Ministry’s about-face on Texada Island private forest land leaves millions worth of timber in limbo, forestry firm claims

BIV's lawsuit of the week

Texada Island | Shutterstock

Selkirk Mountain Forest Ltd. is taking the provincial government to court, claiming the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development wrongfully denied the company private timber marks on eight parcels of land on Texada Island.

Selkirk filed a petition in BC Supreme Court on December 10 to set aside the ministry’s decision denying the marks, which allow the transport of timber from privately held land. The company owns 2,500 hectares of land on the island, and the marks it applied for concern more than $2 million worth of timber on the “disputed parcels,” according to the petition. The parcels were originally sold by the Crown in the 1880s for as little as $160 and as much as $431 in 1888. Since then the parcels have changed ownership six times, and Selkirk bought the property from Texada Island Forest Reserve Ltd. in September 2017 for $19.3 million, $12.6 million of which was for the timber. A previous owner was issued a private timber mark for the lands in 1980, and the ministry renewed it several times before Selkirk took possession.

“Over the past almost 40 years, the ministry has never claimed any interest or title to the timber on the disputed parcels,” the petition states. “In fact, before Selkirk’s purchase of the disputed parcels the ministry had repeatedly and consistently issued a private timber mark to Texada and its parent company, Almforest, allowing Almforest and Texada to harvest timber on the disputed parcels without paying a royalty.”

At the time of the original grants by the Crown in the 1880s, Sekirk claims, there was no harvestable timber on the lands due to forest fires and other factors and the majority of it was logged between 1930 and 1970.

“Little, if any, logging occurred on the disputed parcels in the late 19th and early 20th century. This is because the ‘trees’ that existed on the disputed parcels before then were not ‘timber’ as they were not capable of being sold and manufactured into lumber,” the petition states. “The ministry’s refusal to issue a private timber mark for the disputed parcels not only diminishes the value of the timber for Selkirk, it also significantly diminishes the value of the land, since the land is chiefly valuable for its timber.”                   

The company seeks to set aside the denial of its timber mark application and an order directing the ministry to “immediately issue” the marks for the disputed lands. The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court and the B.C. government had not responded to the claims by press time.