A Kamloops-area man who had his “retirement fund” of 500 cords of harvested firewood seized from his property has been told he will receive no clemency from the Ministry of Forests.
Rick Farr had been amassing the wood, collected and cut from fallen trees and slash piles, for more than two years.
He had been selling firewood to rural homeowners in the region for about 15 years — coming to be known by many as a reliable supplier.
But in August of last year, about 500 cords of firewood — worth about $100,000 by Farr’s estimate — were seized by the government, leaving the 63-year-old without a source of income and many customers without a source of firewood for the coming winter.
In B.C., residents are allowed to cut firewood on Crown land for personal use with a Free Use Permit for Firewood, but the wood cannot be sold.
Farr employed the services of lawyer Daniel McNamee, who questioned the fairness and timing of the seizure and tried to find a compromise with the ministry — allowing Farr to, perhaps, pay stumpage fees for the wood he had taken and promise compliance in the future.
In December, Farr was finally given a chance to be heard and McNamee delivered a written submission to an adjudicator with the ministry.
“It doesn’t seem like anybody really cared,” McNamee said of the outcome.
He said that unless Farr is willing to take his chances elevating the proceedings to higher courts — something that could be a costly venture with no guarantee of success — this is the end of the line.
“I’m pissed off. I was making a small living and now I don’t have it anymore,” Farr said of the outcome.
Without an income, Farr said he has applied for his Old Age Security pension and is using those funds, supplemented by his savings, to live.
He is also looking to continue to harvest firewood — in compliance with ministry regulations — but said he is struggling.
“I’m trying, but it’s tough. To tell you the truth, I’m so pissed off I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. At the worst, I’ll have to sell my house. I don’t want to do that, but if I have to, I have to,” he said.
At the hearing, McNamee said, the ministry noted it had forwarded Farr’s information to the Canada Revenue Agency.
“He’s there begging for mercy on a wood pile and not only do they deny him the relief he’s seeking without really considering … now they want to send this off to somebody else to further investigate,” McNamee said.
“I was really disappointed with the decision. Maybe it’s obvious, but I put a lot of time into the issue of whether or not they could relieve from forfeiture.
“To me, it seems obvious that Rick Farr is a pretty sympathetic guy. I think they didn’t really consider the fact that this is a bunch of firewood he’s actually worked on.”