The Timber Licence in question was located up Loughborough Inlet. Photo courtesy Google Maps

The Timber Licence in question was located up Loughborough Inlet. Photo courtesy Google Maps

Fine for illegal cedar harvesting in Great Bear Rainforest increased more than tenfold

Penalty increased to $131,000 to act as deterrent, prevent profit from proceeds of a crime

A man fined for illegally harvested timber on We Wai Kum Territory has seen his penalty increase significantly after the Forest Practices Board appealed a previous ruling by the province.

Timothy Holland saw his fine increased from $12,000 to $131,759.48, which the board says acts as prevention of him profiting from breaking the law.

Quoted in a 26-page decision by the Forest Appeals Commission, the board says that Holland’s actions “call for a meaningful penalty” to ensure he is deterred from similar actions in the future, and to act as a demonstration to others who would ignore the boundaries of a licence.

In 2016, the foresty ministry gave Holland — operating as Bigfoot Forest Productions — a licence to cut timber in Loughborough Inlet. The inlet is part of the We Wai Kum Traditional Territory, and is located in the Great Bear Rainforest.

After receiving complaints that Holland removed timber from outside the specified area authorized by his licence, a formal investigation was launched in August 2020, during which 37 sites where timber was cut outside of the designated area were discovered. Some of the sites were of cultural significance to the We Wai Kum First Nation.

“Six standing trees were felled, most of which appeared to be old growth cedar,” reads the report, also noting the cultural importance of cedar to the We Wai Kum people. The report includes an impact statement made by the First Nation that emphasized their “unique relationship” with the tree.

The panel found that those trees had cultural and ecological importance that “are now potentially damaged and the values are not recoverable, at least in any practical time frame.”

The province issued a stop work order in October 2020. In late 2020, the written decision states that Holland sent threatening messages both by email and over voicemail to ministry staff. Holland also allegedly made statements indicating that he cut timber “right off the beach,” because “it would take you, like, two hours” to walk to his licenced area.

When given the opportunity to provide submissions to the appeal process, the report says the province’s legal counsel received an email from Holland that read “Kiss my ass.”

The district manager levied two, $6,000 fines against Holland, one for each section of the Forest and Range Practices Act that he was found to have contravened (cutting Crown timber without authority, and removal of Crown timber without authority).

However, the board felt that fine was not sufficient to act as a deterrent to Holland or others, and that the proceeds that Holland made from the sale of the illegally-cut wood were higher than the fine.

Market value for the trees cut, plus the bonus bid and stumpage were calculated at about $71,000 for the first contravention, and roughly $60,600 for the second.

“Administrative penalties should usually remove the economic benefit that the person derived from the contravention,” the decision reads.

We Wai Kum chief Chris Roberts agrees. He told the CBC that it would not act as a deterrent, rather more of a small price to pay for a high monetary gain.

“Given the potential loss of archaeological artifacts, the importance of standing old growth cedar trees to the Indigenous community and considering the biological benefits that old growth trees provide in a forest, a higher penalty is warranted,” the District Manager wrote in the original determination.

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marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

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