble hiring tree planters and brushers, as the previous year a contractor invested in equipment only to have the company cancel the work.

“Meadow Creek Cedar’s reputation is the issue in trying to convince people to work for the company,” he said.

Finally, on December 14, 2010, Arnold noted no brushing had taken place on the forest license for five years, although amendments had been submitted to the Ministry of Forests to extend timelines and stave off fines.

Meadow Creek Cedar would have to do “significant” work each year to meet its silvicultural obligations, he said: “There is no more room for delaying activities or costs.”

Arnold said his letter was intended to correct past practices “that may have been looked upon as saving cash flow but instead have increased costs overall.”

On the same day, Arnold warned Kooner that a road built by Meadow Creek Cedar into Lendrum Creek did not meet engineering standards, and their construction practices “pose issues of safety for the loggers during logging operations and potential high risk to Lendrum Creek and [its] fisheries values.”

Some of Arnold’s letters are quoted in an appeals commission ruling that upheld a $2,100 fine against the company for 21 breaches of its silviculture obligations.

A government submission said the circumstances warranted the fine, “as the contraventions were numerous, and repeated warnings did not deter Meadow Creek from its unlawful conduct.”

However, an appeals commission sustained the nominal fine, as there were no previous infractions, the company co-operated with the investigation, and the contraventions “did not cause any damage to public forest resources.”

Kooner, who bought the company in 2005, did not respond to a request for comment.