Decision Date: June 2, 2006
Panel: James S. Hackett
Keywords: Forest Act ss. 105, 149(3) and 149(4); stumpage advisory notice; application for costs.
Owen Lake Ranch Ltd. (“Owen Lake”) appealed a stumpage advisory notice (“SAN”) issued for a cutting permit for a woodlot located in the Northern Interior Forest Region. The stumpage rate was set at $28.62/m3 for the period of August 1, 2005 to July 31, 2006. In determining the stumpage rate, the Timber Pricing Coordinator (the “Coordinator”) applied the woodlot average rate pursuant to the Interior Appraisal Manual (“IAM”). Both parties agreed that the stumpage rate was determined in accordance with the IAM. However, Owen Lake submitted that the IAM should not be applied in this case on the grounds that it unfairly penalizes the company and is “ethically wrong.” According to Owen Lake, approximately 6,000 m3 of timber on the woodlot is infested with Mountain Pine Beetle and must be logged very soon to protect the health of the woodlot. Owen Lake submitted that, given the current selling price for pine saw logs, the stumpage rate set by the Coordinator will result in a significant financial loss for the company. As a result, it will not be able to afford to harvest the infested timber this winter. Owen Lake asked the Commission to reduce the stumpage rate set by the SAN.
The Government submitted that, pursuant to section 149(3) of the Forest Act, the Commission must apply the policies and procedures in the IAM, and must, therefore, confirm the original SAN. The Government also asked the Commission to order Owen Lake to pay costs pursuant to section 149(4) of the Forest Act.
The Commission found that, as per section 149(3) of the Forest Act, the Commission must apply the policies of the IAM. Although sympathetic to Owen Lake’s situation, the Commission has no jurisdiction to rescind or modify an otherwise valid SAN on the grounds of “ethics.” The Commission further found that although the Government clearly set out in its initial submissions that the Commission did not have the jurisdiction to give Owen Lake the remedy it sought, there must be greater latitude given to an appellant who is unrepresented. This is particularly true when the consequences flowing from an appeal are potentially significant. Therefore, the Commission denied the Government’s application for costs.
The Commission confirmed the stumpage rate and dismissed the appeal.
The application for costs was denied.