A Strathcona Regional District director is “confident” he will be reinstated to the forestry board he was told he is no longer welcome on.
Area A Director Gerald Whalley said Wednesday that Western Forest Products has requested a meeting between Whalley, regional district staff and top executives at the forestry company.
“I’m looking forward to resolving this issue,” Whalley said. “I’m confident I will be back on the board.”
The board Whalley is referring to is the Mid Island Forestry Lands Advisory Group (MIFLAG) which advises Western Forest Products on sustainable forest management.
At its last meeting, on Sept. 22, Whalley was told to leave meeting – which was held at the Menzies forestry office – and to not come back.
Whalley said he angered the foresters by appealing Western’s clean audit following a vote at a previous meeting, on July 28, related to Western Forest Products’ application of herbicides in the Sayward Valley. Whalley said a motion to allow Western to increase its allowable use of herbicides by three times was declared carried following a vote of six in favour and four opposed.
Whalley contests that it should have failed according to MIFLAG’s terms of reference which states that, “decisions which must be made by MIFLAG are done by consensus building techniques where consensus is deemed to be ‘no strong opposition.”
Whalley said the group’s actions caused him to question the audit at the Sept. 22 meeting and the foresters grew angry and told him to leave. Following that meeting, Jeff Ternan, operations manager for Western, wrote to the Strathcona Regional District relaying that “in light of recent events, Gerald Whalley is no longer welcome to participate in, or attend any further MIFLAG meetings or functions.”
MIFLAG then scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 27. Whalley said Wednesday that the meeting was cancelled once MIFLAG was notified that the regional district would be sending Whalley to the meeting as well as Cortes Director Noba Anderson in the event Whalley was escorted off the premises.
The day prior to the scheduled meeting, Whalley said Western Forest Products wrote the letter to regional district Chair Jim Abram, requesting the meeting between Whalley, and staff at the regional district and Western Forest Products.
Amy Spencer, director of communications and government relations with Western Forest Products, told the Mirror last Monday that Western is committed to resolving the issue.
“We are looking into this issue to determine that due process was followed by all parties involved,” Spencer said. “We are confident that we will find a mutually agreeable outcome to this situation.”
Whalley said he believes the fact the regional district stood its ground and rallied behind him has something to do with the MIFLAG meeting being cancelled.
“I think us elevating this to their senior staff got their attention,” Whalley said.
Abram wrote a letter to MIFLAG following Whalley’s dismissal from the advisory group’s meeting taking the foresters to task for their actions.
“I would like to convey the regional district board’s extreme disappointment with the action you have taken concerning Director Whalley,” Abram said. “I have never encountered any company that has dismissed a member appointed by another agency, solely due to the fact that they disagree with the company’s views on silviculture. Advisory groups are put in place to give advice. You can take that advice or not, but dismissal of an appointee because of that advice is totally inappropriate. Every member of MIFLAG must be free to discuss and to vote as they wish on these issues without hostility or intimidations.”
Whalley has been appointed in each of the last seven years as the Strathcona Regional District’s representative on the MIFLAG committee. Appointments come up each December and as the mid-island forest operations lie within Area A, Whalley has been the logical choice. Whalley also ran the silviculture program with both MacMillan Bloedel and Weyerhaeuser forestry companies.