Decision Date: June 21, 2007
Panel: David Ormerod
Keywords: Forest Act – s. 105(1), 149(3); Stumpage Advisory Notice; Interior Appraisal Manual; reappraisal.
The Appellants appealed three Stumpage Advisory Notices (“SANs”) issued for the cutting permits of three woodlot licences located within the Skeena Stikine Forest District, Northern Interior Forest Region of the Ministry of Forests and Range.
Blanket salvage cutting permits were issued for the woodlot licences in question. In July 2006, SANs that set stumpage rates and periods of application were issued for the permits. On January 12, 2007, the Minister of Forests and Range approved Amendment No. 18 of the Interior Appraisal Manual (the “IAM”) and directed all Interior Regional Managers to reappraise all woodlot blanket cutting permits effective immediately. According to the Appellants, this directive was made without the prior knowledge or consultation of the woodlot licensees. The Timber Pricing Officer (the “Officer”) reappraised all woodlot blanket salvage permits, including those issued to the Appellants, and made the reappraisals effective January 12, 2007.
The three appeals were heard together as they were made on identical grounds and on common evidence. The Appellants asked the Commission to reinstate the rates previously set in the July 2006 SANs and the periods they had been set for.
The Appellants argued that the application of Amendment No. 18 created a breach of contract as it unilaterally replaced the stumpage rates that had not yet expired with untenably higher rates.
In response, the Government argued that the Minister has the legal authority under section 105(1) of the Forest Act (the “Act”) to amend stumpage policy and procedures at any time, that SANs are not contracts, and that the Officer complied with the amended IAM when he issued the SANs under appeal.
The Commission considered the question of whether the Officer had the authority to issue the SANs effective January 12, 2007 for the woodlot blanket salvage cutting permits. The Commission found that it does not have the jurisdiction to interfere with either the Minister’s discretion to approve stumpage determination policies and procedures, or his discretion to specify when stumpage rates must be determined, redetermined and varied pursuant to section 105(1)(b) of the Act. Moreover, section 149(3) of the Act requires the Commission to apply the IAM, as amended on January 12, 2007. The Commission found no evidence that the Officer had improperly applied the amended IAM, or failed to reappraise the stumpage rates at the times specified by the Minister in the directive.
Therefore, the Commission found that the Officer did not err in determining the stumpage rates set out in the SANs or in making those rates effective on January 12, 2007. The Commission confirmed the stumpage determinations set out in those SANs. Accordingly, the appeals were dismissed.