If the Nuchatlaht’s case is successful in BC’s Supreme Court, they will be able to take back their unceded land from forestry companies and begin its healing process.
The north end of Nootka Island. Most of the area shown is claimed by the Nuchatlaht First Nation. The area has been heavily logged, mainly by Western Forest Products and BC Timber Sales. The remaining old-growth forest is indicated by darker green (click image to enlarge).
BARK AND WOOD from the towering cedars that used to cover Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, were used for millennia by the Nuchatlaht people to create ocean-going canoes and household items, while abundant salmon, ducks and seafood ensured that no one went hungry.
“It’s a powerful history,” said Archie Little, Nuchatlaht house speaker, describing how, for centuries, Nuchatlaht, a nation of plenty, hosted other First Nations, with Nootka becoming a regional cultural and social centre.
Archie Little, Nuchatlaht house speaker (Photo: Nuchatlaht First Nation)
Nuchatlaht Tyee Ha’wilth (hereditary chief) Jordan Michael can trace his family history back through the centuries, with documents showing a flourishing culture and unbroken line of hereditary chiefs.
“We were here when British Captain James Cook sailed into Nootka Sound in 1778. We were here when George Vancouver met the Spanish Captain Bodega y Quadra in 1792,” Michael wrote in an explanation of the First Nation’s history.
Nuchatlaht Tyee Ha’wilth Jordan Michael (Photo: Nuchatlaht First Nation)
Fast-forward to today. Following colonization, smallpox, residential schools, provincial and federal laws that took away the land and forest licences issued to multinational companies, 80 percent of northern Nootka Island has been logged, salmon streams have been destroyed and the herring run decimated.
Which is why the tiny Nuchatlaht Nation, with about 170 members, is heading to BC Supreme Court on March 21 in a landmark title case, naming the provincial and federal governments and Western Forest Products, and why there is absolute determination to win this case and, possibly, set a precedent for other First Nations hoping to lay title claim to unceded territories.
“We won’t lose. We can’t lose. Losing is not in our vocabulary. We’re here to win. We’re here to change. We’re here to make things better for everyone,” Little said at a webinar hosted by the Wilderness Committee.
“Our wealth was abundance, and it was managed as such. It wasn’t just take, take, take until there’s nothing left,” Little said.
“Look at the state we are in now. We have to stand up. We have to take ownership. We have to protect it and manage it way better,” he said.
The Nuchatlaht rights and title case, claiming about 200 square kilometres of Nootka Island, is the first to apply the precedent-setting 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada granted the Tsilhqot’in First Nation title to 1,750 square kilometres of territory. The ruling established that semi-nomadic First Nations can claim entire territories, not only village sites.
Nuchatlaht is asking for a declaration of aboriginal title and for the Forests Act to no longer apply to those lands. Such a ruling would void existing forest licences and leave Nuchatlaht to decide how to manage the land.
Little believes local management by people with a deep connection to the area will give the land a chance to recover and, as he confidently predicts victory, he hopes to see salmon parks established on Nootka Island. Salmon parks recognize that everything is connected, from the health of mountain tops to the rivers running through the valley bottoms
“Salmon depend on water and land. We can’t cut all the trees and expect the salmon to survive. We need healthy waters and healthy fish and healthy people,” he said.
Clearcut logging on Nootka Island (Photo: TJ Watt)
A test of the Province’s pledge to implement UNDRIP
The case will also test the Province’s commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, passed in 2019. The Province pledged to bring all BC’s laws into alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people.
That declaration says that Indigenous people have the right to the lands and resources they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used and requires Indigenous communities to consent to decisions that affect their rights.
However, progress on the provincial declaration has been slow, with some First Nations criticizing the pace of change.
Chief Michael, speaking at the webinar, said the Province’s insistence on fighting the title case does not indicate a commitment to UNDRIP.
“Considering the way Canada has been towards us up to now, there’s been no sign of UNDRIP or any of that good faith yet, so I was not holding my breath. Sure enough, there’s no change in their tactics. It’s pretty disappointing, but no surprise,” Michael said.
Lawyer Jack Woodward, who shepherded the Tsilhqot’in case through the courts and was instrumental in drafting the section of the Canadian Constitution that enshrines Indigenous Rights, is exasperated by the provincial government’s insistence on fighting the case.
Lawyer Jack Woodward (Photo: Landon Walters CC)
While Woodward acknowledges that implementing UNDRIP is a big project, he said, “But, they just have to work harder. You can’t make a solemn promise to all of the Indigenous people and all of us who feel ashamed of British Columbia’s past…and not follow through. You’ve got to follow through and we just have to keep pressuring our politicians,” he said, in answer to audience questions at the webinar.
History speaks for itself, according to Woodward.
Province’s legal arguments are “disgraceful”
“It has been the shame of British Columbia. It’s really our original sin in this province that there have been no proper dealings with the First Nations about their lands, which were simply taken. What is new, is that the current government has promised that they are going to conduct this litigation in a spirit of reconciliation on a principled basis,” he said.
Instead, the Province’s legal arguments are “disgraceful,” Woodward said.
The Province’s position, put forward in the latest response to the civil claim, are that the Nuchatlaht abandoned Nootka Island, that BC laws displaced Indigenous title, and that the Nuchatlaht Nation was too small and weak to legally hold title.
The document describes various groups or Indigenous collectives using the area before the British Crown asserted sovereignty over Nootka Island in 1790 and “a collective of politically autonomous local groups” that lived in the territory between 1803 and 1846. “There are not now and, since the 1980s there have not been, Nuchatlaht resident communities in the Claim Area,” it says.
That is because the Nuchatlaht were driven out after they were forbidden to cut trees or build houses on Crown land, Woodward said.
“They were evicted. They were forced off their land by the government’s act. This is a disgraceful argument that our government is making…I am embarrassed that our Province continues to advance that position. I am calling on the Attorney General to turn it around,” he said.
“Our argument is really very simple that Indigenous people, like all Canadians, have to have the right to inherit the wealth of their grandparents…That right was cut off by government actions in the last decades and that is what we are going to fix in this court case,” he said.
An e-mailed statement from the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said the Province is committed to a principled legal approach, but the primary goal is always to resolve issues outside the courts.
“We are deeply committed to advancing reconciliation in BC—guided by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—and with meaningful consultation and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples,” it said.
The claim that British Columbia’s laws displaced Aboriginal title, if it ever existed, is a new argument, Woodward said.
“That’s the extinguishment argument recycled with a different word,” said Woodward, adding that, under the Canadian Constitution and UNDRIP, there cannot be claims that Indigenous title was extinguished.
The Province is not arguing extinction and has not used such a defence since the litigation started, replied the ministry in an e-mail.
Since 2019, the Province has based its negotiations on a recognition of the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples “with all agreements stating explicitly that government will not require Indigenous peoples to extinguish their rights,” says the ministry response.
Then, there is the “Luxembourg defence” claiming Nuchatlaht was too small and weak to have Indigenous title, Woodward said, pointing out that Luxembourg is squished between the great powers of France and Germany, but still exists.
“That’s like Nuchatlaht. They are still there… [and] that is the bully’s argument that they say only the strong have a right to survive,” he said.
The pleading from the Province says the government is concerned about possible overlapping title claims with the Ehattesaht and Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations, but Woodward said there are no overlaps with the territories of other First Nations.
“What distinguishes this case is the very careful way that Nuchatlaht have exercised restraint by not making a claim for any areas claimed by another First Nation,” he said.
Ehattesaht and Mowachaht-Muchalaht confirmed there are no problems with overlap and both First Nations support the Nuchatlaht claim.
Show of support requested
As the case progresses, and particularly if Nuchatlaht is victorious, one of the questions will be whether other First Nations are ready to follow suit.
For most communities, the downside is the time, energy and money required to get a case into court and Woodward has accused the Province of using delaying tactics to increase the expense in the Nuchatlaht case, which was launched in 2017.
Woodward said many people were surprised that more First Nations did not embark on rights and title cases after the Tsilhqot’in victory, but most opted to aim for negotiated settlements instead of long, expensive court cases.
As some of the “clutter” is cleared in the initial cases, Woodward hopes the time and the cost will decrease.
“My ambition is that this case will be done for 10 percent of the cost and 10 percent of the time of Tsilhqot’in and I think we might do it,” he said.
The case will start Monday, March 21, 2022 and continue for eight weeks, followed by two weeks of legal submissions in September. Nuchatlaht members are asking for a show of support with a rally at the Nelson Street entrance of the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver at 8:30 am March 21.
Judith Lavoie is a freelance journalist who enjoys exploring stories about the natural world.
Old Growth Revylution blockade shakes up business as usual in the Revelstoke area.
Old Growth Revylution’s camp as the snow began to fall
The Old Growth Revylution (OGR) blockade continues. We have had a constant presence at the Bigmouth River Forest Service Road since July 6, 2021. The blockade has been moved closer to Highway 23. We’re now about .8 km in from the highway. We have a huge tarpee and a camper and another camper coming on board. People rotate going up there. The snow removal involved is massive—120 km north of Revelstoke can have 37 feet of snow in a season and we have had record snowfalls this year. People keep donating—snowblowers and equipment and money. Extraordinary.
When we began in early July, 2021, British Columbia Timber Sales (BCTS) was punching a road into the three cutblocks in Argonaut Creek which had not been deferred. Eleven cutblocks had already been deferred earlier in the year until mountain caribou herd planning is completed. At the moment, this is timed for the end of 2022. The road-building equipment was removed due to our blockade.
The Bigmouth River Forest Service Road blockade in summer 2021
In late August, BCTS asked if they could stabilize this road, but OGR said they would not let them in to do this unless they deferred these last three remaining blocks in the pristine Argonaut Creek valley. They never replied, but sent helicopters in twice to ditch the road by hand. These last three blocks were scheduled to be auctioned off in the fall of 2021, but this did not happen as the road was probably still unstable and certainly unfinished, and there was a blockade on the Argonaut and, in fact, the whole Bigmouth Valley and Louis Lee branch. The last three blocks of Argonaut Creek valley were deferred in the November 2, 2021 announcement of proposed deferrals. These three blocks were not conditional on Indigenous approval or anything else. So this was a clear win, which was mostly due to the OGR blockade.
OGR then did a pop-up blockade of the Akolkolex logging road near Revelstoke because Downie Timber was logging in proposed deferral areas. Downie stopped logging in these proposed deferral areas, but—it has to be said—this was largely due to being given approvals for additional adjacent cutblocks. The action also led to a meeting with Downie, which has opened communication. There has been discussion of logging in some areas rather than in others in the Bigmouth. However, OGR has declined this “compromise” and continues to emphasize policy change at the provincial level to stop logging old and primary forests. So here we remain.
Virginia Thompson is a member of Old Growth Revylution.
The BC Court of Appeal has reversed earlier decisions and cleared the way for a civil action brought by professional forester Martin Watts against the Provincial government.
Martin Watts alleges that his criticism of ministry of forests’ growth and yield models and data resulted in ministry employees limiting his access to ministry contracts and data necessary to conduct his forestry consultation business. (Photo by David Broadland)
WITH FOREST FIRES, stifling heat, floods and landslides focussing public attention on BC’s forestry practices, consultant Martin Watts is hoping his lawsuit will push the province to ensure vital forestry decisions, such as establishing cut rates, are based on accurate data and scientific information.
That has not been the case for at least the previous two decades, according to Watts, who says that, during his years of undertaking contracts for the ministry of forests, he found inaccurate data and faulty modelling and monitoring methods were being used to estimate forest growth rates and that faulty information was informing the rate of cut in provincial forests.
However, efforts to point out gaping holes and inaccuracies in data and models used by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch did not go down well in the ministry and eventually cost him his livelihood as his company, FORCOMP Forestry Consulting Ltd, was then cut out of contracts, he said.
It has been five long and expensive years since Watts launched a civil suit against the Province and four ministry of forests employees and, after facing appeals, delays and setbacks—all of which came on the heels of more than a decade of presenting his case to various government boards—the BC Court of Appeal has cleared the road for the case to proceed.
A ruling by three judges, with written reasons by Justice Peter Voith, overturns a previous ruling that struck the claims and were described by a judge as “unnecessary, frivolous and an abuse of process.” The new judgement will allow claims of misfeasance in public office, conspiracy and breach of the Charter to proceed, but not Watts’ claim of blacklisting.
Before the case is heard, Watts, who is using his retirement savings to fund the case, must deposit $20,000, as security for costs, within the next two months.
The province has 20 days to deliver their response to the civil claim, said lawyer Peter Waldman, who is acting for Watts.
“But, it has taken over five years and they haven’t delivered their defense yet,” he said.
“What we are out to prove is that they didn’t like being criticized and so they did all kinds of things (to Watts) and what we are putting forward is that’s not how government officials are supposed to behave,” Waldman said.
Governments, whether in the form of politicians or bureaucrats, are not supposed to use their positions to attack people—a concept that is a cornerstone of democratic government, Waldman said.
Watts’ complaints started under the Liberal government and, since then, there have been two NDP governments, but nothing has changed, Waldman pointed out.
“All three of these versions of BC provincial governments are perfectly ready to try and stop Martin Watts from getting a remedy,” and that begs the question of whether politicians or bureaucrats are in charge, he said.
A ministry of forests spokesman said that, as the issue is being appealed “we cannot speak to an ongoing court proceeding.”
Prior to 2003, Watts, who specializes in tree growth and yield, was given frequent contracts by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch, but, after pointing out that information being used as the basis for setting BC’s annual allowable cut was corrupted, monitoring programs were not working and unvalidated computer models were being used in the timber supply review process, the work disappeared.
Government contracts were written in ways that excluded his company and he was blocked from accessing data that was essential for private sector contracts.
Statements to the court say problems between Watts and FAIB started after the Gordon Campbell Liberal government cut the ministry’s budget and staff in 2002.
During the previous decade, FORCOMP’s provincial contracts earned the company about $132,000 a year, but, by 2003, the contracts disappeared and Watts was unable to access provincial data he needed to bid on private sector consulting contracts.
The four people named in the lawsuit are Albert Nussbaum, Jon Vivian, Patrick Martin and Sam Otukol, two of whom still work for the ministry. In statements to the court, Watts alleges they conspired to exclude his company from obtaining contracts.
For example, FORCOMP was excluded from the 2011-2014 qualified contractors list, even though the company had been included on previous lists.
As Watts’ company foundered, he began a battle to try and regain his career and to bring attention to problems which he believes inevitably led to over-harvesting.
“The bad modelling is over-predicting the growth of the forest. There’s a lot of uncertainty and they don’t consider that uncertainty,” said Watts, adding that, especially as the province is facing extreme weather from climate change, it is essential that basic information is accurate.
The graph above is from the 2004 Ministry of Forests “State of the Forests” report signed by then BC Chief Forester Jim Snetsinger (the “Actual cut in 2020” reference has been added by Evergreen Alliance). The ministry’s prediction of future timber supply, which helped to determine the allowable annual cut, was based on data from computer models created by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch (FAIB). This prediction was made at a time when the ministry expected the impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle to be greater than it turned out to be. Even so, the ministry greatly over-estimated future timber supply. Martin Watts alleges that after he pointed out errors in the data used by the models, and problems with the models themselves, employees of FAIB conspired to prevent him from receiving further contracts or access to the data.
Some of the recent floods and landslides in BC have been linked to road-building and clearcuts on steep slopes, while researchers have said that removing the forest canopy and cutting old-growth forests results in increased local temperatures.
Climate change means that uncertainties about how a managed forest will grow, are magnified, Watts said. “When you have a lot of uncertainty you take a precautionary approach and they are not doing that and it’s leading to over-harvesting,” he said.
The culture within the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch means they are continuing to work in the same way, so problems identified almost two decades ago still exist today, Watts said.
“The information is not good enough, but they keep trying to use it and they use it incorrectly,” said Watts.
“The worst kind of sampling you can have is what you can afford to do. What you end up with is not enough information, but you are obligated to try and use it because you have spent the money,” he said.
There are also questions about the timeframe used to determine the annual allowable cut in each of the province’s 37 timber supply areas and 34 tree farm licences, Watts said.
Under the Forest Act the chief forester must determine the cut at least every 10 years.
“It was supposed to be 5 years and then they moved it to 10 and, a lot of times, the chief forester can defer it,” Watts said.
But, as the last year has proved, many changes can happen in 10 years and, by the time the cut is reviewed, it might be too late to correct any errors.
Former professional forester Anthony Britneff, who worked in the BC Forest Service for 40 years, agrees that there is a reluctance within the ministry to change methods or to accept criticism from outsiders.
“We are talking about arrogance,” said Britneff, who has supported Watts in his battle to restore his career.
“The concern here is not so much about inaccuracy—there will always be inaccuracy. The problem is not acknowledging inaccuracy and in not taking a more precautionary approach,” he said.
Retired forester Fred Marshall, a woodlot owner and forestry consultant, believes faulty data is at the root of over-cutting in some regions of the province, and, despite numerous letters sent to provincial staff and politicians, he has not received satisfactory answers.
“I’ve written many times to (Chief Forester) Diane Nicholls and her staff and have also talked to them and have always received answers that proclaim that everything they do associated with the timber supply review process is perfectly correct. They are dogmatically adamant in this belief,” said Marshall, who has asked for a formal review of the process.
“Such a review is desperately needed and certainly in the best interests of the people of BC,” he said.
Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner, said the myopic view taken by the Province is that forests can be clearcut and they will grow back like a corn field.
Provincial modelling does not take into account the complexity of the forest ecosystem and the intricate web of life supported by intact forests, Wieting said.
“Even before climate change became a major issue, there were many surprises for foresters as forests would not grow back as expected,” he said.
“We will never have the same volume or quality of timber again in this province, based on the fact that we have continued with this industrial model, replacing volume-rich old growth with young forests and then clearcutting the younger second growth in short rotation,” he said.
Now, on top of over-cutting, there is a climate crisis that is threatening not only forestry and entire ecosystems, but the entire economy, Wieting said.
Meanwhile, Watts is relieved his claims and concerns will finally be aired in court, although no date has yet been set.
Although he launched the case as a matter of principle, it now also has a financial imperative as work as a forestry consultant continues to be scarce and the legal fight is extremely expensive, Watts said.
“I ended up in the courts as a kind of last resort… This is good news. It’s great actually, but it is frustrating that I had to appeal it twice to get here,” he said.
Judith Lavoie is a freelance journalist who enjoys exploring stories about the natural world.
Downie Timber operations in priority deferral area is blockaded.
A report from the forest defenders
Old Growth Revylution is disappointed to see Downie Timber logging cut blocks that overlap with the highest value old growth forests, as identified by the Ministry of Forests Technical Advisory Panel.
On November 2, 2021, the Government of British Columbia announced its intended commitment to the protection of 2.6 million hectares of BC’s most at-risk old-growth forests, pending discussions with Indigenous Nations. These intended deferrals are an initial step that could stop the bleeding in our at-risk ecosystems. By continuing to allow logging throughout at-risk old-growth areas, the province increases risk of ecosystem collapse and continues to erode public trust.
As of Monday, November 29, Old Growth Revylution is blocking access to Akolkolex Creek Forest Service Road in order to stop logging in the area, notably on Holyk and Pulley FSRs. These two drainages are near the already deferred and ecologically unique Incomappleux drainage and include ecosystem markers that mirror those of the Incomappleux.
After decades of scientific studies, letter writing, protests and meetings, species of flora and fauna continue to decline throughout our province at an alarming rate. Activists, scientists, concerned citizens, celebrities and even the government realize that time has run out and more direct action is needed to save what is left of our ancient forests.
The Sinixt, K'tunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx First Nations have all voiced their demand to stop old-growth logging in the Inland Temperate Rainforest. Sinixt, Secwepemc and Syilx elders and matriarchs have visited our Bigmouth Blockade on a number of occasions to show their support for the protection of old-growth forests and the habitat of the critically endangered mountain caribou.
The Inland Temperate Rainforest covers 40 million acres and stretches over 1100 km from Idaho to Prince George, encompassing a globally unique landscape. This ecosystem is the last Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) left on Earth.
Cedar-hemlock rainforests are incredibly important for carbon storage and sequestration. Much of that carbon is stored in living trees, downed trees, and soils which are disturbed or removed once logged. Landscapes dominated by intact old forests often store several times as much carbon as second-growth forests. The ITR is a carbon sanctuary in the age of climate crisis. It deserves protection simply on that basis.
The government must do their job to support a just transition away from old-growth logging immediately. It is critical that the remnants of at-risk old growth are left untouched. These trees truly are worth more standing. Once they are gone, they are gone, never to return again, even in our great-grandchildren’s lifetimes.
We are not anti-logging. We stand to demand our government implement immediate policy change to permanently protect remaining old-growth forests, support a just transition away from old-growth logging and invest in second-growth forests. We believe individuals employed by the logging industry, and families who depend on it, have an equal if not elevated right to ask for old-growth protection. Our combined energy can be directed towards a healthier future. Together we can affect positive change.
1. Immediately defer all logging of old-growth forests that meet the criteria laid out by the Old Growth Strategic Review.
2. Implement a rapid and just transition away from all old-growth logging while providing fair economic alternatives to Indigenous Nations and rural communities that are economically dependent on old-growth logging.
3. Work to return control of the land to the Indigenous Nations and communities that live on, and care for those lands.
We acknowledge the land we reside on is the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Sinixt, K'tunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx people.
Killing wolves, moose and cougars won’t save the caribou—but stopping logging in their endangered forest habitat might give them a chance.
THE USUAL HEAVY WINTER SNOW north of Revelstoke will make it tough to maintain a blockade, but a small group of determined activists want to ensure loggers do not gain access to certain blocks of old-growth forest. These forests—part of the threatened Inland Temperate Rainforest—are critical habitat for the endangered deep snow Columbia North caribou herd.
One cutblock has been auctioned off by BC Timber Sales to Downie Timber and three others remain on the auction list.
Last December, after a backlash from conservation groups and scientists, the provincial government deferred logging on 11 of 14 scheduled cutblocks in the Argonaut Valley until the mountain caribou herd planning process is complete—which is not expected until late next year. But that still leaves the three cutblocks, adding up to almost 65 hectares, and close to five kilometres of road that was punched into the valley before the deferment.
“We’re afraid that if we leave, they’re quite capable of ploughing those roads and logging in the winter,” said Virginia Thompson, who, after years of volunteer work to protect caribou, has been spending time on the blockade as a member of Old Growth Revylution.
Numbers of woodland caribou in BC have shrunk from 40,000 to 15,500. Caribou are the “canaries in the clearcuts,” says lichenologist Trevor Goward. (Photo by Conservation North)
“We don’t know if we can pull it off, but we are sure going to try. We have a few people who are very at home in the back country and know how to winter camp and don’t mind being quite solitary,” Thompson said.
The protest is supported by First Nations, including the Splatsin and Ktunaxa Nations, and environmental organizations, such as Wildsight, Wilderness Committee and Valhalla Wilderness Society.
The Splatsin First Nation has called on BC Timber Sales to cease all operations in the area and a news release supporting the blockade says “Splatsin members and leadership will be standing up for what little intact refuge area remains for our four-legged ancestors.”
The Ktunaxa Nation Council has committed to working with the Province and other parties to ensure Ktunaxa Nation interests and stewardship responsibilities are upheld.
“The area in question is a vital southern mountain caribou habitat and any threat to the caribou, or ?a?kxam’is q’api qapsin (all living things), in this region is of great concern,” says a Ktunaxa news release.
The determination to continue the blockade is reinforced by anger that, despite studies showing that saving BC’s dwindling caribou herds depends primarily on habitat protection, the Province is continuing to kill wolves, cougar and moose in caribou habitat, while allowing logging to continue.
A recent study shows habitat loss is driving woodland caribou to extinction. It points out that caribou have lost twice as much habitat as they have gained over the last 12 years. In the past three decades, BC’s 54 herds of woodland caribou have shrunk to 15,500 from 40,000 animals and, in the Kootenays, since 2006, five caribou herds have been extirpated and three others are struggling to survive.
“Everything has gotten worse”
Those are grim statistics which, said Sadie Parr, former executive director of Wolf Awareness, make it more extraordinary that the BC government is not pulling out all the stops to save the Columbia North herd, which is regarded as the one most likely to survive in southern BC.
“It amazes me that the same government committed to protecting caribou is logging the little habitat the animals have left,” she said.
The 2021 population census of the Columbia North Mountain Caribou shows about 184 animals, up from 138 in 2006.
But critics say that government is trying to sustain those numbers by continuing to kill wolves and other animals in perpetuity instead of protecting their habitat.
Parr stepped down from Wolf Awareness to allow her to take more direct action after concluding the usual channels, such as sitting on committees and holding meetings with government officials, were not working.
“Everything has gotten worse. The logging continues. More wolves are killed. The caribou are winking out. That’s why we are so fierce about people heeding this call,” she said.
A view of logging of old-growth forest in Bigmouth Valley (photo by Sadie Parr)
It is not only the caribou that are threatened. Bigmouth Creek and the Argonaut Valley, one of the last unlogged valleys in the region, are within the Inland Temperate Rainforest, an ecosystem that a recent study said is critically endangered and facing ecosystem collapse.
“The decline of mountain caribou has mirrored the destruction of the Inland Temperate Rainforest ecosystem,” said Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight conservation specialist.
The convergence of old-growth logging, shrinking caribou herds and the controversial wolf cull means BC’s top hot-button environmental issues are crystallized in the opposition to further old-growth logging in an area described as a patchwork of roads and clearcuts.
Lower elevations of Bigmouth Creek have been hammered by clearcut logging going back decades, said Vallhalla Wilderness Society director Craig Pettitt, pointing to mottled images on a Google Earth map.
Satellite image of clearcuts in the Bigmouth Creek area. The Argonaut Creek watershed is in the lower right corner.
“This logging has reduced what were vast stands of old-growth cedar hemlock forest to fragmented postage stamp retention areas,” he said.
In contrast, so far, Argonaut Creek has escaped, probably because of the steep terrain, and the area provides a refuge of intact forested habitat for the deep snow caribou, Pettitt said.
A view of the upper Argonaut Valley (photo by Eddie Petryshen)
Blockade slowed down logging, but critical valley-bottom threatened
There is no injunction, so police and media attention is sparse at the Revylution blockade, but, the self-described land defenders have succeeded in preventing Downie Timber from harvesting.
The Old Growth Revylution blockade during summer 2021 (photo by Sadie Parr)
“We’ve deferred harvest, deferred road building,” said a Downie spokesman, who refused to confirm his name or explain the terms of the deferral.
A Forests Ministry email, in response to questions from Focus, said the blockade has also “stopped environmentally sensitive road deactivation work from being completed.”
Downie previously logged about 126 hectares of old growth on the north side of Bigmouth Creek. Petryshen does not want to see any more ancient trees loaded onto trucks.
“Those were probably 500 to 600-year-old trees; a lot of that forest had been growing undisturbed since the end of the ice age. It’s globally unique forest and there’s not a whole lot of it left,” Petryshen said.
“The deep snow-dwelling caribou are so tied to that ecosystem and have learned to live within it and we are disrupting that whole process,” he said, noting that the block that Downie plans to log contains some of the highest value old growth; it’s valley bottom—habitat that is essential to caribou which spend about half of their time in low elevations.
No logging is currently taking place in the Argonaut or Bigmouth areas, but old-growth stands are scheduled for harvest in Bigmouth Creek, according to the ministry e-mail.
“Locations for proposed cutblocks in the Bigmouth area have not been determined and will be dependent on the assessment and advice of many specialists for a range of natural resource values,” it says. The email also notes: “It’s important to recognize that, in their report, the Independent Panel [old-growth review panel] did not recommend a moratorium on old-growth logging in BC. They recommended deferrals in areas where there is a near term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss and further action to change the way we manage our old-growth forests.”
Roads and clearcuts mean moose and deer move into the area—together with hunters and snowmobilers—and prey animals are followed by predators such as wolves and cougars
Petryshen described this as “out-of-whack predator/prey dynamics,” and added, “The predators are not going after caribou, the caribou are just the bycatch. The system is kind of in chaos and caribou are the first to go when it is significantly out of balance.”
Focus on wolf cull not the answer
Since 2015, 1,447 wolves have been killed in the provincial cull program. The animals are usually shot by aerial gunning from helicopters—a practice heavily criticized for disrupting wolf packs and having little basis in science as other wolves usually move into the area. A court case on its legality is being heard in late October.
A study released last year found no statistical support for wolf culls or caribou maternity pens as conservation measures for mountain caribou.
The BC government has killed over 1400 wolves despite no evidence that it protects caribou (photo by John E. Marriott)
This month, a Pacific Wild petition calling for a halt to the cull, with more than half a million signatures, was presented to government on the opening day of the BC Legislature, but, in answer to questions from Focus, the Forests Ministry said both predator reduction and habitat protection are needed to protect caribou.
“Without protecting caribou habitat, wolf and cougars will have to be killed in perpetuity to maintain caribou on the landscape. This is not what anyone wants,” says the emailed response. “On the other hand, if we only protect habitat, we likely will lose many caribou herds due to the current disturbed condition of the habitat from past and ongoing forestry activities. We need to protect habitat that is currently suitable and we need to give impacted habitat time to recover. This is a decades long process,” it says.
BC is currently holding consultations, which will continue until Nov. 15, on extending the cull program for another five years.
Parr is unimpressed by the consultation process and said the Province has already decided to not only go ahead, but to expand the cull, even though habitat protection and herd plans will not be completed until 2022.
“We have asked them to show us the externally peer-reviewed science on this and they can’t…There’s no equation that could convince me [it is right] to brutally kill this number of wolves, which are sentient beings and play important ecological roles which are then disrupted,” she said.
Parr believes that killing everything except caribou, while continuing to destroy habitat by removing trees that are thousands of years old, makes no sense. Though there might be short-term increases in caribou number, there will be no positive, long-term outcomes.
“There are so many layers to this. We’re creating an ecological debt for future generations,” she said.
Caribou need lichen, lichen need old growth
Frustration is mixed with sadness and anger as Trevor Goward traces the downward spiral of deep snow mountain caribou populations and connects the decline to lichens, the essential deep snow caribou diet, which are being lost to logging.
Goward, an internationally recognized lichenologist and author of about 150 scientific papers on lichens, said logging of old-growth forests in the Revelstoke area has now reached the point of no return and he believes the Columbia North caribou, which have survived in BC’s interior for millions of years, are tipping towards extinction.
“It’s an absolute horror story and the caribou should be the warning. I call them the canaries in the clearcuts,” said Goward, pointing to decades of studies concluding that deep snow caribou need extensive old-growth forests at all elevations for long-term survival.
“Once you get beyond a certain point—and we’re long past that point—every tree cut is basically making the situation worse,” he said.
However, government biologists first opted to kill hundreds of moose and deer in the mistaken belief that, without prey, predators would leave. When that plan did not work, the killing was extended to wolves and cougars, Goward explained.
“Any qualified biologist understands that pressure comes both bottom up and top down. Top down is the predation and bottom up is the food they eat—and to focus on one to the exclusion of the other is reprehensible in the extreme,” he said.
Deep snow caribou rely on lichens growing on the branches of trees and when there are fewer trees with lichens, caribou expend more energy walking in the deep snow. It eventually gets to the point where caribou cannot survive, Goward said.
“It’s not just a matter of the individual caribou dying, but, if it’s a stressful winter, the cows abort their fetuses and, if young are born, they are much less resilient than a normal caribou calf, so they are much more likely to die in the first year,” he said.
“These caribou are special. They are the only ones that live entirely on these lichens. They need forests that are at least 120 or 150 years old,” Goward said.
When caribou cannot find hair lichens in the high altitudes they move down to the valleys, he said.
“But now the lowlands have been essentially nuked. There’s nothing for them. So, the next time they have to go down, they will only have wasted energy,” Goward said.
“It’s a very sad story and the irony of the whole thing is that this is the one caribou type that could have survived long into climate change because they don’t care what’s on the ground. They just needed to have old forests and they have lost them, so it’s lose, lose all around,” he said.
Only “plans to make a plan” while caribou near extinction
Petryshen and Parr also find it difficult to be optimistic about the future of caribou in BC, when economics seem to trump immediate action and the answer from government is that there are plans to make a plan.
“What’s frustrating is that, as the logging continues, they continue to say they don’t know where caribou habitat is,” Parr said.
The official Environment Canada critical habitat map has been in the works since 2014, Petryshen said. “It has been in draft form for seven years and the Province and feds keep saying ‘hey, we are almost done,’” he said. Petryshen is hoping Indigenous leaders will fill the gap left by the federal and provincial governments.
“I grew up close to the South Purcell mountains and we lost those caribou while we were planning to make a plan. We need immediate action right now,” he said.
Judith Lavoie is a freelance journalist who enjoys exploring stories about the natural world.
On her first trip to Fairy Creek, the author finds her daughter coping with the violent pepper-spraying of the RCMP earlier that morning.
ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, I WENT TO FAIRY CREEK to participate in a circle ceremony hosted by Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones. I was hitching a ride with my daughter Caroline, and we were going up for the day.
We had arranged to meet my other daughter Laura at the recently installed red gate across the main entrance to several of the forest defenders’ camps on the logging road into Fairy Creek. From there we would walk together to the ceremony site a bit further in. Laura and her partner Pat are devoted environmentalists who’ve given much of their last five months to the Fairy Creek protest, their careers as musicians and their band, Carmanah, having been sidelined by the pandemic.
Caroline and I had long been wanting to go to Fairy Creek, and today was the day. We chatted lightly on the way up but grew sombre when the landscape began including hillsides that looked as if they’d been buzzed with giant clippers.
Also worrying was the RCMP’s increasingly hard-hitting tactics at Fairy Creek as of late, perhaps spurred on by an aggressively impatient industry, or perhaps by their own frustration over having failed to banish the protesters in short order, despite being the ones with all the training, legal power, muscle and gear including helicopters and ATVs. Helicopters delivering ATVs, to be exact. It was they who had the seemingly unlimited budget and fresh recruits daily, including specialized teams for when the going got tough.
Whatever the reason, these last few weeks had become increasingly volatile and dangerous, and more protesters were being injured.
LAURA HURRYING ALONG THE ROAD to where her truck was parked was the first sign that something was amiss. By the time we caught up with her, she’d climbed into the back and was rummaging through a backpack.
“Pat’s been pepper-sprayed and needs a clean shirt,” she said. “They were all pepper sprayed earlier this morning, it’s unbelievable.”
Wordlessly we follow her back to the gate, where two ambulances are attending to the last of the injured. People stand milling on both sides of the highway, many still dazed, clutching water and dousing eyes.
Pat puts on his shirt; his shoulder-length hair still drenched. It seems they spray the hair so it drips into the eyes to prolong the temporary blindness, not to mention the excruciating pain. “I guess they thought I needed my hair washed because they just kept spraying my head,” he jokes, but his eyes are red and sad.
Laura Mitic tending to victim of pepper spraying by RCMP (photo by Shaena Lambert)
A group of day visitors wait near the gate for the Elders to arrive and lead them through. Someone keeps reminding everyone to stay off the pavement, this being the highway from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan. To step on it is to risk being arrested for impeding traffic, and this is not where the protesters want to waste their strength and numbers.
A line of black motorcycles keeps cruising by ominously, back and forth. The black-clad riders are not out on a casual drive. We note their thumbs-up to the RCMP. And their Quebec license plates. There are many influences in this struggle, perhaps more than we know. The hairs on the back of my neck stir a little.
I’M STILL TRYING TO GET MY BEARINGS. “Why did this happen?” I ask Laura.
She doesn’t know, it’s impossible to know. Pent up exasperation, maybe. The RCMP had arrived angry and aggressive that morning, which was verified in videos I pored over later. It was expected they would go to River Camp that day—one of the last stands in that touch-and-go weekend—to finish mincing it into the ground. (Yes, literally. Pounding it down with the bucket of a backhoe.)
Maybe they hadn’t anticipated the tight knot of 60 or so people blocking their access at the red gate. In one video, a member of their District Liaison Team—the DLT—can be heard saying they had not expected a group that large.
Instead of dealing with the blocked gate, the RCMP pulled out their chainsaws and felled enough nearby saplings to open an alternate access route. Then those headed for River Camp drove their vehicles through and vanished up the logging road. A dozen or so officers, maybe more, stayed behind and turned their attention to the gate.
The group’s efforts there were now moot, but still they clung together and resisted efforts to pry them apart. Red spray cans appeared and were portentously shaken. The alarm was sounded among the defenders, who tightened themselves up and lowered their heads. The spraying began and mayhem ensued.
Video of pepper spraying event just before Trudy arrived.
IT’S ALMOST NOON when the RCMP allow us through the gate, but no further today: The ceremony will have to take place in this gravel clearing, right off the highway. At the back of the clearing, where it narrows back into the dirt road, RCMP members now stand behind yellow tape to keep us contained.
RCMP (with Teal security employee) keeping defenders in check (photo by Caroline Mitic)
Security guards for Teal Jones shuffle between the RCMP stronghold and the gate, the dust rising off their boots.
While we wait for the Elders to settle themselves in, we speak in hushed tones, and note that everyone else is doing the same. It feels like a requiem for irretrievable loss, for best efforts that are still not enough, for justice that fails when the well-heeled aren’t looking. It feels hopeless, truth and righteousness having been buried too deep under the weight of self-interest, ulterior motives, voracious greed, blind allegiance and pride, campaigns of misinformation, a deeply flawed political system still steeped in colonialism, and yes, racism. Everyone seems to be processing thoughts.
When does a scrap of gravelled, besieged earth become hallowed ground? When the Indigenous Elders begin speaking. The aged among them may look frail, but their words are clear and unhurried, formed by the laws of the land, the reverence for it, and centuries of accumulated experience in nature. Their eyes seem to burn when they speak, not with animosity but with absolute conviction. Up until now, nature’s truth hasn’t changed much from century to century.
Elder Bill Jones with Rose Henry (photo by Caroline Mitic)
Elder Bill Jones extends a generous welcome, in this clearing surrounded by trees that are tall but still only juveniles compared to their ancestors up the hill. In measured tones, he rebukes the work of the RCMP but not the members themselves, reminding them that this special place is for them and their children too. He thanks and comforts the mostly young defenders who, for the love of the planet and life itself, found themselves assaulted just hours earlier in a manner usually reserved for hardened criminals.
The elders ask all older visitors to come form a circle. My girls nudge me forward. Now the drumming and singing starts, and the stories about healing and medicine and the gifts and powers of the cedar tree pour out. Cedar is so central to traditional life that it provided almost every need, yet rarely did a tree have to be cut down.
Elders circle ceremony (photo by Caroline Mitic)
“We are an ingenious people,” proclaims the elder Chiyokten (Paul Che’ oke ten Wagner) in summary. He is a master of story and song from the WSANEC nation, and next he introduces the cedar brushing ceremony, for cleansing, rejuvenation, purification and healing. Cedar boughs are dipped in water and then gently brushed over recipients, starting at the head and ending at the feet.
Everyone is invited to receive the brushing, starting with the frontline defenders. On this day, they need it the most. Afterwards they walk around the inside of our circle as we murmur our thanks and support. Some cry silently. Some are steady-eyed and resolved. Everyone is processing; no one is capitulating today.
Now it’s our group’s turn, and as the cedar is gently brushed over me, I think about the many layers of my society that keep me separated from the natural world. I become aware of a deep impoverishment.
At one point a security guard approaches me on the sidelines and softly asks how he can get to the gate without interrupting the ceremony. I suggest he wait until the dancing stops, and then ask him about his job.
“I open and close the gate, that’s all,” he says, and then unexpectedly asks, “Why do they want these trees anyway?” He has no idea.
“I don’t follow the news much,” he admits apologetically. He’s from Vancouver, but his company is currently providing security for Teal Jones. He’s worked 20 days straight and wants to go home.
“Maybe I need a new job,” he concedes, adding that it’s not easy finding meaningful work these days.
THE ELDERS HAVE FINISHED brushing everyone and now make their way to the yellow tape. They invite the four officers standing behind it to be brushed as well, reiterating the benefits of cleansing and healing and opening the heart to this moment. The officers agree somewhat awkwardly—granted, it’s a fine line—and step in front of the tape. The tape itself is brushed as well. In that moment, it looks like reconciliation gaining ground.
But reconciliation is a dodgy target, to be recalibrated again and again. It will suffer setbacks, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Or later in the day, when the DLT member interrupts the ceremony—not rudely—to ask everyone to make way so the River Camp arrestees can be driven through and taken away. The speaker stops, the crowd complies.
Then the officer says, “It’ll be another 15 minutes.”
“They do this all the time,” Laura sighs. “They get us ready, then keep us waiting. It’s all on their terms, to show their power, to intimidate us and wear us down.”
Laura Mitic on logging road at Caycuse Camp in April 2021 (photo by Dawna Mueller)
The arrestees will be worn down too, having been locked in a van for hours, possibly injured and with no medical care. (The RCMP medic, I now realize, is a medic for his colleagues only. Since that morning, he’s gained notoriety—not for his deftness with splints and bandages, but with a canister of pepper spray.)
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON we step back again to let the entire RCMP convoy through—they’re calling it a day. It’s an interesting if disquieting spectacle, vehicles for every possible scenario, 17 in total. The stone-faced occupants all stare straight ahead; some are filming us. When the twin, windowless paddy-wagons roll by, a roar of support rises from the crowd.
Caroline and I start heading for home, though we move slowly, against the tug of this beautiful wilderness, its storehouse of wisdom, the struggle for its survival. Laura is staying but understands the yen, having slept under the stars here many times over the summer.
“Returning to the city feels like I’m on an episode of the Truman Show,” she writes to me a few days later. “You realize just how make-believe our society is. It makes sense for humans to live together in a cluster, in community, and let nature be elsewhere, but we’ve become too far removed from the outside world. That’s made us apathetic and unaware, and our governments have exploited that. So now here we are, struggling for nature against the very systems and values we have produced.”
The setting sun pours liquid amber into the forests as we pull away. The beauty of it takes my breath away. It fills me with hope, resolve and gratitude. For Nature, more beautiful than anything we’ve ever created. For the Indigenous elders who are unfailingly generous and patient. For the activists who dare to defy. For the old-growth forests and their first lesson: We need them if we ourselves are to survive.
In the haze of the conflict at Fairy Creek, Trudy would like to clarify that civil disobedience is not a criminal offence, and that it has played an important role in protecting our rights and freedoms in Canada, according to the BC Civil Liberties Association. For more information, check the BCCLA website.
Could oldgrowth specklebelly save the Fairy Creek Rainforest? Not unless Horgan keeps his promises about species-at-risk legislation.
IN A FEW REMAINING OLD-GROWTH FORESTS on Vancouver Island, a rare species of lichen, the oldgrowth specklebelly, Pseudoyphellaria rainierensis, lives on the branches and trunks of trees. Hanging in draping lobes, its topside is the colour of a pale robin’s egg, its underside a pale peachy-pink, speckled with white, raised spots and brown speckles. It has been found in only 41 localities in BC, all of them north of the Nitinat River. Until now.
“I’m at peace when I’m out there,” Natasha Lavdovsky says. A Princeton graduate and Master’s of Fine Arts student, Lavdovsky works with lichens in her art. She is also an amateur lichenologist. In July, she was at Fairy Creek working on an art project. In the branches of a tree that had fallen across a logging road, she found a small population of this specklebelly lichen, a blue-listed, species of concern.
Her find was on slope outside of the Fairy Creek watershed ridgeline. But the only part of Fairy Creek protected by BC’s two-year logging deferment is the riparian zone in the watershed valley, which leaves the area where she found the oldgrowth specklebelly vulnerable. “There’s a cutblock where the lichen lives that is already partly clearcut.” Lavdovsky tells me. “The road went right through the lichen zone. The whole area is up for grabs.”
Natasha Lavdovsky looking at oldgrowth specklebelly growing side by side with Lobaria linita (the greener lichen), on a tree marked with falling boundary tape, indicating the edge of a future clearcut beside a creek/riparian reserve (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
BC currently has no species-at-risk legislation, though Premier Horgan was elected on the promise to pass this into law four years ago. Currently, BC has two systems classifications for species at risk. Its red, blue and yellow lists are comprised by the BC Conservation Data Centre and give additional protection to red and blue-listed species. Listed species are supposed to inform conservation priorities in the province.
The second classification system was created by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent advisory panel to the federal minister of environment. According to COSEWIC’s 2010 report, oldgrowth specklebelly is a species of “special concern,” which means that it is particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events, and its numbers have declined enough that “its persistence is increasingly threatened.”
The specklebelly thrives in nutrient rich areas, within the drip zones of old yellow cedar trees or near the ocean fog zone, where it can harvest nutrients from the sea air. It is a nitrogen-fixing lichen. It takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and disperses it through its tree’s drip line. Like other lichen and mosses, it sequesters carbon. It spreads when pieces of its thallus body break off and land in another habitable spot—that is to say, it spreads extremely slowly.
For Trevor Goward, a naturalist and lichenologist who lives and studies lichen ecology in the Clearwater Valley, BC, and has been an advisor to the COSEWIC panel for decades, the key species that allows oldgrowth specklebelly to exist is yellow cedar. The issue, he says, is “not the lichen, it’s what it points to: the power of BC’s old-growth trees.” Yellow cedar lives longer than any other BC tree (up to 2,000 years). During their extraordinary lifespan, they become nutrient gatherers and feeders of other species around them. Coastal sea fog contains ocean nutrients; the moisture condenses on the cedar’s limbs and drips to the ground. The nutrients from this drip zone feed other trees, and even change the bark chemistry of the amabalis fir (Pacific silver fir), making it into a habitat for specklebelly.
Oldgrowth Specklebelly lichen (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
Lavdovsky found a small colony of oldgrowth specklebelly on the limbs of that first tree near Fairy Creek. It turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. She has returned half a dozen times this summer and found more at the edge of the clearcut: 20-foot long patches on two trees. By time of publication, she had found 55 trees with specklebelly. The lichen community was bisected by the logging road, including trees buried in road-building rubble with the bottom 10-feet of their trunks covered in the rare lichen. “I’d like to find out who the forester was who approved that cutblock,” she says, “and hold them accountable.”
Specklebelly is only present, Goward says, because the yellow cedar are there to feed them. “The lichen is an outward manifestation of the gift of nutrients from the yellow cedar. The trees have created this community of other organisms that benefit from that knack they’ve taught themselves.” A young yellow cedar cannot provide this habitat; only ancient forests—what Goward calls “antique forests”—provide this service.
“Cutting down these trees is immoral,” says Goward.
Lavdovsky spent time analyzing lichens at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Gatineau, Quebec, and she is taking the find seriously. She approached Goward and fellow lichenologist Troy McMullin, as well as Loys Maingon, a registered professional biologist, and Andy McKinnon (of famed Pojar and McKinnon BC field guides) to identify the specklebelly lichen and confirm her methodology for documenting its extent. “I thought if you find something that’s a listed species, it means you can’t [mess] with it. It’s not the case. I was really surprised, through this process, to see how terrible the laws are in BC when it comes to biodiversity conservation. As a province that prides itself on the natural environment, well, it’s…all just unfettered extraction on stolen land.”
A large population of Oldgrowth Specklebelly lichen on a tree trunk at the edge of a logging road. The pile of felled trees in the background are from the road building. (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
Lavdovsky values the relationships between people and land. She is aware of the complexity of settler/Indigenous relations, and of finding a rare species in a watershed that is itself a contested place. “It’s a problematic position to be in as a white settler: finding a rare species that’s only rare because of white, colonial, destructive, extractive industries.” But she is enamoured by lichens, and their complex role in a forest’s health. “You can’t call a lichen an ‘it’; it’s a ‘they,’” Lavdovsky tells me. “They’re a fungus and an algae and a yeast, and at times a cyanobacteria…They are metaphors for an ecosystem, for a community.”
Natasha Lavdovsky. Self Portrait, 2020.
Lichens were once described by Goward as “fungi who have discovered agriculture.” They are a unique partnership of species that work together to achieve what neither could do separately. They were one of the first to re-green (and blue and yellow…) the land after the last glaciation. They help rocks to hold more water, increasing moisture in landscapes. They can change the pH of rainwater, balancing the acidity of a forest. They’re also excellent indicators of healthy old-growth forests; many don’t appear in young or previously-logged forests.
Lavdovsky is afraid that with so much logging in BC in the last decade, the chances of oldgrowth specklebelly crawling up the endangered species list is high. But when she spoke to the biologists doing COSEWIC’s new status report, they told her it was “unlikely they’ll be able to make it down” to see her discovery. She wonders whether it might be because of its proximity to the Fairy Creek blockade—or a lack of funding.
“This story isn’t just about lichen,” she says, “It’s not about trees. It’s about whole ecosystems. And that’s one of the problems with the approach of our conservation system.” Goward agrees and expands it to “the capitalist neoliberal agenda. No one’s given this any thought because it would impact BC’s bottom line.”
The underside speckles of the oldgrowth specklebelly lichen, seen through a 10x hand lens (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
Currently, instead of halting old-growth logging to save species like oldgrowth specklebelly and the ancient cedars that feed them, BC has begun a second round of evaluation, bringing together an independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, after its 2020 publication of the Strategic Review of BC Old Growth Forest Management (if you can tell the difference between these two, let me know).
Goward is skeptical about this new panel. “Basically, the whole thing is choreographed,” he tells me. “You can feel the gears moving, but they’ll wait until almost nothing is left before making an announcement to stop.”
Goward also believes that the presence of oldgrowth specklebelly means that the forest has existed, without the presence of large-scale forest fires, for much longer than the current yellow cedars’ life spans. “When you find a population as large as Tasha found, it means that the forest has been there for thousands of years. I’d be astonished if anyone is able to find evidence of charcoal. [Those trees] have been standing in place since glaciation.” For reference, the last glaciation was 10,000 years ago. Lichen diversity is higher in older forests, and his studies show a continued increase into the sixth century and beyond. “A forest that’s 600 years old is not the same as a 2,000 year old forest.” The diversity just keeps growing.
Lavdovsky’s art works address the other-than-human world, “using temporality, seasonality, and the agency of organic materials as integral parts of its methodology.” Her website features a plethora of stunning works, which engage with species to produce photographs, installations, textiles, natural dyes and sculptures.
“Moss Chair” art installation by Natasha Lavdovsky
In her current work with lichen, she first obtains the chemical data of various lichen species in a particular location. She then uses the data set like a musical score, creating a visualization and then a sonification of the data. “Each lichen…will have a particular tonal sound or chord.” Together, they create a soundscape, an auditory experience of the lichens from a particular place.
“Lichens have given me so much joy,” she says. “It’s really important to me to have reciprocal relationship with the ecosystem of non-humans that I’m a part of.” When she found the oldgrowth specklebelly, it seemed to her an opportunity to “give back, to perform reciprocity.”
As a result of her find, other biologists have filed a formal complaint with BC Forest Practices Board against the negligence of whoever approved the cutblock. The board is currently pushing back against the complaint because the specklebelly was only blue-listed. The resolution of the complaint will take up to two years. She also reached out to Teal Jones, and an office worker told her to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (the same email that receives all the complaints about logging in Fairy Creek). When she said that perhaps this email would get lost in the hundreds of complaints sent by concerned citizens around the world, the office worker gave a verbal shrug.
Morning sea fog obscuring the view of a recent clearcut, near the area where the rare lichen was found (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
Lavdovsky is also in the process of reaching out to a hereditary chief of the Pacheedaht Nation, Victor Peter, as well as Bill Jones. “This is the privilege of a lifetime for me,” she tells me. “Not just to be [at Fairy Creek] but to find this lichen and try to help it be protected and represented.” Lichens are misrepresented and overlooked, she says. “But they do so much for us, and so much for the forest.” When Lavdovsky spoke with Andy McKinnon, he told her that humans have only discovered and recorded perhaps one or two percent of the species in an old-growth forest. “How come we don’t know this?” she wants to know. “We don’t really understand [the forest] yet—we don’t know.”
Eleven years have passed since COSEWIC’s last report, and the committee is currently completing a new assessment of endangered wildlife. Lavdovsky is confident that, thanks to logging, fewer confirmed localities will be identified this year. Even so, these classifications systems lack “teeth,” as Goward puts it, to actually prevent destruction of species. Only stand-alone species-at-risk legislation can do this. Until then, oldgrowth specklebelly and its innumerable community members will have to wait for Horgan to keep his promises, and hope that a forest fire or a timber cruiser doesn’t get them first.
Maleea Acker is the author of Gardens Aflame: Garry Oak Meadows of BC’s South Coast, which is in its second printing. She is still a PhD student. She’s also a lecturer in Geography, Canadian Studies, and Literature, at UVic and Camosun.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS STRUGGLING TO SAVE diminishing ancient forests on Canada’s West Coast are hopeful after BC announced a new old-growth advisory panel staffed by respected foresters and scientists.
“The technical panel is a very welcome positive step forward,” said Andrea Inness of the Ancient Forest Alliance.
“It really gives me a glimmer of hope the Province is going to listen to science around the state of old-growth forests.”
The new technical panel will ensure the province is using the best science and data available to identify at-risk old-growth ecosystems and prioritize the areas slated for old-growth logging deferrals, said BC Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy on Thursday.
“We are committed to a science-based approach to old-growth management, and our work with the advisory panel will help us break down barriers between the different interpretations of data that are out there,” Conroy said in a press statement.
The panel includes ecologists Rachel Holt and Karen Price, forest policy expert and environmental economist Lisa Matthaus, and foresters Garry Merkel and Dave Daust.
The appointments come as the NDP government is facing mounting public pressure, both at home and abroad, to make good on its promise to protect the most at-risk tracts of BC’s iconic ancient forests. Protests calling for action have been occurring across the province, and over 300 activists have been arrested at old-growth blockades in the Fairy Creek watershed on southwest Vancouver Island in Premier John Horgan’s riding.
The choice of panellists suggests the Province is finally acknowledging the data and science behind the independent Last Stand report written by Holt, Price and Daust that indicates the dire state of at-risk forest ecosystems in BC, Inness said.
The report, often cited by environmental groups (ENGOs), suggests that only three percent of BC’s remaining old forests support massive ancient trees.
“To date, we have not seen or heard the Province accept those scientific findings or embrace and make decisions based on them,” Inness said.
The inclusion of Merkel—an author of the old-growth strategic review that includes 14 recommendations the government has committed to implement to shift forestry away from a focus on timber extraction to prioritizing biodiversity—is also a positive sign, she added.
“I hope this signals a turning point in the Province’s approach to implementing the old-growth [review] recommendations,” she said.
“And that the Province understands we can’t get anywhere if we don’t see eye-to-eye on the crisis at hand and the state of old-growth forests.”
The Province has come under fire by ENGOs, which suggest it has grossly exaggerated the amount of at-risk old-growth it protected through logging deferrals in nine areas across the Province made in September.
Inness hopes the panel’s input will rectify the government’s claim it has protected 200,000 hectares of old-growth.
“I still have concerns, because we continue to see the Province use misleading figures around the state of old-growth forests and what they’ve done so far,” Inness said.
“You know much of that forest is not what the average British Columbia would consider old-growth. It is low-productivity forest with smaller trees, and much of that area is already protected.”
The panel will be providing advice around high-priority areas for deferrals, but won’t be making any decisions, which will result from government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations, Conroy said at a press conference on June 24, 2021.
Ecologist Rachel Holt is a member of BC’s new old-growth technical advisory panel.
In addition to identifying high-priority at-risk areas for deferral, the panel will help develop a common understanding of the broader issues around at-risk forest ecosystems, Holt stated.
“We’re hoping along the way we can increase the understanding and transparency of information around the issues of old-growth forests in the province,” Holt said.
There has been a lot of different or competing data presented from various stakeholders around old-growth forests, and it’s resulting in public mistrust, she said, noting the old-growth review called for better public information on at-risk forests.
“We’re hoping the panel can clear up a lot of that miscommunication, and really help the public, so everyone has a baseline understanding of the state of old-growth in the province,” Holt said.
“What really is and isn’t at risk. How much there is. You know, all these questions there’s been a lot of conversation about over the last couple of years.”
However, Conroy would not clarify when or if the panel’s information around the priority deferral areas would become public, saying, eventually some information would be released.
“The advice will be confidential, but it’ll help us to inform those really important government-to-government discussions on future deferrals,” Conroy said, adding more deferrals are expected this summer.
Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC said he hoped the panel appointment signalled the provincial government would no longer delay action around the promised paradigm shift in forest stewardship.
Interim old-growth deferrals are vital to ensure the most at-risk forests aren’t being logged as discussions with First Nations occur, Wieting said.
“But I’d like to repeat how important it is that the government act quickly, and announce funding with the explicit purpose to increase protections, and give First Nations and communities some hope they’ll be supported through this transition,” he said.
That’s a sentiment echoed by activists leading the blockades in the Fairy Creek area.
Caycuse old-growth, before and after logging (photo by T.J. Watt)
Kathleen Code, a Rainforest Flying Squad organizer, said “Work should begin immediately to transition away from old-growth logging while the panel develops strategies to move forward.” She noted that the two-year timeline means hundreds of hectares of old-growth forest could disappear before the panel is able to develop a strategy for old-growth management. The Rainforest Flying Squad promises to continue to stand as the last line of defence for these rare old trees. Code said, “Really there has been enough research to demonstrate that all remaining stands of old growth forest need to be protected and in fact provide greater benefits overall when left standing.”
Intact, endangered old-growth forest in Fairy Creek area (drone photo by Alex Harris)
Logging has continued in areas adjacent to Fairy Creek since the two-year logging deferral was announced on June 9. Andy MacKinnon, forest ecologist, professional forester and professional biologist (retired) stated, “The Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel is an excellent panel with an excellent mandate. It’s composed of well known and respected scientists and they will make excellent recommendations. But it follows another excellent panel with an excellent mandate, the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, that made excellent recommendations.” MacKinnon added, “There hasn’t been much will demonstrated to implement those recommendations. What is needed is a commitment to implementing the panel’s recommendations, otherwise it’s just stalling.”
Holt hopes the panel’s work will mark a shift in forestry policy in the province.
“The government taking the step of putting this group together really helps us move along that track,” she said, adding little progress has been made to date.
“I want to be optimistic that this is the beginning of the paradigm shift. And time will tell us if that is correct.”
Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Canada’s National Observer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. With files from Leslie Campbell.
In July, media organizations are heading to BC Supreme Court to challenge RCMP micromanagement and restrictions.
June 18, 2021
“I’VE NEVER REPORTED FROM BOSNIA, but I would think that’s what it would’ve been like: Police threatening to arrest journalists just for standing in a road and videotaping what was going on.”
What Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) President Brent Jolly is referring to is a video of a Global News reporter being denied access and threatened with arrest while covering the Fairy Creek blockades, now in their eleventh month.
Protestors have been blocking logging roads to protect the last vestiges of old growth on the west coast of Vancouver Island, forests vital to the culture and spirituality of the Indigenous peoples of the area, stewards of the ḥahahuułi. Old growth forests are also an important bulwark against climate change and declining biodiversity, and the forest defence has captured the attention of environmentalists across the world.
Teal Cedar Products, with logging rights in TFL46, won an injunction against the blockades in April. RCMP began enforcing the injunction on May 17, and by mid-June had made over 230 arrests.
Since the enforcement began, RCMP have impinged on journalists’ abilities to cover the protests and the actions of law enforcement, citing “safety concerns” and “common law rights” as a justification for their actions. Journalists from all outlets, including FOCUS Magazine, have been micromanaged by police, who seem to have wide-ranging discretionary powers to enforce the injunction for Teal-Cedar.
Media stopped at an exclusion zone (photo by Michael John Lo)
Jolly is now part of a larger coalition of news organizations and press freedom groups that is going to court over what they see as RCMP overreach in media management in the ongoing police operations within the First Nation territories of the Pacheedaht and the Ditidaht. Reporters on the ground are frustrated by arbitrary and inconsistent restrictions placed on them by the RCMP, who have established their own blockades to restrict access to enforce the injunction. As seen at Caycuse and Waterfall camps, these exclusion zones can range across many acres and up to 10 kilometres along logging roads.
Sean Hern, legal counsel to the coalition that’s bringing the case to the BC Supreme Court, explained that this legal action isn’t a new lawsuit. It’s an application to the court, asking the Justices to “vary” the April 1 injunction to add terms they hope will cause the police to reassess their protocols and prioritize media access in the injunction enforcement area.
Sean Hern, legal counsel to the media coalition asking for greater direction to RCMP to allow unhindered press coverage
“There’s a tension that’s been building over a number of years,” said Hern. The RCMP has used blanket exclusion zones within injunction areas as a tool to limit media access, said Hern, citing the Unist’ot’en raid in 2020 as an example. Recently, these terms have meant that press only has one or two hours of notice for the meeting place for that day’s chaperoned access.
Reporters would have to be stationed in either Port Renfrew or Lake Cowichan by 6 am to catch the convoy in time—opposite ends of the RCMP blockades. Independent press and student media with limited resources are especially affected by this policy.
“There’s a lot of frustration up there,” said Hern. “In many instances, [notice] has changed on short notice, [or has] been significantly delayed. Media show up at a meeting point pre-arranged by the RCMP and have to wait there for sometimes hours. Sometimes it simply never happens.”
Tarps used to hide police tactics for removing protesters (photo by Dawna Mueller)
Meanwhile, enforcement action takes place away from journalists. When access is granted, police sometimes hold up tarps to prevent media from documenting arrests, claiming a need to protect “proprietary” policing methods. Sometimes, police do not inform the press of arrests at all. Such behaviour can discourage media attendance.
Photojournalist Jen Osborne, who has been consistently covering the Fairy Creek blockades, has been denied access or obstructed numerous times when photographing police enforcement actions for Canadian Press, Reuters and independently. “If I get arrested out here [while not on contract], I don’t really have any support. If I become a little more pushy about getting more pictures….” Osborne trailed off, reminded of potential consequences. She’s thinking of leaving soon.
Level of access seems to have varied from week to week, creating a difficult working environment. The latest incident, where Osborne was not allowed to witness arrests where police allegedly assaulted forest defenders at Waterfall camp, happened on June 14.
The RCMP media handler didn’t show up, and Osborne was stuck at a parking lot for hours, waiting for access that never came that day. “The officers on the ground were saying, ‘oh we can’t use the radios, it’s not working today,’” said Osborne. “That’s the first time I’ve encountered that out there. The radio always works.”
Hern noted, “Whether it’s a product of poor administration, or a product of poor administration with the intent to frustrate access, or a product of policy of giving access only when they want to give access, it’s a long way from free access for the press.”
The qualification that CAJ and company are proposing to add to the injunction—addressed to law enforcers—is as follows: “to not interfere, impede, or curtail media access rights except as where a bonafide police rational that requires it, and in those instances, to do so as minimally as possible, in recognition of the rights and the role of the media.”
Hern suspects that the RCMP may resist this by arguing that their restrictions are authorized by their general or common law policing rights. Whether that stance is justified will be determined in court in July.
“It’s really difficult to see what it is that could be so operationally secret or risky that would require the exclusion of the media,” said Hern. “In an urban protest, police officers are making arrests on a regular basis and there’s tons of people around witnessing the event. It’s not clear at all why they want to make these arrests in isolation.”
A careful balance should be struck between actual policing needs and media access, said Hern, who stresses that this isn’t happening at Fairy Creek.
“In fact, the police are disregarding the need for that balance and don’t have a sufficient appreciation of the importance of free press access to enforcement activities,” said Hern.
It’s now up to the courts to make sure that happens.
Controlling the narrative
Two weeks before RCMP began obstructing journalists in their work at Fairy Creek, Jolly wrote an op-ed in the National Observer. Its title nicely sums up the point that he’s making there: “Canada’s press freedom is in more danger than you think.”
“I wish I could say I knew it was going to happen,” said Jolly, who laughed at the almost prescient timing of his piece.
Brent Jolly, journalist and president of the Canadian Association of Journalists
“We’ve made the point of going around and hosting international summits, telling emerging democracies and international organizations on how things should operate in regards to media freedom, and yet we still don’t accomplish some of the most basic things here at home,” said Jolly.
Indeed, the RCMP appear to be taking a page from police forces operating in emerging democracies. Michelle Bonner, a political scientist at the University of Victoria who studies the intersection of policing, protest, and media in Latin America, says that the RCMP is likely employing a time-tested police tactic known as stage managing.
Michelle Bonner, PhD, political scientist at the University of Victoria, studies the intersection of policing, protest, and media
Bonner said that there are academic studies that detail how RCMP have previously not only stage managed where journalists could go during protests to ensure positive coverage, but also instances where RCMP have attempted to preemptively paint protestors in a criminal light ahead of time to influence coverage. There isn’t any indication that the RCMP has done this here, but Bonner believes there’s evidence that stage management is happening at the Fairy Creek blockades.
She’s also struck by the lax oversight for the RCMP’s discretionary powers given by the injunction. Bonner is concerned about the term “recognized media outlets,” a poorly explained requirement of the RCMP for journalists looking to join the media convoy. A recent (and standard) email from RCMP to media stated: “Reminder—identification may include ID, business card, or photo ID from your media agency, a letter from your Editor/News Director confirming employment or other proof of media employment. As always there is limited cell reception at the access control areas, so please print out any letters or proof of employment prior to traveling to the check point.”
In a statement to FOCUS, the RCMP claimed to have taken a “liberal approach” to media identification: “We have worked with a number of individuals who are freelancers or belong to non-traditional media outlets, such as internet publications.”
But Bonner said, “There should not be limitations on what media is acceptable and what is not acceptable. If anyone wants to act as a citizen journalist, they can do so. Qualifications should not come into that.” Such authority gives the RCMP the power to silence some voices over other voices, noted Bonner.
RCMP acknowledged “instances of miscommunication or delays” during their early days of enforcement, but say that these have “generally been worked out” after consultation with stakeholders.
RCMP also told FOCUS that police escorts are needed to “guide media in through the forest service network safely,” and to coordinate with onsite RCMP commanders to determine the level of access that is given to media on that day.
“Police often use the safety of journalists as a reason to keep journalists behind police lines or in places away from where the protests are happening,” said Bonner. “For freedom of the press, ideally what you want is journalists making that decision for themselves as to what is safe and what is not safe rather than the police making that decision.”
This sentiment is echoed by Hern: “Safety in the abstract is unhelpful. Is it the safety of the officers or is it the safety of the media personnel? If the safety is the safety of the officers, the question that arises is: how are the officers’ safety affected by members of the media being present?”
Bonner suggested the control of media is more about image management: “[At protests] there’s always a possibility that it will end up making the police look bad. Police are concerned about their image and want to have public support in their actions.”
At peaceful protests, there is simply no need for police management, said Bonner. Restrictions on media, she noted, limit the ability of the public to have a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening.
It’s important that journalists resist police pressure to control the narrative when they can, said Bonner. She gave an example of how news could become complicit: during the 2019 Chile protests, clever police stage management funnelled news coverage into being a mouthpiece for the police. Protestors were portrayed as criminals, looters, vandals, and eventually drug traffickers, even though the majority of people on the streets were peaceful protestors with legitimate grievances. “When these discourses are heard and are dominant in the media… then political leaders can say that public opinion is in support of these actions against the criminal threat of protestors.”
In Chile, that has led to the deaths of 36 people and thousands of injured protestors. More than 400 people had eye injuries from police firing rubber bullets, with 29 completely blinded.
Egregious violations of media access around indigenous land issues
As the president of the CAJ, Jolly gets a national view of the state of press access in Canada. What he sees may not be as dire as the situation in Chile, but it isn’t encouraging either: Jolly’s seen “dumbfounding” examples of obstruction and obfuscation at nearly all levels of the government.
During our interview, he rattled off a list of names and places where RCMP have prevented journalists from doing their work in recent years.
The most egregious violations seem to happen when Indigenous peoples begin asserting their rights contrary to the wishes and interests of property developers, pipeline companies, and government.
For example, the 2020 raid on Unist’ot’en camp in Northern BC, where the Wet’suwet’en have been resisting oil pipelines on their territory, saw guns drawn and journalists detained during a paramilitary raid. There, RCMP utilized an exclusion zone, functionally similar to Fairy Creek’s access and control areas, as the justification for denying press access. An investigation by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP into RCMP conduct at Unist’ot’en remains unresolved, stuck in administrative limbo.
Later that year, Canada would also see the arrests of journalists Karl Dockstader and Courtney Skye in Caledonia, Ontario, where the Haudenosaunee are resisting property developers who are violating a 1784 land treaty.
There is also the case of Justin Brake, who was arrested in 2016 covering a protest where the Innu and Inuit protested against the Muskrat Falls megadam project in Central Labrador. He is perhaps the only journalist in Canadian history to have faced dual criminal and civil charges while doing his job. That case would last for almost four years, until charges against Brake were dismissed in the highest court in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That court ruling by Justice J. Derek Green repeats a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that frames journalism as the sustainer of the public exchange of information, vital to modern Canadian society.
Justice Green then goes further to note: “That makes freedom of the press to cover stories involving indigenous land issues even more vital.”
As Canada grapples with its identity as a country built on cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples, conflicts around Indigenous rights will only gain heightened attention.
“You would think that the RCMP would take the time to develop a strategy around this [after Wet’suwet’en],” said Jolly. It’s unacceptable when journalists are obstructed and threatened while reporting on matters of the public interest,” he added. “By the virtue of their very restrictions, they’re creating mistrust.”
Jolly says that the Fairy Creek application ruling could have a long-term impact on journalism and the public interest.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has described the role of the media in Canadian society as vital, special, essential, and emphasized it in many cases as to how fundamentally important a free press is to democratic society,” said Hern. “That’s what’s at stake.”
The case will be heard in the third week of July before Justice Douglas Thompson in Nanaimo, with virtual proceedings.
“I’m a bit concerned that it’s taking a little bit longer [than usual]. But this is the process—we just have to go along with it,” said Jolly.
Meanwhile, the Rainforest Flying Squad say that blockaders are facing an increasingly aggressive RCMP, who are now conducting overnight raids when there are no media present.
Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined FOCUS Magazine. He recalls needing a police escort of two during a 40-minute walk to retrieve his lunch from his vehicle parked just outside the exclusion zone during his trip to Caycuse. See his report on that visit and the first week of arrests at Fairy Creek here.
THANKS TO SOME FRIENDS who invited me to join them, I was one of thousands who headed to Fairy Creek on Saturday, May 29.
As a member of the media, I get an email from the RCMP each morning telling me where arrests are expected. My friends were willing to be arrested and I was there to document those arrests. But this morning, the RCMP email, which I received as we travelled to Fairy Creek, noted that no enforcement of the injunction would be happening. No explanation, but we wondered aloud if it was because there were going to be so many people coming out that day to show support for Fairy Creek’s old-growth forest and its defenders. Convoys had been arranged from Victoria and Duncan, and it was a beautiful, warm sunny day.
Without the drama of arrests, however, most mainstream media would not show up. No press would be there to witness the large numbers of old-growth defenders willing to be arrested, as occurred on a similar day back in 1993 at Clayoquot Sound, an event that became an icon for the entire summer of civil protest that followed and a visual magnet that drew people from across Canada. The RCMP sidestepped that this weekend.
Just past Cowichan Lake, at the community of Mesachie Lake, we saw pro-logging supporters getting ready for their own blockade. Later news reports indicated it drew only a small number of disgruntled loggers from all over the Island. The Cowichan Valley Citizen reported a total of “dozens” coming from “Courtenay, Campbell River, Gold River, Zeballos and Port McNeill.”
Despite the low attendance, however, the loggers protest got more media coverage than the reported 2,000 or so who headed to the Fairy Creek area demanding a stop to old-growth logging.
When my party of would-be arrestees arrived at Fairy Creek “headquarters,” we were asked to head to Waterfall Camp. Waterfall had been dismantled the previous day by the RCMP, including the removal of a blockader who had been ingeniously suspended at the end of a pole over a deep canyon. This blockade is viewed as a crucial one to re-establish because it guards the entrance to the old-growth forest at the ridge above pristine Fairy Creek Valley.
The RCMP have set up a very large “exclusion zone” for this camp. It extends approximately 12 kilometres down a logging road. On our arrival, a dozen or so RCMP were at the entrance to it, doing their own blockading. I am not sure whether it was the sheer numbers of peaceful citizens or Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones telling the police that they were the trespassers and that the “forest defenders are welcome and legal guests on this land,” but everyone was allowed through—on foot only, except for Bill Jones in his vehicle.
Supporters of the blockades head up to Waterfall Camp, through the 12-kilometre exclusion zone.
It was a long, at times seemingly endless, walk uphill. We passed vast clearcuts on exceedingly steep hillsides that made us long for shade. Huge silvered stumps dating back to the mid-1900s were interspersed among much smaller new stumps. Walking mate Jenny Balke, a professional biologist based on Denman Island, told me this area “was famously and horribly logged from at least the 1970-80s on,” resulting in “many fines etc that went nowhere. So now, at all the reasonable heights, they are clear-cutting for the second time.” The recent second-growth logging illustrates we are not waiting anywhere near the required time to grow big trees. “The only old-growth forestry areas,” noted Balke, “are way high up and far out.”
Those are what are being defended (and coveted by industry). Balke herself was willing to be arrested, if not today, some other time.
HUNDREDS OF US MADE THE PILGRIMAGE up to Waterfall Camp. All ages and walks of life were present—an elderly gentleman from Gabriola, babies in snugglies. I met at least two families with three generations represented. Susan Stokes, a grandmother and forest industry worker from Chemainus, was with her daughter Patti Johnston and teenage granddaughters Haley and Catherine. Against a backdrop of a clearcut, Stokes said, “This isn’t sustainable forestry.”
Susan Stokes, daughter Patti Johnston, granddaughters Catherine and Haley
Her granddaughters were passing out a written plea to forest workers. It stated in part: “Don’t blame the people that are trying to save the last remnants of our majestic old-growth forests. Tree farms can never replace these forests. Tree farms have no diversity…Don’t let corrupt government and corporate giants divide us.” They also passed out a sheet with details from the government’s own commission—like the 1,680 species at risk of extinction in BC, more than any other province, and how the key is to conserve the diversity held in old-growth forests, lands that are being mismanaged.
There were artists, teachers, retirees, tech workers, health care workers, ecotourism operators marching for hours. Two women acting as legal observers had come from the Okanagan.
Lannie Keller, a kayaking lodge owner, joined the protest.
Some fellow pilgrims were planning to camp overnight—I didn’t envy them as they lugged up heavy packs.
At times a deafeningly-loud helicopter buzzed above us, gathering police “intel” we supposed. Fellow walkers expressed dismay about police resources being spent in such ways.
Besides the clearcuts and helicopters, we crossed bridges over beautiful streams cascading down the rugged terrain. The logging roads themselves are a marvel of engineering. I couldn’t help but think of all the tax dollars spent to subsidize this difficult and expensive access for logging—and how few people the logging industry now employs.
SOME TURNED BACK before reaching Waterfall Camp, but in my pulse of plodding people alone there were 150 or so that did complete the three-and-a-half-hour hike. Young, old, First Nations, settlers. But no mainstream news media at all.
And no RCMP, so no arrests, despite the many who were fully prepared to be arrested.
While many dipped their toes or whole bodies in the falls by the road to cool down from the long hot trek, others tried to imagine the camp infrastructure that had been in place—the cantilevered pole with a forest defender precariously dangling over the deep canyon, the pole held in place by a parked car. An excavator had come in Friday, after media had been banished, and removed the courageous young man.
I don’t doubt he’ll be back to participate in some way; the people are determined. And they are being shown a lot of love from around the province, if not the world.
The logging community knows this. As a woman involved in the aforementioned loggers protest stated on CHEK TV: “Bring in the forces. Bring in the military, clear their asses out. Don’t just…process and release them because they’re going right back.”
But the real story of the weekend, despite it not making the news, was not the drama of arrests or angry loggers, but the mind-boggling surge of support from ordinary citizens of all ages and walks of life for old-growth forests and the blockades protecting them: hundreds, perhaps thousands, walking up to Waterfall Camp over the weekend; similar numbers at “Headquarters;” logging roads lined for miles and miles with vehicles and campers. Everyone peaceful, witnessing the massive, ugly clearcuts, and the beauty of the remaining forests, sharing ideas and opinions, dismay and hope.
BEFORE WE DESCENDED FROM WATERFALL, those in camp took a minute of silence for the children found at the Kamloops residential school.
And then a torn banner, rescued from the rubble, was raised to proclaim the re-establishment of Waterfall Camp.
The banner being raised at Waterfront Camp, May 29, 2021
As those of us who needed to return home that evening descended the long, winding road from Waterfall blockade, we passed many more people on their way up. Some would stay the night and help rebuild the blockade that the RCMP had destroyed.
Back at the bottom of the road, at the entrance to the exclusion zone, there were throngs of blockade supporters mingling and setting up camp for the evening; lots of good vibes and beautiful smiles. The numbers are overwhelming.
I am glad to have witnessed it. My walking mate Jenny said in an email a couple of days later, that she “was very disheartened at the news clip on CBC radio Monday morning: Some protesters broke through police blockade over the weekend…sigh! Rather than: 1000s came to say old-growth logging has to stop!!”
Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS. She also visited the blockade camps in early April. That story is here; a related story on the Eden Grove Artist in Residence story is here.
ACCORDING TO Madison’s Lumber Reporter, the price of 2x4s milled in BC reached a record high of just over $1600 USD per 1000 board feet at the end of April 2021. For the first four months of the year, the price had averaged about $1250. That average was approximately 3.3 times higher than for the same period in 2020. With almost all lumber in BC being cut from publicly-owned forests, you might think that huge price increase would translate into a financial windfall for BC residents.
But data from the BC ministry of forests shows that for the first 4 months of 2020, the average stumpage collected across the province was $20.59 per cubic metre. For the first 4 months of 2021, that rose to $29.66. So while the value of products milled from public forests increased by 330 percent, the ministry of forests collected only 44 percent more, barely enough to cover the ministry’s own cost of providing forest management for the industry.
The large jump in net revenue for forestry companies will make for some interesting financial statements in the coming months. In 2020, when lumber prices were one-third of their current level, Canfor, BC’s largest forestry company, reported a net operating income of $560 million.
The ministry’s data also shows a huge surge in logging in 2021 over 2020. In the first 4 months of 2020, about 13.2 million cubic metres were cut in public forests. In the same period this year, 21.8 million cubic metres had been cut, up 65 percent. So not only are forestry companies getting a huge break on what they pay for wood compared to what the market pays them, they are cutting like there is no tomorrow. If logging continues at the current rate, the year’s cut will be about 15 million cubic metres higher than what the forest ministry’s own timber supply analyses have shown is sustainable in the mid-term.
A logging truck heads to a log sort loaded with old-growth forest (Photo by TJ Watt)
For some companies, the record high prices have had little effect on the stumpage they pay. In the first four months of 2020, Teal Cedar Products paid an average of $23.13 per cubic metre for wood it removed from publicly-owned land in TFL 46. For the same period in 2021—by which time lumber prices had more than tripled—Teal paid just 2 cents more per cubic metre than it had in 2020.
Teal Cedar Products is the company whose logging operations in TFL 46 are being blockaded by the Rainforest Flying Squad, which is trying to prevent the company from cutting old-growth forest. A strategic review of old-growth forests in BC conducted in 2020, commissioned by the BC government, recommended an immediate moratorium on logging of old forest in areas where less than 10 percent remains, which would include much of TFL 46. BC Premier John Horgan promised—before last fall’s election—that his government would abide by the review’s recommendations.
The blockades don’t seem to have hindered Teal’s access to trees in TFL 46 for its mills in Surrey. For the first four months of 2021, forests ministry data shows that Teal cut more in TFL 46 than it had in the same period in 2020, which turned out to be the company’s biggest cut since 2012. But the blockades have resulted in intense public scrutiny and criticism of Premier John Horgan’s dithering on the old-growth file.
David Broadland splits his life between a primary forest on Quadra Island and an urban Garry oak meadow in Victoria.
Forest defenders persist at blockades as 59 are arrested and old-growth logging begins.
May 22, 2021
AFTER NINE MONTHS of sustained, successful blockades against old-growth logging in remote valleys on Southern Vancouver Island, the forest defence action led by the Rainforest Flying Squad entered a new, more intense phase on Monday, May 17, 2021.
The ensuing week has seen the use of significant police resources to carry out arrests of forest defenders; continued—and creative—resistance on the part of blockaders; legal action on a number of fronts; and the commencement of old-growth logging by Teal Cedar Products (a division of Teal Jones Group) in Caycuse Valley in Ditidaht territory. The endangered Western Screech Owl has also made an important appearance.
On May 17, RCMP established a blockade and checkpoints on the logging roads leading to the Caycuse blockade to begin enforcing the BC Supreme Court injunction granted to Teal Cedar Products on April 1—despite the fact that the injunction has been appealed and, according to some legal watchdogs, that exclusion zones are not legally justified. As of May 23, close to 59 individuals have been arrested within exclusion zones (which RCMP has rebranded as a “temporary access control area”).
FOCUS sent myself and photographer Dawna Mueller to witness and document the events on the first day of arrests, Tuesday, May 18.
The evening before, press representatives were contacted by the RCMP and given no option but to meet RCMP at 7 am the next morning in a parking lot in Honeymoon Bay, near Lake Cowichan, if they wanted to get anywhere near the expected arrests. After quickly renting a car that could handle the rigours of logging roads, we left Victoria at five in the morning.
Eighteen members of the media showed up and were chaperoned by RCMP minders past police lines to witness the enforcement. Television crews from CHEK, CBC, CTV, and Global, as well as representatives from smaller publications and freelancers milled around in a rainy parking lot after checking in with the RCMP. We were shepherded to the front of the police checkpoint at the McClure service road—about seven kilometres from the camp itself—for another hour-long wait.
Many supporters of the forest defence action were gathered in front of the police line, with some arriving from the other camps or from one of the two convoys that drove in from Port Renfrew and Duncan the same morning.
“We are here to protest and support our friends who are here in the front line at Caycuse,” said Solene, who was from camp headquarters near Fairy Creek. The forest defenders chanted slogans, such as “shame on Horgan,” sang songs, and spoke to media waiting at the gate.
Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones—one of the most visible Indigenous supporters of the movement to protect Vancouver Island old growth—spoke to those gathered on the site. (A video of his speech can be found here.)
“My girlfriend’s going to be mad,” said Jones, laughing when asked about how he was feeling. Jones has been in ailing health recently and was shivering slightly by the end of his speech. Despite the cold, intermittent rain, the 87-year-old came out to protest. “I figure we are here doing the right thing, to protest and tell the government we are here to save our old growth,” said Jones who was quickly whisked off after his speech by friends concerned about his health.
Jones’ determination would be echoed by those waiting to be arrested beyond the police line.
The forest defenders at the Caycuse blockade had been given 24-hours notice to vacate or risk arrest the day before. Gently smouldering embers in recently abandoned campsites suggested that many had left at the last minute. Banners and signs hung limply along the road which used to house a lively crowd of forest defenders and their tents. Only a few legal observers remained behind to observe and document the arrests.
Each of the arrestees—most of them chained up, locked down, and in one case, suspended 10 metres off the ground to make arrests difficult—were served with injunction papers and given a chance to leave freely before they were arrested.
RCMP officers move in to Caycuse Camp on May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
Val Embree, grandmother, and Mitchell Steinke, musician: arrested May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
Perhaps it is symbolic that the two first arrestees at Camp Caycuse were Val Embree, a grandmother who described herself as a longtime forests protector, and Mitchell Steinke, a younger man who strummed a guitar and sang songs about nature and trees until he was arrested and escorted away from the camp gate.
His guitar was left behind.
“The land, the trees, the forest, belongs to the people, the First Nations, and all people,” said Rainbow Eyes, a Da’naxda’xw-Aweatlala Indigenous forest defender from Knight Inlet, who had chained herself to a road gate with a bicycle lock and another forest defender, Brandon Busby.
Rainbow Eyes and Brandon Busby: arrested May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
Several officers held up tarps to obstruct the views of legal observers and media during the arrests of those who had chained themselves down, ostensibly to protect “proprietary” police techniques.
The arrests did not happen fast. Journalists would wander off from police supervision to look at the various structures left behind during lulls in the arrests. One particularly well-built outhouse stands out in memory, with journalists and RCMP constables both remarking on the ingenuity of the engineering.
One protector who had chained himself into a hollowed-out piece of old-growth cedar set in the middle of the road, would have to wait hours before it was his turn. Intermittently, the sounds of a helicopter and drones would come from the sky.
Forest defender Uddhava (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
“I’m engaged in this apparatus as a physical blockade, a physical delay mechanism, but also as a symbolic blockage of industry into the heart of untouched environment,” said Uddhava.
He was carried out on a tarp after he went limp and refused to walk.
Uddhava would be the last to be arrested that first day of arrests.
There were two more forest defenders, blocking the way of logging trucks. They were chained to the sides of a massive slice of old-growth cedar salvaged from a previously logged stump, positioned in front of an unnamed bridge overlooking the Caycuse River.
But it was getting late. RCMP officers decided to call it a day, leaving those two blockaders to be dealt with the following day.
Many more than two would be arrested in the following days.
Tensions rise as logging begins
Since the first day of arrests, tensions have risen as supporters are denied access beyond the exclusion zone and press access has been significantly restricted. Reports and videos of more forceful enforcement are trailing out through social media.
The Fairy Creek and Caycuse areas do not have cell service, which means that the flow of information is staggered throughout the day and is often hours out of date. On Friday, May 21, the Rainforest Flying Squad’s Instagram account, which they rely on to communicate to supporters outside of the dead cell zone, inexplicably went down after they posted a video where Bill Jones’ niece and media representative Kati George-Jim was forcefully arrested. The Rainforest Flying Squad has since reported, “Instagram claimed that our site was promoting violence, when in fact it was exposing police violence.”
What we do know is that five dozen people had been arrested by Sunday, May 23—and that police had moved to enforce the injunction beyond Caycuse Camp, in other areas of the watersheds near Fairy Creek. On Saturday May 22, the Rainforest Flying Squad reported that 15 RCMP vehicles were en route to dismantle Eden and Waterfall blockades near Port Renfrew. Later, the RCMP said that six were arrested there.
During the week, we’ve heard complaints from some arrestees about how they have been treated.
Uddhava—whose arrest FOCUS was prevented from witnessing as his extrication process was blocked from view by tarps held up by RCMP—has complained that officers placed his head in a canvas bag and bent him forward without letting him know beforehand.
“Everything was black, and I was bent forward with multiple hands on me,” said Uddhava. He said that the RCMP used some sort of pneumatic device to cut the lock off his neck, which made him worried that his airway was going to get cut off. “I felt very vulnerable in that situation, knowing that it would have been very easy for the RCMP to have knocked me unconscious or to choke me out without anyone seeing,” said Uddhava.
Forest defender Uddhava (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
He also alleges that RCMP did not let him relieve himself during the two-and-a-half hours from his initial arrest to the holding cell at Lake Cowichan, despite multiple requests to do so.
Another complaint—one of colonial violence—came from Kati George-Jim, niece of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones. She was arrested on May 20 at Caycuse. In a video, made after her release in Lake Cowichan, she claimed the RCMP had tackled her using an “excessive amount of force.”
George-Jim says she was charged with obstruction of justice and assault of a police officer, though she was acting as a legal observer and not blockading. She says she was only attempting to help a young man being tackled and treated roughly by the RCMP. She stated, “From the video you will see the only assault was of me.” (This was on the Instagram account that was still down as of press time.)
One of the tree sitters at Caycuse said that RCMP officers on scene had threatened to use rubber bullets and tear gas to get another tree sitter out of her perch. RCMP spokesperson Corporal Chris Manseau denied that there was any tear gas on the site and that the RCMP doesn’t use rubber bullets. He said the RCMP takes such allegations seriously and these require further investigation.
Complaints have also come from media. Throughout the RCMP’s enforcement process, press have been restricted in their ability to observe and report on the ongoing arrests. Journalists were initially denied any access to the site on May 17. After threatened legal action, they have been allowed in under RCMP supervision during daylight hours, but still with varying degrees of access to the site and blockade supporters.
RCMP are citing “common law rights” and “public safety” as justification for the restrictions on media—despite no documented instances of violence involving forest defenders over the nine months of blockades. The Rainforest Flying Squad and others involved have consistently stressed their commitment to non-violence.
On May 18, when FOCUS was present, press access restrictions changed throughout the day, ranging from a 50-foot distance and a tight media cluster, to relatively unfettered access to forest defenders who weren’t actively being arrested. But when I had to return to my vehicle to retrieve my packed lunch, I was accompanied by two RCMP officers for the 40-minute walk and was not allowed to move my vehicle closer.
On May 19, press movement was more restricted; media personnel were told to remain at least 160 feet away from the arrests, on the grounds of safety. Ricochet Media journalist Jerome Turner reported that journalists needed a police chaperone to relieve themselves, and that he was forcibly pushed back and detained with the rest of the media in a space more than 200 feet away from the arrests.
Independent filmmaker Gabriel Ostapchuk was arrested that day, while attempting to document the arrests, on an alleged obstruction of justice charge. The charge was dropped and he was released the same day, according to a press release from the Rainforest Flying Squad.
On May 20, journalists were not allowed to witness six arrests conducted by the RCMP in the morning; nor were they allowed into the area as before. Press access to the area was only allowed after noon.
Active logging began in Caycuse on May 21, while forest defenders were still on site, leading the Rainforest Flying Squad to call Worksafe BC complaining of active, unsafe tree falling.
The same day, two applications seeking to overturn the RCMP exclusion zone were submitted to court, according to Noah Ross, a lawyer retained by the Rainforest Flying Squad.
Ross claims that the RCMP is overstepping its powers by setting up an exclusion zone. “Exclusion zones are only legal in certain limited circumstances in which there are serious public safety risks. It’s explicitly not allowed by the injunction,” said Ross.
“It appears that the RCMP are once again willing to enforce exclusion zones that are not legally justified in order to make their job easier. They’re willing to overlook people’s civil rights in order to give industry access to their logs,” Ross continued in the statement. “It’s not legally justified.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists is also calling on courts to limit the powers of the RCMP and other police agencies when issuing injunctions. The BC Civil Liberties Association and Legal Observers Victoria have released a joint statement condemning RCMP actions. It states, “In our view, the RCMP’s actions are overbroad in scope and constitute an inconsistent, arbitrary, and illegal exercise of discretion to block members of the public, including legal observers and the media, from accessing the area and to monitor police activity.”
Another development towards week’s end was that Teal Cedar may be contravening the Wildlife Act by logging in the area. Royann Petrell, a retired UBC professor, captured audio recordings and photos of Western Screech Owls five times within the past two months in the valley and neighbouring watersheds like Fairy Creek. She has been in correspondence over the matter with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Logging of old-growth forest in the Caycuse Valley area (Photograph by TJ Watt)
On Saturday, May 22, after arrests at Waterfall camp, the Rainforest Flying Squad’s first camp in the area, the organizers stated, “It guards the approach to the Fairy Creek watershed. As soon as it is cleared, road building crews will begin cutting down trees and carving a road into the last unlogged watershed in the San Juan River system.”
Joshua Wright of the Flying Squad said, “If the government allows road-building into the headwaters of Fairy Creek, it will prove they value corporations’ profits over the last of this province’s biodiversity—and over the well-being of all generations to come.”
Scientists have found that less than 1 percent of BC’s 50-million hectares of forested area contain large or very large trees like those in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse Valley regions. BC forest scientists have determined that 33 of BC’s 36 forested biogeoclimatic zone variants have less than 10 percent old forest remaining, putting them at high risk for extirpation of certain species, such as the Western Screech Owl, the Northern Spotted Owl, the Northern Goshawk and Marbeled Murrelet. As well, conservation of BC’s old-growth temperate rainforests is considered to be an effective, low-cost strategy for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.
Kathleen Code, a member of the Rainforest Flying Squad, said, “If [the Province] had kept their word [about implementing all the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review], there would be no citizens risking their lives or freedom by locking themselves into strange structures, or sitting on platforms 30 metres above the ground while trees are being cut down around them, trying to keep each other calm, watching bear cubs fleeing the destruction.”
Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined FOCUS Magazine.
See Dispatches for updates on the Fairy Creek Rainforest defence and check our Forests department for related stories. A slide show of May 18 photographs by Dawna Mueller is here.
Scientists urge BC to immediately defer logging in key old-growth forests amid arrests.
May 19, 2021
BC’s RAREST FOREST ECOSYSTEMS are rapidly disappearing and if the Province doesn’t act immediately to defer logging in key areas, as recommended by the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review, they will be lost forever, according to a report released May 19, 2021 by a team of independent scientists.
The analysis of BC’s remaining old growth forests and mapping tools aims to help the Province meet the recommendations of the old-growth panel.
While the map was designed to flag forests that meet the criteria for deferral rather than note specific at-risk locations, the authors noted it includes places like the Nahmint River watershed and Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, currently a hot spot of protest and near where the RCMP began making arrests on Tuesday as part of its enforcement of an injunction. The map also identifies unharvested old-growth in the Babine watershed near Smithers and rare cedar hemlock old-growth near Nelson as top-priority areas for logging deferrals.
The new analysis takes its lead from the independent strategic review commissioned by the Province, which outlined criteria to determine which forests are of the highest value and most at-risk, and clarifies which areas should be immediately protected. The review recommended the Province defer development in old forests with a high risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.
“It’s been a year since that report went to the government and there have been no meaningful deferrals since that time,” Rachel Holt, forest ecologist and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview. “We waited for the government to map what the panel recommended and there’s been no action—so we decided to just do it.”
While the Province implemented deferrals last year that ostensibly protected 353,000 hectares of forest, closer inspection revealed how the numbers were skewed to include already protected areas and 157,000 hectares of second-growth forests open to logging. The Province subsequently adjusted its numbers to reflect the inclusion of second-growth.
The new analysis identifies about 1.3 million hectares of at-risk forests across the Province, which is about 2.6 percent of BC’s timber supply. According to the analysis, the actual area that requires logging deferrals will be much smaller and the Province has the tools to put any planned cutblocks and road building on hold while it works with First Nations and other stakeholders to develop land use plans.
“Following the old-growth strategic review panel’s direction, [the Province] should take that map and overlay it with planned cutblocks and defer harvest in those areas until the planning is done,” Holt said.
A low resolution version of the map of old forest created by Dave Daust, Rachel Holt and Karen Pryce. Click the map to enlarge. For a much larger version, click here
Old-growth review recommended a “paradigm shift” in how BC manages its forests
The strategic review highlighted the urgent need to stop looking at BC’s forests as timber supply and start prioritizing Indigenous rights and ecological and cultural values. It acknowledged this transition won’t happen overnight but noted the urgent need to put the brakes on logging the rarest trees while creating a new strategy.
The first step is to figure out which forests need to be saved, which is where Holt and her colleagues come in.
“Our map represents the key criteria that the old-growth panel outlined for immediate logging deferrals, including the tallest, largest forests, plus rare and ancient forest,” Dave Daust, forester, modeller and project lead, said in a press release.
“With this blueprint, the Province can act immediately to ensure any existing or planned logging in these areas is put on hold while it pursues a government-to-government approach for forest management that puts Indigenous rights and interests, ecological values and community resilience ahead of timber volume.”
Holt explained that the data and maps were created based on current provincial information, but said there are gaps that will need to be addressed.
“There will be places on the ground that aren’t on the map. They should be added, like known cultural areas or known high-value areas that for some reason don’t show up,” she said, adding that there may also be areas that have already been logged.
Scientists say there is no time to “talk and log”
In his 2020 election campaign, Premier John Horgan committed to implementing the panel’s recommendations. “We will act on all 14 recommendations and work with Indigenous leaders and organizations, industry, labour and environmental organizations on the steps that will take us there,” he wrote.
But Holt said the Province isn’t acting fast enough.
“There isn’t time to talk and log and try to create perfect maps,” she said. “Nothing is perfect, but we need to move forward.”
Very little remains of BC’s old-growth forests. Holt, Daust and ecologist Karen Price calculated that just 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forest remains in the Province. Productive old-growth supports numerous endangered and threatened species, including caribou and northern goshawk.
As to whether the Province will use the map to implement meaningful deferrals, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development wrote in an emailed statement that it is committed to protecting BC’s ancient forests for future generations.
“We know there is a lot more work to do. That’s why this government commissioned an independent panel to advise us on how we could do better when it comes to protecting old forests. Now, our government is working on next steps—which includes important engagement with Indigenous peoples, environmental advocates and forest-dependent communities around identifying additional deferral areas.”
Holt emphasized that the stakes couldn’t be higher.
“We are losing biodiversity and we’re losing carbon storage,” she said. “Old large tree ecosystems hold a phenomenal carbon store. We don’t have time to plant trees and wait 100 years.”
Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The Narwhal. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
With no apparent legal justification, the RCMP has imposed restrictions and conditions on journalists' access to publicly-owned land on which arrests of forest activists are likely to occur on Tuesday.
May 17, 2021
TODAY, THE RCMP has escalated the situation at Fairy Creek by establishing their own blockade and checkpoint at publicly-owned McClure Forest Service Road, to “prevent a further escalation of efforts to block access contrary to the Supreme Court Order,” and to limit the access to the Fairy Creek watershed to only select individuals, who must provide identification and state their purpose.
Journalists not already embedded with the Fairy Creek blockades — from what the RCMP calls “recognized media outlets” — will only be allowed to access areas beyond the checkpoint with handlers from the BC RCMP Communication Services supervising their stay. According to an RCMP press release sent out late today, the press pool may only enter the site during the day. “No one will be permitted to remain, however, you may choose to return the next day and again be escorted back into the designated media area,” said RCMP spokesperson Christopher Manseau.
“We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there [by 7 a.m.],” continued Manseau. “I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.”
An earlier press release from the RCMP highlighted the blockade at the main Fairy Creek Rainforest camp, but by late today its focus had apparently shifted to the blockade on the Caycuse Mainline road, about 30 kilometres, as the raven flies, away from the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade.
The initial police action appears to be aimed at a blockade about 30 kilometres north of the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade, pictured above (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
These RCMP actions are result of the injunction granted to Teal Cedar Products Ltd, which empowers the RCMP to arrest forest defenders currently sitting in defiance of the order. Lawyers on behalf of the Rainforest Flying Squad have filed an appeal, but police presence in the area has increased. Helicopter flyovers have been reported by those on the ground. Now, the RCMP is looking to block access to at least one of the camps maintained by old-growth advocates.
While the RCMP calls this latest action a “temporary access and control area,” the tactics and language very much evoke memories of the exclusion zones used by RCMP during the enforcement of the Wet’suwet’en injunction in 2020.
At that blockade, Ricochet reporter Jerome Turner, along with a documentary filmmaker, was detained by officers and kettled away from the scene of the arrests for eight hours. The Tyee has also reported instances of RCMP officers threatening reporters with arrest, keeping them further than necessary from the action, and censoring what they could photograph. These actions have come under much criticism from media and journalism groups for threatening press freedom in Canada.
A number of journalists have already been turned away from the checkpoint at McClure. Free press access to the Fairy Creek blockades is now at risk.
Noah Ross, a lawyer familiar with the matter, says that the BC Supreme Court injunction does not prohibit individuals from being physically in the injunction zone. Only certain activities are illegal, such as blocking harvests and vehicles.
“Whatever public safety reasons there are, they will generally be unjustified restrictions of civil liberties,” said Ross. “Likewise, the injunction is not a ground for an exclusion zone.”
FOCUS Magazine will be sending journalists to the scene and will continue to monitor the situation.
Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined Focus Magazine.
BC auditor general flags BC’s inadequate management of lands, fish and wildlife
May 13, 2021
BC IS FALLING SHORT on its commitment to protect fish and wildlife habitat, according to a report released by the Province’s auditor general on May 11, 2021.
The audit of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s Conservation Lands Program identified several deficiencies, including: a lack of strategic direction ensuring government collaboration with Indigenous communities; a failure to sufficiently monitor and enforce rules on conserved lands; and a need to update management plans for species and habitat.
“Overall, we concluded that the ministry has not effectively managed the program,” Michael Pickup, auditor general, said in a statement.
Pickup noted the program—which was developed over half a century ago to provide a framework for theProvince to work with non-profit organizations, federal agencies and First Nations—has not revisited its goals or strategic planning for over 30 years. He also found the program lacks clarity of purpose, leaving government staff working on local or regional conservation programs without clear directives.
The report noted that even on conserved lands, the Province isn’t doing enough to regulate public use, stating that “hundreds of unauthorized activities had occurred on conservation lands” between 2009 and 2020. Infractions ranged from motor vehicle use in prohibited areas to illegal harvesting activities.
The auditor general outlined a series of recommendations, including cementing a strategic plan for the program and addressing the need to be more transparent with the public. The Ministry of Forests acknowledged its shortcomings and said in a statement it is already working on a number of initiatives to address the audit’s findings.
“Ministry staff are currently working on a strategic plan for the Conservation Lands Program that will detail our actions to fully address the auditor general’s 11 recommendations,” a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email. “The new strategic plan will include input from the existing Conservation Lands partners, the minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council and the First Nations-BC Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum.”
As for when the public can expect to see the ministry implement the recommended changes, Pickup said at a press conference that decision is at the discretion of the Province.
“Most of the responses to these recommendations indicate what they are going to do but they don’t actually indicate a specific timeline to have things done,” he said.
BC conservation management “outdated” as species suffer declines
The report comes as steelhead and salmon populations in watersheds across the province struggle to survive, caribou herds are extirpated and numerous species suffer from habitat fragmentation and the impacts of climate change. As Sarah Cox reported in The Narwhal, there are thousands of species at risk in BC and, despite this, the current government reneged on its promise to enact species-at-risk legislation.
One of the Conservation Lands Program’s key tools to address the needs of at-risk species and important habitats is the designation of wildlife management areas, but the audit flagged a number of problems with BC’s management of those areas, noting around 70 percent of the plans have not been approved and the average age of the plans is almost 20 years.
The audit noted current plans need to reflect current risks, which include the ever-evolving risks associated with climate change.
The report also pointed out that the Province did not maintain an accurate inventory of its conserved lands, including non-administered conservation lands, which are areas designated for conservation purposes under the Land Act.
“The ministry needs an accurate inventory of conservation lands to monitor and report on progress and to make informed program decisions,” the report said.
BC working to align conservation with Indigenous values
The ministry said one of the ways it is addressing the auditor general’s recommendations, while working to meet provincial conservation commitments, predates the report. The Together for Wildlife Strategy, announced last summer, is the Province’s plan for conserving BC’s biodiversity. The strategy outlines five goals and 24 actions to achieve those goals, which involve working closely with First Nations.
But according to the audit, the ministry “has not supported staff to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples when securing and managing conservation lands.” It added that while the ministry is working to provide training and guidance to its staff, there is a lack of specific direction to collaborate and engage with First Nations.
In an interview conducted prior to the audit’s release, George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said the Province is working to align its conservation strategy with Indigenous Rights and community interests.
“We’re working hard to find a way forward that respects First Nations culture and values, that acknowledges and respects the importance of maintaining biodiversity and protecting species at risk, but doing it by developing an approach that doesn’t provide only one path.”
Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The Narwhal. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
The Eden Grove Artist in Residence Program lies at the dynamic intersection of art, ecology and activism.
May 13, 2021
IN A TENT A FEW MINUTES WALK from one of the blockades aimed at preventing logging in the Fairy Creek area, artists are at work. Or they might be out in a nearby clearcut or magical old-growth forest—taking photographs, painting or drawing, carving a mask, gathering ideas for performances and music compositions or materials for collage.
This unique program—the Eden Grove Artists in Residence Program—is the brainchild and labour of love of curator Jessie Demers. Demers describes the program as being at the intersection of art, ecology, activism and culture, and says the artists who are participating have been chosen because of their work focusing on ecology and/or community-based social practices. Being immersed in the ancient rainforest, while witnessing the frontlines of the forest protection movement, is proving fertile ground for those involved.
Jessie Demers, curator of the Eden Grove Artists in Residence program. Photograph by Cole Sprouce
Current artists in residence include Jeremy Herndl, Kyle Scheurmann, Heather Kai Smith and Mike McLean, with more—including Rande Cook, Valerie Salez, Connie Michele Morey, Dawna Mueller and sound artist Paul Walde—coming soon.
“The arts can help amplify and speak to people in a different way. They can bring new people into the movement,” says Demers.
The residency site is a 5-minute walk past the Eden Grove protection camp, established in December 2020 to prevent road building by the Teal Jones corporation and its contractors. The residency program itself is not a protest site, says Demers, who. describes it as “a space where artists can listen, learn, create and build relationships across political and cultural differences.” Pacheedaht rights and title are acknowledged and respected. Says Demers: “We are grateful for the opportunity to draw inspiration from these sacred lands.”
Within easy walking distance from the studio tent is the famous Big Lonely Doug—a huge Douglas Fir standing in the midst of a clearcut—and, a little further along—Eden Grove, an ancient forest indicative of what stands to be lost in the area through proposed logging. Technically, Eden Grove is in the Gordon River watershed at the base of Edinburgh Mountain, so while close to the Fairy Creek watershed, it is a different valley. The blockades are drawing attention to the need to protect what little old growth is left on southern Vancouver Island. Most of the blockades are in TFL46.
While there’s no logging application yet for Eden Grove, road building (a precursor to logging) has been approved further down the road towards Edinburgh Mountain, which is home to one of the largest sections of unprotected old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island. The well known Avatar Grove is a 10-minute drive away. A day trip from Victoria allows visitors to see all these sites, as well as meet some of the artists.
Demers has a degree in fine arts and has worked in the arts for 15 years (5 in Victoria). She is also no stranger to forest protection. She’s been a core organizer of the Friends of Carmanah Walbran and is a veteran of the 1993 Clayoquot Sound protests. In fact, only 17 years old at the time, she was one of the youngest protesters arrested. “The arts and ancient forests are my two big passions,” says Demers. She is working on the residency program around her day job as an arts administrator in Victoria. “It’s come to dominate my life,” she admits.
Demers has rounded up a diverse group of some of the most talented artists on Vancouver Island. “I am inspired and impressed by the Victoria arts community and how many artists have social awareness built into their practice,“ she says. She is thrilled to see how they have become ambassadors for old growth protection, as well as the arts, with visitors to the area. “I didn’t really plan on that, but it’s happening,” she says.
Due to logistics and uncertainty as to how long the blockade camps with be in place, the program is currently by invitation only. However, notes Demers, any artist is welcome to come out and make art in the forest or contribute in other ways. Some are raising funds by selling their work.
One of the current artists in residence is Mike Andrew McLean, who holds an MFA from UVic, and works as a media technologist at Camosun College in Victoria. On recent Saturdays he has borrowed his 9-year-old son Angus’ “skookum” wagon to haul his gear up the bumpy logging road from the studio tent to Eden Grove.
Mike Andrew McLean with his large-format film camera, 2017 at Bear Glacier. Photograph by Laura Trunkey
There, among magnificent old trees, he chooses a spot, makes about three-trips back to the wagon for his gear (the wagon cannot negotiate the boardwalk stairs) and spends four to six hours camped out in the forest, using an 80-year-old wooden camera to shoot multiple layers of 8-inch by 11-inch black and white film, slowly exposed through different colour filters. Later, back in the darkroom, he’ll spend more hours developing the film. He intends to print the different colour images on mylar film which he will mount on a mirror. This “tricks the eye, so that you’re not sure what you’re looking at,” says McLean. It gives it a 3-D effect, replicating the magic of the forest.
Mike Andrew McLean’s“Please, John, don’t screw this up for the rest of us” - Version 1 (Staircase), 3 colour digichromatographic process, at Eden Grove, Patcheedaht territory, April 24, 2021
The image shown here of the boardwalk in Eden Grove was inspired by McLean’s appreciation for the role such structures can play in a forest’s protection. Besides allowing people to “move through these spaces in a way that protects the forest floor and its delicate ecosystems,” he notes, it attracts people to visit and that in itself helps protect the forest.
He says the slowness of his process and the old wooden camera he uses also attract visitors and conversation. People are fascinated that in this day of instant everything, including photographs, McLean spends so many hours taking one image and leaves after a day’s work not even knowing whether it will work out. “I like it that it is slow and methodical, the opposite of instant,” says McLean. “I can plan what I want to do, but there’s always an element of chance. I like that too.”
He also enjoys the conversations he’s having while working in the forest, which he says often go to the heart of photography, what it means to capture light over time.
Besides his vibrating, surreal forest images, McLean is creating cyanotype text-based works, and, as a finale of his residency, plans to produce 50 portraits of visitors as they arrive at the massive tree at the end of the Eden Grove boardwalk. This work, he says, is “in homage to the people who make the pilgrimage.”
Heather Kai Smith
Heather Kai Smith, an artist and educator who divides her time between Nanaimo and Chicago (she teaches visual arts at the University of Chicago), is also a current artist in residence. Her work explores protest, collectivity and intentional communities through drawing. She says, “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to spend time as a visitor on unceded Pacheedaht territory, amplifying and documenting the work of the activist community on-site.” Like Mclean’s photography, Kai Smith’s drawing is an act of slowing down and observing. Her focus is on the activist community though. “Through representations of the movement,” she says, “I aim to support the work of ecological justice and solidarity in challenging overt misuse of power.”
Heather Kai Smith’s recent work “Reciprocity,” coloured pencil and pastel on paper, 20x25 inches
Kyle Scheurmann was on site the day FOCUS visited in April, working on a large, colourful canvas showing an activist on a log over a stream in the middle of a clearcut. His work at that time was being featured in a solo exhibit called Witness at the Angell Gallery in Toronto—which he couldn’t attend due to COVID. The gallery described his work as: “a form of reverential reportage from the front lines of deforestation, wildfires, and human impact on the land.”
For Witness, Scheurmann, who lives in unceded Cowichan territory in Shawnigan Lake, spent a year documenting forest destruction around the Nanaimo Lakes area by Mosaic Forest Management (TimberWest and Island Timberlands). Having lived formerly in cities, he said he had little idea of the devastated landscapes to be found down logging roads. He “stewed in” those clearcuts and the distress started showing in his paintings, which previously had been more traditional landscapes. His colour choice—often fantastical pinks and deep purples—might lure viewers in, but they soon notice the vast areas of stumps, flooded valleys and other scars.
Kyle Scheurmann and painting at Eden Grove. Photograph by Dawna Mueller
Scheurmann, who has an MFA from Emily Carr University of Art & Design, believes he has a responsibility to reflect the environment and how it is impacted by climate change and human activity.
Victoria-based Jeremy Herndl was the first artist to join the residency. He has taught art at Vancouver Island School of Art, UVic and Kwantlen Polytechnic University and has been in many gallery exhibits. For a recent show at Madrona Gallery, he wrote: “My landscape painting considers space as an extension of the body where perception is reciprocal and all things have agency in an intersubjective field… ‘Nature’ is not something else, it doesn’t reward us or punish us, it IS us.”
Jeremy Herndl with one of his paintings of Eden Grove. Photograph by Dawna Mueller
For the Eden Grove project, he returned to plein air painting to “create large portraits of the incredible ancient denizens of the forest and their retinue of other plants and bugs that keep them vital.” His paintings take many days to complete and chronicle “sustained interaction which includes changing light throughout the day, rain, hail, overcast and dappled light—but they also include something else, a peculiar kind of rapport, a conversation of sorts between the human and non-human beings.”
He believes the destruction of old-growth forests as “beyond criminal,” saying, “These forests sequester immense amounts of carbon, they retain and filter rainwater, they are salmon habitat which impacts bears, coastal wolves, eagles and many creatures in the sea including orcas, seals and sea lions not to mention humans.”
Upcoming artists and plans
Demers has been reaching out to First Nations artists, including Pacheedaht. She is excited that Rande Cook, a talented young Kwa’kwa’ka’wakw artist, will be carving a mask at the camp studio in upcoming weeks.
Born and raised in Alert Bay, Cook holds chieftainships from his maternal and paternal sides. He apprenticed with master carver John Livingston, and has studied with many other First Nation artists and others around the world, learning how to use a wide range of media—wood, acrylics, gouache, canvas, glass, and metals. His work, which is known for its imaginative blending of traditional and contemporary Indigenous approaches, has been featured in many private and public galleries (including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria).
Recently, Cook launched a campaign called #TreeOfLife to build awareness around the devastation of Vancouver Island’s rainforests, old-growth cedars and Mother Nature herself. Youth programs are in the works, as is a documentary film.
Other upcoming artists in residence include Connie Michele Morey, who does site-specific performance art and participatory sculptures that tend to question the relationships between ecology, displacement and belonging.
Multi-disciplinary artist Valerie Salez will also participate. Her large scale-installations that include elements of performance have been included in numerous city-wide, outdoor festivals, while her large-scale collage works and sculptures are in many collections.
Paul Walde, an award-winning artist, composer and curator who lives in Victoria on WSÁNEĆ territory, is also coming soon. Walde’s music and sound compositions have been a prominent feature in his artwork for over 20 years. He is best known for his interdisciplinary performance works staged in the natural environment, often involving music and choreography—such as Requiem for a Glacier, a site-specific sound performance featuring a 55-piece choir and orchestra live on the Farnham Glacier in the Purcell Mountains. Walde is currently an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria. Demers tells me that he has plans involving activists and bird sounds.
Environmental photographer Dawna Mueller will also be joining the artists in residence with her poignant black and white images. Mueller’s Métis heritage is a fundamental part of her practice in her connection to, and interpretation of, the land. Her photography references the reunification of nature and culture, expanding our anthropocentric world view, illuminating its interconnectedness.
Photograph “Worth More Standing” by Dawna Mueller
Her work for this project represents a reframing of our relationship to the forest. She says, “It illustrates a collapse of hierarchies between humans and nature activated through non-human semiotics, allowing us to ecologize our ethics and co-exist in an evolutionary success.”
Dawna Mueller (Photograph by Ken Miner)
Demers admits that trying to coordinate an artists residency program around her day job and in a remote area with no cell coverage during a pandemic is not without challenge. But that doesn’t stop her from being ambitious. Plans are being made for exhibits, both online and physical, as well as a publication or catalogue of the works produced.
She credits both the “very cooperative, flexible and independent artists” and the supportive activist-run camp for making it all work. Volunteers have supported the development of the project by setting up the tent, creating the website, supporting artists on site and in advisory roles. (A Go Fund Me campaign has also been set up.)
The public is welcome and encouraged to visit, though also warned that the situation at Eden Camp is unpredictable and could change any day given the injunction against the forest protecters. But meeting the artists, witnessing their work and the forest itself is a journey Demers hopes many will make.
Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS. Check the Eden Grove Artist in Residence website here. For more about the Fairy Creek blockades, please see Leslie Campbell’s “Forest Defenders Ready for a Showdown” and Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s comment. David Broadland has written about the injunction here.
Videos show verbal and physical attack on Fairy Creek old-growth activists at Walbran Camp.
May 5, 2021
TWO VIDEOS RELEASED by the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) show forestry workers harassing, threatening and physically assaulting activists on Tuesday May 4, 2021 at the Walbran Protection Camp, a watch camp (not a blockade) that is part of the action to protect old-growth forests near Port Renfrew, which includes Fairy Creek.
According to the RFS, the assault occurred around 1 pm after 10 Western Forest Products forestry workers drove into the camp in four trucks with muddied license plates: “The men walked towards the four youth in the camp, racially targeting the Indigenous youth. While all youth were threatened, the physical violence and verbal abuse was explicitly anti-Indigenous.” Viewers can hear “Go back to your fucking teepees” and other angry verbal abuse involving offensive language.
In the video, one of the workers loudly demands they go back to Victoria and collect their welfare cheques, and another threatens, “[Teal Jones] might not do anything but we fucking will. We have kids to feed.”
After numerous threats and insults levelled at the activists, heard clearly in the videos, one video ends with the assault. The RFS states, “Just before leaving, three of the workers attacked G, a young Indigenous man, and tried to force him to the ground, while a fourth man hit him. His phone, which he had been using to film, was punched out of his hand and then stolen. His instrument [a banjo] was broken.” (RFS members are not being identified by name to protect them from court action by Teal Jones.)
The RFS notes that other incidents of threatening behaviour have also occurred since Monday, May 3: “Late Monday afternoon, a group of forestry workers made threats of impending violence to three people while holding tools—axes, tire irons and crow bars—in a menacing way, saying ‘This is your only warning.’”
That same afternoon, on the same road, states the RFS, “several people in their vehicles were blocked in—by vehicles in front and behind them—and prevented from leaving by forestry vehicles for a period of time.” And the following day, “on a separate road, another incident took place. Trees were felled across the road to prevent campers and other people travelling on the roads from moving.”
The RFS says it has at no time been violent or promoted violence. “These attacks have been fuelled by industry and colonialism, encouraged by the BC NDP government’s failure to act by deferring threatened old growth forests from logging.”
Men who identified themselves as Western Forest Products workers hurled abuse at old-growth activists at Walbran Protection Camp and physically attacked a First Nations activist
The WFP workers seemed ignorant or uncaring of the fact they were on unceded Pacheedaht territory. The Pacheedaht, and nearby the Ditidaht, have lived on these territories for thousands of years. Their land was never sold or surrendered.
Elder William Jones, a member of the Pacheedaht First Nation, who worked as a logger in his youth, stated of the assault: “You can’t control a fellow who’s willing to pick up an ax. They are hired because they’re racist, and they’re told they’re right.”
Kati George-Jim, Jones’ niece, said that both the logging on unsurrendered territories, and these assaults, are racialized violence against Indigenous people.
“We are under attack,” she said. “Indigenous peoples are targeted with violence for disrupting industry,” referring to violence towards and arrests of Indigenous people defending their lands against colonial exploitation across the province.
“The loggers broke our laws, and they broke colonial law as well.” She explained, “The fundamental laws of our coastal peoples are based in reciprocity and respect for all relatives, and consensual relationships. We honour all past, present and future generations by protecting the integrity of our shared Mother Earth.”
“Premier Horgan is complicit in this crime because he has been promoting exploitation of Indigenous lands for profit, and doing it at the cost of Indigenous peoples’ lives,” she added.
Another young Indigenous member of the blockades, who is Huu-ay-aht, says, “It is deeply strategic violence to divide and erase First Nations out of existence.” She believes the clear-cut land will be built over with more homes for settlers.
“We are inspired by the courage of Elder Bill and other Indigenous people who stand up to protect the land,” states the RFS. “We see that Indigenous people are often targeted by violence or arrests when the white allies standing alongside them are not.”
Asked for comment, Western Forest Products spokesperson Babita Khunkhun stated: “Safety is Western’s number one priority. We were made aware of allegations of an incident that occurred yesterday involving a contractor working for the TFL 44 Limited Partnership (TFL 44 LP), a limited partnership between Huu-ay-aht First Nations-owned, Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership and Western. We understand that TFL 44 LP has paused operations in the area where the incident occurred while an investigation of the allegations takes place.” TFL 44 LP/Huumis Ventures LP issued a statement on May 5, stating it had notified the RCMP and Worksafe BC of the incident, paused operations, and would be engaging a “respected third party” to “review the incident, meet those involved who are willing to be interviewed, and prepare a report with recommendations as soon as practicable on how to balance continued safe forestry operations with individuals exercising their right to legal protests, all in accordance with Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is Connected).” It also noted that all contractors were given a special briefing on the critical importance of adhering to forestry operations safety and public protest protocols.
Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS.
April 29, 2021
TODAY, LAWYERS ACTING ON BEHALF OF the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockaders filed an appeal of the April 1 judgment made by BC Supreme Court Justice Frits E. Verhoeven. Verhoeven granted injunctive relief to Teal Cedar, ruling that the blockades in TFL 46 were causing irreparable harm to the Surrey logging and milling company.
The appeal, filed in the BC Court of Appeal, asked that Verhoeven’s judgment “be set aside due to:
(a) The Court erred in deciding that the granting of the injunction be allowed on behalf of the Respondent, Teal Jones Products Ltd.;
(b) The Court erred in allowing police authorities and/or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enforce the injunction against the Appellants;
(c) The Court erred in its determination that the Respondent would suffer irreparable harm had the injunction not been granted;
(d) The Court erred in failing to treat an injunction as an extraordinary remedy, especially in the context where arrests could be made but the police and Attorney General choose not to do so;
(e) The Court erred in deciding the balance of convenience on one issue–the presence of a permit(s) to log;
(f) The Court erred in failing to properly balance the public interest;
(g) The Court erred in failing to analyse whether, in an area where there is a road-building permit but no cutting permit—a road building permit meets the irreparable harm branch of the test for an injunction; and,
(h) The Court erred in applying the balance of convenience test determining the forestry decision to approve the Fairy Creek watershed Cutting Permit 7265 was a governmental policy consideration outweighing the public interest in preserving the few remaining old growth forests in British Columbia.”
Despite the blockades, which were established in August 2020, Teal Cedar was able to harvest 437,982 cubic metres of logs from TFL 46 in 2020. That was an increase of 71 percent over 2018 and 55 percent over 2019.
In announcing the appeal, the Rainforest Flying Squad observed that “the public interest in this case far outweighs the profit-making ability of a single entity and government.”
David Broadland previously wrote about Justice Verhoeven’s judgment granting the injunction here and here.
The last of the ancient trees on Southern Vancouver Island are being protected by some very determined and capable people.
April 12, 2021
AT THE FAIRY CREEK BLOCKADE “headquarters” and intake centre on a sunny but chilly Easter Monday morning, breakfast is being served by Rupert Koyote and his mom Alison. Rupert is a farmer in the Cowichan Valley. He and Alison have brought eggs, bacon and hot cross buns and melon slices and are doling out platefuls to the many camp organizers and volunteers.
Everyone is well-masked except when in their small pods. People stand at a distance from each other as they eat. COVID-consciousness is evident everywhere. Intake volunteers ensure COVID protocols are followed.
Farmer Rupert Koyote and his mom Alison (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
This is the entry to River Camp, the largest of the camps referred to generally as the Fairy Creek Blockades. There are five blockades in all near Fairy Creek Valley, north of Port Renfrew and, to the east, the Caycuse watershed. They are protecting a tiny fraction of the “working forest” in TFL 46, a 45,533-hectare tree farm licence held by Teal Cedar on publicly-owned Crown land in unceded Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territory.
The blockades are the hot frontlines on the coast in the growing BC-wide battle to save what little remains of old-growth forests. It’s estimated that 2.7 percent of BC’s original forests that contained very large, old trees remain.
Over the past eight months activists have successfully blocked logging of old growth in the area. But now Teal Cedar Products has been granted an injunction by the BC Supreme Court, meaning that at any moment the company’s logging trucks could show up, along with the RCMP to enforce their access, arresting anyone standing in the way. (See David Broadland’s analysis of the injunction.)
The stories of the activists, both the long-term committed and their many supporters, make evident their determination to succeed in their cause. They understand the issue and what is at stake. Many are fully prepared to weather discomfort and to sacrifice careers and income in order to prevent the destruction of any more old-growth forests in the region. They have broad support in the province and beyond, and their Go-fund-me campaign has raised over $260,000.
They emphasize they aren’t against all logging, just logging of old growth. And they acknowledge being in Pacheedaht territory. Many view Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder, as the spiritual leader of their movement.
This holiday Monday it’s estimated that there are about 150 people camped—just at this one blockade—along the 7-kilometre road to its main gate. Many are here for the weekend; many will return, especially when things heat up. Though it’s exactly what organizers want, it does increase the pressure and work.
Rainforest Flying Squad forest defenders and camp organizers Shambu and Shawna Knight (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
The camp population goes up and down, explains Shambu, one of the original Rainforest Flying Squad members. But now with the injunction, he expects it to grow overall. “The last time this happened, with War in the Woods 1.0 [at Clayoquot], it wasn’t until the injunction was served, that you had a massive ground swelling. You have sleeper cells of dissent. People who are upset, who do not agree with the last two percent of the ancient forest being cut down. And so with that, they were waiting for the injunction to happen.”
Shambu normally runs yoga workshops and retreats in Victoria. After eight months on the blockades, he says he feels upset and strained but, also inspired and vigourous. “It really is a combination of all those things. We are people that are maintaining this in the wild for months and months. So that, in and of itself, is a strain. Imagine trying to arrange a festival while camping!” With no electricity, cell service, or wifi. During a pandemic.
He gives a lot of credit to what he calls “the matriarchs,” a large number of women involved in the non-hierarchical leadership and logistics of the blockade camps. “Since the very beginning this movement has been led by women,” says Shambu.
And many of them have sacrificed for the cause. Shawna Knight, one of the long-term Rainforest Flying Squad organizers, had to let go of her small business, a food truck; she sold it recently to pay the bills. “It’s taken over my life for eight months,” she says, “but some things are worth fighting for.”
Molly Murphy is a member of the MudGirls building collective, but she’s too busy building camp structures to earn money building elsewhere.
Morgaine Longpré, a documentary filmmaker, showed up last fall thinking she might make a film after her shoots in Italy were cancelled due to COVID. Though she still is collaborating on a film with others here, she tells me her background in negotiation, including working with police, was more in need, so she’s been helping train volunteers.
Of course it’s not just women. Jeff Butterworth, a substitute teacher from Courtenay, has made a bed in his vehicle and been staying at the camps more often as time goes on, giving up work offers—or missing them due to the lack of cell and internet. Last week he tells me, he couldn’t even call his wife on their 34th anniversary.
He tells me he’s signed all sorts of petitions over the years and called politicians—to no effect. With all the knowledge science has provided, with all the government reports and promises, the only hope left for the old growth is, he feels, for civilians to put their bodies on the line.
Butterworth and many others have taken training as “police liaison” volunteers. When arrests happen, these observers will monitor and document the arrest. Others will act as support, getting word to families and lawyers about what has taken place. Butterworth was also tasked with figuring out encrypted communications platforms to keep strategizing discussions private. Asked if he’d had any background in that, he laughs, “None!” But he figured it out.
Jeff Butterworth (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
When photographer Dawna Mueller and I eventually leave the intake area and drive towards the upper blockade, we pass dozens of vehicles, parked at COVID-safe distances from each other, with small campsites beside them. People have come from all over the Vancouver Island (with a preponderance from Victoria) and the Gulf Islands. A reporter for the Guardian is here (from Vancouver), as is CTV. The world is beginning to pay attention.
We are not allowed to proceed past the blockade, where a large gate has been built. Preparations are being made that are best kept from media eyes. I content myself with talking to volunteers, including Emily, who has been here since September with her two sons, forest sprites with energy to burn. Asked what they like about camp life, one of the boys says, “Well, we get a sugary treat once a day.” I also chat with Peter, a trained ecologist and business owner in Tofino, and Eddie, a farmer and carpenter who says, “I couldn’t ignore the call…We can’t eat or breathe money.”
Emily and sons (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
The blockade at River Camp (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
On to Eden
We have been escorted around the camps by Duncan Morrison, a young man who grew up in Sooke watching logging trucks cart away huge trees from the area. He needed to stand up, he says. When he’s not helping out here, he works in deliveries, but he’s also completed training to be a wilderness guide and plans to launch a business soon.
Morrison leads us to Eden Grove Camp on the Edinburgh Main logging road, which crosses an impressively deep ravine through which the Gordon River flows. This river is a favourite with fishers.
Duncan Morrison in Eden Grove (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Tourists mostly come here to check out Big Lonely Doug, which is Canada’s second largest Douglas fir, the saving of which is the subject of a whole book. The forest around it was logged in 2012. The forest protectors let visitors through to see it and suggest they travel just a bit further to take in the aptly named Eden Grove; this will help them picture the forest that once surrounded Big Lonely Doug. A beautiful trail has been made by the protectors, winding through the grove’s moss-carpeted floor and magnificent trees, both cedar and fir. The area is home to many species, including elk, deer, bears, wolves, cougars, and some of the finest and last valley-bottom ancient red cedar stands left on Earth. It’s quite a contrast to the 8-year-old clearcut Big Lonely Doug stands in.
Eden Grove forest (Photo by David Broadland)
According to the Ancient Forest Alliance, all of the grove is included within a 2,100-hectare Wildlife Habitat Area—but that “still legally allows clearcut logging in almost 90 percent of the designation itself.” The Alliance found that in 2010 and 2012, some of the very largest trees in Canada—some 13 to 16 feet in diameter—were logged within this Wildlife Habitat Area.
A new logging road through old-growth forest on Edinburgh Mountain has been approved. So far, work on it has been blocked by the defenders.
Jenn Neagle, who is coordinating things at this camp, exhibits calm professionalism. The yoga teacher, wild mind guide and birthing companion has been out here for over a month. Like many of the young activists, she has discovered her strengths in this grassroots organization.
Jenn Neagle (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
As firewood and food are delivered by other volunteers, Neagle checks her satellite texting device. There’s often hours-long delays in information transfer. Communications pose a huge challenge out here. There is no cell service at all. For wifi, the Port Renfrew Library, a good 30-minute drive away, is it. The distances between the five blockades are considerable, often on bumpy gravel roads meant for logging trucks.
Other challenges include keeping warm and dry. The sun today means the longer-term campers are washing clothes and hanging them to dry. At all the camps, volunteers in charge of “infrastructure” are busy building rudimentary outhouses, teepees, and cook shacks.
Cook shack at Eden Grove (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
As in the other camps, COVID is treated as serious business. They certainly don’t want to endanger their main goal of defending the forest. They only remove masks when we ask for a photo without them, at a safe distance. Campers are asked to keep apart in their COVID-safe pods.
Rhea has been coming out since December because of her “care for the land and non-human life. We’re all connected whether we know it or not,” she says. The student in forest ecology at UVic tells me that one of the studies referred to in the BC government’s own old-growth strategic review noted that this area would be worth more left standing. “I believe it,” she says, noting the high number of tourists that come to the area.
Bob Sorour and his friend Michaela, both studying at Salt Spring Island’s Wisdom of the Earth Institute, came out for the Easter weekend after asking for and receiving a large donation of food from Earth Candy Farm. “The owner said take whatever,” says Sorour.
Sorour had been out to River Camp two weeks earlier. He’d rather not get arrested given his school program, but “If they keep arresting people, I would jump in,” he says.
The Artists-in-Residence program is situated at the Eden Grove blockade. Today Kyle Scheurmann is working on a large painting. He tells me he has a gallery exhibit called “Witness” in Toronto right now, and since he cannot be there due to COVID, he’s especially glad he can be here. He spent a year documenting forest destruction around the Nanaimo Lakes area by Mosaic, so he is no stranger to clearcuts.
Martin Melendro, an engineer from Columbia who is a sustainability consultant in Victoria, tells me he’s working on “a project that aims to bring block chain and conservation financing together.” It involves rendering 3D images of trees to create digital art NFTs that can be sold to raise funds. (A separate story on the Artists-in-Resident program, curated by Jessie Demers, is in the works. Meanwhile, see eden_grove_air on Instagram.)
Michael and Matthew Muller and Asia Koughan (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Towards the end of the day, I speak with new arrivals Matthew and Michael Muller and their friend Asia Koughan. All from Qualicum, Matthew works on a tugboat, Michael as a carpenter, and Asia has a cleaning business. The twin brothers are both willing to get arrested, with Asia’s support from the sidelines.
Two young women from Sooke have also arrived. Jordan Olson-Lyons is a preschool teacher in Sooke and Saralyn Deslaurier works as a wilderness guide in the Great Bear Rainforest. Deslaurier says there’s a need for real protection, noting that logging is still allowed in much of the Great Bear Rainforest. “There’s no comparison between an old growth and second growth forest,” she says.
Walbran Protection Camp: Injunction served
The next day, on April 6, travelling along roads to Walbran Protection Camp, we pass active logging of a second-growth forest. About half of Teal Cedar’s logging in TFL 46 is supposed to be conducted in second-growth forests. The old-growth defenders are not impeding such logging. And while the company claimed in its application for an injunction that the blockades had done it “irreparable harm,” forests ministry records show that Teal’s harvest in 2020, the year the blockades started, was its third largest since 2011, even higher than the TFL’s approved allowable annual cut. The company has admitted in the past that its operations wouldn’t be economically viable without cutting old-growth, but since the old growth is quickly disappearing, it seems evident that Teal’s business is not sustainable.
A Teal Cedar contractor working in TFL 46 (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
Soon after passing the logging equipment at work we cross paths with two white trucks. On arrival at Walbran, the small camp is abuzz: it turns out it was Teal Cedar employees in those trucks who came bearing copies of the injunction, meaning that everything defenders do that contravenes its lengthy set of terms (e.g. standing on the road) is now arrestable. They have been served.
Injunction served at Walbran Protection Camp (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
Here I meet Donna, a bird biologist who came from Belgium five years ago for BC’s wilderness only to find us hellbent on destroying it. She’s lived in camp since last October. “It’s important to me; the Earth is in danger, the old growth is an ecosystem we need to preserve,” she says.
In the background to my conversation with Donna, I hear others going over plans if the logging trucks start rolling in: “Don’t be aggressive, even in taking photos of arrests…find something to chain yourself to to block the trucks…logging can start at 5am so be up at 4.”
The nearby creek runs into salmon habitat and Carmanah-Walbran Park. Any logging on the slopes causes silting of the watercourse thereby endangering fish habitat. “Any square inch of old growth ecosystem lost is lost permanently—to the world,” someone points out.
A small business owner, known only as D, says her employees are holding down the fort and will continue to do so as she is willing to face arrest.
Bird biologist and camp organizer from Belgium, Donna (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Before we leave, I ask Donna, the bird biologist, about the birds she’s seen lately. A Pygmy Owl visits every day and now migrating Rufous Hummingbirds are coming through; Pileated Woodpeckers, Varied Thrush and the Pacific Wren are also on her list. She’s been studying the latter’s migration for three years and notices its population is decreasing.
They’ve also had Pine Martens in their cook shack and noticed cougar tracks in the snow. No wolves though. The habitat is so fragmented now.
Caycuse Camp and a really big cedar
Further along backroads, we land at Caycuse Camp. The injunction servers have been here as well. This is a larger, more populated camp than Walbran despite only being established recently after loggers started clearcutting behind it. They’re anxious due to the injunction being served, but also excited to see the bag of greens we’ve delivered—some haven’t had anything fresh in days.
Bobby Arbess, who’s been involved since the early days with the Rainforest Flying Squad, is here. He says, “This isn’t just about Fairy Creek headwaters. It’s about putting the brakes on old growth logging. We’re establishing blockades on all the frontlines...”
While they are mobilizing people, especially Victorians, to participate in what is now a civil disobedience campaign, he emphasizes that “There are many roles that do not require people to risk arrest.”
Camp organizers, Arbess continues, “are really excited about how many people are showing up, and all the skills and the talents and the spirit that people are bringing forward because people for so long have felt an annoying sense of frustration with the way that successive governments have mismanaged the forest.” And now that we are in a climate emergency and facing a biodiversity crisis due to unbridled resource extraction, he continues, “people are at a breaking point and are no longer prepared to accept the normalcy of this situation that has unfolded, which has reduced some of the most beautiful and productive forests on Earth to literally be the very last stands.”
Bobby Arbess (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Arbess believes the onus is on government and industry to justify why even one single ancient tree should be felled at this point: “Because we have come too far, the world’s climate scientists have told us and we have to reduce our collected carbon emissions by 50 percent and protect all the planet’s natural carbon sinks.”
Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee is also here today. He reviews recent history around the BC government’s old growth strategic review. While it was the most comprehensive review that’s been done on old growth in BC, and made excellent recommendations, he says it wasn’t really necessary given what was clearly known already. And during its year-long process, old growth was coming down at a fast pace. It’s only in very limited places—like Fairy Creek and the Walbran—that aging trees pack on as much carbon each year and grow to magnificent sizes, he notes. So when the Horgan government brags about having deferred logging on 353,000 hectares, it’s more like 3,800 hectares: “Just over one percent of what the government deferred was actually what the public identifies as old growth and what is valuable to the people of this province,” says Coste. And because it’s also so prized by logging companies, the few big trees remaining are threatened.
He notes neither Teal Cedar nor the government seem truly concerned about their workers: “If the company is dependent on cutting these last forests,…what’s their plan for their workers? If they can’t switch to second growth now, are they going to be able to when the old growth has gone or do they just pack up and that’s it?” It’s only a matter of a few years till the big, valuable old growth is all gone if logging continues, says Coste. Blaming job losses on blockades is hypocritical when they don’t have any plan for the workers anyway.
Jessica, Caycuse Camp organizer (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Jessica, a dynamic young woman, is one of the main organizers here. She’s come prepared to stay for two months. A wilderness guide and music teacher, she says she was working at Walbran when they heard about logging going on in this area, so they decided to set up a blockade here. “We’ve had interactions with loggers every single day since we came here…Yesterday, we had two individual trucks come at separate times…We’ve been setting up this community and trying to do what we can to hold peace here and be respectful of what’s going on and do everything we can to protect these ancient forests.” This morning, after the injunction was served, she calmed herself by applying her “war paint.”
We’re now in Ditidaht territory. Neither Ditidaht nor Pacheedaht band councils have supported the blockades, but neither have they come out against them [until April 12—see comment section for updates]. If they did, the activists would have respected their wishes, they say. They recognize that because industry and government have, in effect, bribed and muzzled the bands through revenue-sharing agreements—with very strict rules about what can be said without endangering any benefit they receive from the logging in their territories—that they are in a difficult place. It is just more colonialism at play, they say. But conversations are ongoing and individuals like elder Bill Jones have spoken against the continued logging of old growth in the First Nations’ territories.
As we walk down to the main barricade, we pass numerous campers like Diana Mongeau, a retiree from Errington, and her friend Christophe, a gardener from Errington. He says, “I was just blown away to find out there was so little old growth left but that logging companies got permission to log here. My dad was a logger; he would have stopped if there was so little left. I am embarrassed and disgusted.” Christophe is willing to be arrested.
I also meet Laura Mina Mitic, the daughter of long-time FOCUS writer Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, but known more famously as the singer for the critically-acclaimed indie band Carmanah. She’s volunteering as police liaison with the blockade, and says, “It’s empowering being here. But there’s a good chance things won’t go the way they should.”
Further down the road, a large teepee is being constructed, as is a particularly impressive outhouse. Construction of the outhouse relies on activist Will O’Connell’s salvaging of huge chunks of cedar left as logging waste along the roadside.
Pablo, another builder, demonstrates one of the secret strategies they will employ to stall—and add a bit of theatre to—any arrests that are attempted. Enough said.
We’re now a long walk from the camp entrance, but would still like to see the forests—and recent clearcuts—beyond this blockade. Delee McDougall, who arrived from Saskatchewan a month ago, offers her Jeep. After she pulls out her bedroll and all her earthly belongings, there’s room for four of us and her dog Sparrow. O’Connell has drawn us a map of the twisty road with directions to some big trees, for now still standing.
The vast scraped hillsides of forest along the way are depressing. But eventually we park and head up into the woods, and, just as O’Connell had described on his map, we find a majestic old cedar. We each pose willingly for a portrait with it.
Clearcuts in the Caycuse watershed (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
Ancient cedar, Delee McDougall and Sparrow, beyond the Caycuse blockade (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
A few days later there’s news: RCMP helicopters are circling above. A showdown appears even more imminent. During the 1993 Clayoquot War in the Woods, 900 people were arrested. These rare and precious forests on Southern Vancouver Island could well attract even more willing to risk arrest.
For more background on the origins of the Fairy Creek blockades see Bobby Arbess’s story here. Keep up to date on developments by checking here.
Leslie Campbell is the editor of focusonvictoria.ca.
Dawna Mueller is an award winning environmental photographer and speaker, currently documenting the ancient old growth forests on southern Vancouver Island. She combines a documentary style photojournalistic approach with the visual depiction of black and white fine art.
EARLY THIS MORNING, an injunction was served on forest defenders camped at four peaceful blockades near Fairy Creek. The injunction, granted April 1, was read by workers for Teal Jones logging company. This action clears the way for RCMP to begin arresting the forest defenders, as early as this afternoon.
“We haven’t seen RCMP yet,” said Shawna Knight, a member of the group known as the Rainforest Flying Squad. However she said the group will not stand down, and expects more people will join them as they realize how dire the situation is for old-growth forests.
The forest defenders currently have blockades at Caycuse, where it stopped active logging on Easter weekend, and at Fairy Creek, Eden, and Walbran.
Saul Arbess is a long-time wilderness conservation campaigner.
Photo by Dawna Mueller
Fairy Creek old-growth activists are facing arrest but the injunction won't stop them defending some of the last tracts of ancient rainforest on southern Vancouver Island.
April 2, 2021
DESCRIBING THE PROTESTERS AS “MISGUIDED,” BC Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven granted forestry company Teal-Jones an injunction on Thursday prohibiting roadblocks at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew.
But Fairy Creek supporters say the court order only fuels the fight to save the pristine forests and giant trees growing in the headwaters of Fairy Creek, as well as remaining groves near Gordon River, Camper Creek and in the upper Walbran Valley.
Teal-Jones’ activities in TFL 46 are lawful and follow permits issued by the province, but blockades preventing logging activities are aimed at influencing government policy, Verhoeven observed.
“It is clear that the defendants are dissatisfied with the forestry policies of the provincial government relating to logging of old- growth forests,” he said. But the blockades are illegal and violate the rule of law, he added.
There is no disputing climate change is a grave threat to humanity’s future, but making a decision on the matter falls outside his jurisdiction, the judge said.
“The effect of old-growth forests and logging on climate change and biodiversity is not before me, and is not for me to say,” Verhoeven said.
“What is at stake in this court is the maintenance of law and order and respect for the rule of law,” he said.
“The protesters are free to protest, demonstrate and attempt to influence the government in any lawful way they may choose, but no one has the right to disobey a court order, no matter how passionately they may believe in their cause.”
In its application, Teal-Jones asked the court to prohibit the blockades until at least September 4 and grant RCMP the right to remove protesters violating the order.
Court order a ‘flashpoint’ for public support
The court order banning road blockades that prevent Teal-Jones logging activities is likely to build support for the Fairy Creek protest, say supporters. Photo by Will O'Connell
Ultimately, the court’s decision is not a surprise, said Fairy Creek blockade supporter Kathleen Code, one of the defendants named in the injunction.
Each individual protester will decide if they’re willing to risk arrest at the blockades, Code said, but the injunction won’t quash growing public support to save Fairy Creek.
“We know the instant Teal-Jones has access to those trees, they will cut them down,” Code said.
“I think the decision will actually serve as a flashpoint. People are tired of having a government that is willing to sacrifice the last remnants of our old-growth forests.”
Case in point are the hundreds of people who turned up for the latest in a series of protests at the BC legislature in Victoria on Saturday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province, Code said.
Blockade supporter Will O’Connell agreed the injunction wouldn’t deter people from working to save Fairy Creek as an intact watershed.
“The blockade has been going [for] eight months, but the court injunction is just the start of this story,” said O’Connell, who expects it will launch years of activism.
“If anyone thinks this movement will be quelled by force, they have another thing coming.”
O’Connell said he was compelled to support the blockades last summer because he couldn’t stomach watching the continued loss of ancient trees, some thousands of years old, to logging in the region.
There’s a rapid groundswell of support for the blockade and protecting at-risk old-growth that feels different than in the past, O’Connell said.
“This is not a fragile movement that people from a distance might think is just [the] status quo response by the environmental movement,” he said.
“It’s not the passive grumbling about clear-cutting we’ve seen over the last decade where people make phone calls or write letters.”
The final straw for the public has been the government’s inadequate response to meeting the recommendations of the old-growth strategic review, he said.
“The NDP promised to change the way it approached old-growth, and it hasn’t,” O’Connell said, adding protecting big trees and forestry has long been mismanaged in a way that fails both the environment and sustainable industry.
“It just feels like we’ve been documenting the collapse of our last ancient forests, but now there is a change that actually stands in the way of that being destroyed,” O’Connell added.
Fairy Creek blockade supporter Will O’Connell said the movement to protect old-growth forest is getting stronger and more active. Photo courtesy of Will O’Connell
In his decision, Verhoeven agreed the blockades threatened Teal-Jones’ legal right to harvest timber worth approximately $20 million in the region, as well as the operations and employment of 460 people at the company’s mills.
The Pacheedaht First Nation is also aware of the forestry operations in its traditional territory, has agreements in place with various companies, and has not objected to logging activity in planned cut blocks, Verhoeven said.
And while three individual members of the nation testified that they object to logging in Fairy Creek and support the protesters, none claimed to represent the Pacheedaht collectively, Verhoeven said.
One of the members, Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, said his spiritual practices are threatened because logging the Fairy Creek watershed would endanger important bathing pools. But most of the Fairy Creek watershed is already protected, said Verhoeven, and the Teal-Jones cut block in the upper elevation of the region has intermittent watercourses and no bathing pools. And any freedom of religion challenge must be directed at government, not Teal-Jones, he added.
Ball is in premier’s court
Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee said while the injunction decision reflects the law, it doesn’t necessarily mean justice was applied. “Those are not the same things,” Coste said.
“If the legal system was based on justice, there wouldn’t be an injunction and the blockades wouldn’t be there in the first place.”
Following the ruling, the outcomes and the next move are up to the Province, Coste said. “Really, the ball is in Premier [John] Horgan’s court,” he said.
Horgan has the power to save Fairy Creek, which is in his own riding, Coste added. If he fails to do so, government will wear the results. “The consequences are the lack of public faith in this government, and that’s not the responsibility of a logging company to restore,” he said.
“Horgan can step up and defer logging in this TFL and give some of the last, best old-growth forests like Fairy Creek some breathing room while government plans how to ensure these ecosystems survive,” Coste said.
The strategic old-growth review called for a paradigm shift, moving away from a focus on old-growth timber harvesting to the protection of at-risk ecosystems and biodiversity, Coste added.
“The reason that folks are taking it into their own hands is because the government's not providing that.”
Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Canada’s National Observer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
See another story about the injunction by David Broadland here.
A new environmental report card says the BC government is failing to enact recommendations it accepted to protect large old growth trees.
March 12, 2021
A former Vancouver Island forest. Photo by TJ Watt
Premier John Horgan is getting failing grades when it comes to protecting BC’s old-growth forests, according to a report card issued by a coalition of environmental groups on Thursday, March 11, 2020.
The report card evaluates the Province’s progress at the six-month mark after its promise to act on 14 recommendations outlined in a report that followed a strategic review of BC’s old-growth forestry practices.
Most urgently, the Province grades poorly around the call to take immediate action to protect at-risk old-growth and stem the loss of rare ecosystems, said Andrea Inness, a campaigner with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), which issued the report card along with the Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club BC.
“They committed to act immediately to temporarily halt logging in the most endangered old-growth forest ecosystems,” said Inness. “The province still has a very, very long way to go to actually implement that critical recommendation.”
When the government announced it would adopt a new approach to old-growth management in September, it temporarily deferred logging in 353,000 hectares of forest in nine regions until a new plan was developed.
Andrea Inness, of the the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), said the BC government is not acting on its promise to act on recommendations to protect at risk, old-growth forests.
However, various environmental groups and reports have questioned how much of the government’s deferred areas actually included at-risk, high-value, old-growth ecosystems, Inness said. “Those deferrals were highly problematic,” she added, noting the most at-risk areas of old-growth valued in terms of biodiversity were not protected.
“They’ve really exaggerated that a lot to make it sound like they’ve done more than they have,” Inness said. Much of the forested areas covered in the government’s deferral fell within a number of parks, ecological reserves, or included already existing deferrals or poor grade timber and low-value ecosystems not at risk of logging, Inness said.
Only about 415,000 hectares of old-growth forest with big trees remain in BC, mostly without protection, according to an independent report, said Inness said.
“We try to look at this data and have determined that only 3,800 hectares of that 353,000 deferral was actually previously unprotected high-risk old-growth forests,” Inness said.
As such, clear-cutting will continue in critical old-growth stands—such as the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island—destroying their bio-diverse ecosystems forever, she said.
Activists blockading logging activity in the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew for the last seven months got a temporary reprieve after an injunction hearing to oust them was adjourned for three weeks in late February.
“It would send a very strong signal if Premier Horgan announced within this three-week timeframe that [government] is going to set that forest aside,” Inness said. “Because, that would be consistent with what he’s promised to do.”
Environmental groups have issued the BC government failing grades around it’s promises to take a new approach to old growth management.
The report card suggests that the Province is also failing to adequately chart a new forest approach that prioritizes the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity as called for by the review plan.
During the October election, the NDP election platform committed to meeting the old-growth strategic review recommendations and protecting more old-growth forests—in addition to the original deferral—in collaboration with First Nations, labour, industry and environmental groups.
And the Province also committed to protecting up to 1,500 individual, giant and iconic trees as part of its special tree regulations when announcing its forest deferrals.
While the government has initiated conversations with First Nations around old-growth forestry, other steps need to be taken to fulfil the old-growth recommendations, Inness said.
The new BC budget is slated for April and the Province should commit funds to support First Nations experiencing economic losses due to forestry deferrals or when choosing to protect ancient forests, she said.
“Until that economic piece is addressed, it could be very difficult for First Nations to agree to temporarily halt logging or permanently protect old growth in their territories if there aren’t alternatives,” Inness said.
Additionally, the Province has failed to tie its implementation promises to any timeline, nor has it signalled whether it’s on track to come up with a provincial transition plan within the next six months that prioritizes ecosystem health as promised, she said.
Should the government make good on its promises to enact old-growth strategic review recommendations, it involves a complete paradigm shift in the way forests are managed, Inness said.
“It means putting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity ahead of timber supply,” she said.
“But [the Province] isn’t showing that they understand that. In fact, it feels more like they want to maintain the status quo.”
Comment from the office of the B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development was unavailable before deadline.
Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Canada’s National Observer. The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.
Judge rules that protesters must be given more time to defend themselves against Teal-Jones' application for an injunction.
March 7, 2021
FAIRY CREEK BLOCKADE ACTIVISTS trying to protect some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island have won a three-week reprieve after a judge adjourned an injunction hearing on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
BC Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power granted a request by the blockade’s legal team for more time to assemble materials necessary for a defence against the injunction.
Forestry company Teal-Jones had sought the injunction to remove the Fairy Creek blockades at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew until September 4.
However, Power said it was in the interest of justice to allow the delay, so defendants could better prepare and the court could set aside more time to hear the matter.
Additionally, Power was unconvinced a short delay would be problematic given the blockade started in August 2020, but the forestry company did not apply for the injunction until February 18, 2021.
“I am not persuaded that I should find urgency or prejudice to the extent that the plaintiff now alleges,” Power said.
“If, as the plaintiffs argued [that] there will be a prolonged civil disobedience campaign after a court order, it is, in my view, all the more important that any order that the court makes be made [based] on a full hearing.”
The blockade activists want to save pristine old-growth forest at the headwaters of Fairy Creek with yellow cedars thought to be 1,000 years old, as well as other remaining groves near Camper Creek, Gordon River, and in the Upper Walbran Valley.
Old growth forest in Fairy Creek watershed
Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, one of defendants named in the injunction application, says the Fairy Creek valley falls within the nation’s traditional territory and contains bathing pools with spiritual significance that are endangered by clear-cutting.
It was also in the public’s interest to adjourn the hearing, said defence lawyer Patrick Canning.
Demonstrators in solidarity with the Fairy Creek blockade gathered on the Victoria courthouse steps on March 4, and in various other communities on Vancouver Island prior to the court decision.
Lawyers representing Teal-Cedar, a division of Teal-Jones, had argued that Power should grant the injunction immediately because a delay would endanger road building in the region necessary before logging could occur later in the spring and summer. Any further delays due to the blockades would threaten timber harvesting and jobs at its mills, said the company’s lawyer Dean Dalke.
The elected council of the Pacheedaht Nation were also aware of and did not oppose the proposed logging activity in the region, Dalke said.
The request for an adjournment by the defence was to raise issues that wouldn’t, in fact, be a defence to an illegal blockade, he added.
Regardless of whether the defence arguments “would pass muster,” it was important to allot enough time to adequately hear them, Power said.
A two-day injunction hearing is now scheduled to start March 25.
Teal-Jones did not respond to a request for comment following the hearing decision before deadline.
Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Canada’s National Observer. LJI reporters are funded by the Government of Canada.
Conservation North acknowledges news that the BC government will defer logging in some at-risk old growth forests in the Prince George TSA but warns that land use planning allows decision-makers to offload their responsibility for biodiversity.
CONSERVATIONISTS IN NORTHERN BC are expecting the province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to temporarily defer industrial logging in some of the most at-risk old growth in the Prince George Timber Supply Area (TSA).
“These deferrals will be temporary, but they will buy some desperately-needed time for caribou, fisher and northern goshawk, among other struggling wildlife species,” according to Michelle Connolly of Conservation North.
FLNRORD was forced to intervene following an investigation by the Forest Practices Board (“the Board”) in 2020. The investigation was triggered by a complaint from a retired forester who observed extreme levels of logging by forest companies in endangered old growth spruce stands in the Parsnip drainage north of Prince George.
The Board concluded that biodiversity (plants and animals) is at high risk of irreversible loss in the vast majority of landscape units within the Prince George District because of industrial logging. This area includes the globally rare inland temperate and boreal rainforests.
The Board’s two recommendations to the BC government were that they a) promptly map and protect old growth where it is most threatened by logging, and b) update the province’s anachronistic biodiversity requirements to reflect the latest science.
In response, FLNRORD has released a statement that they will temporarily defer logging in some high-risk old growth areas in the Prince George TSA (which they call “spatializing”) in accordance with 2004 biodiversity guidelines. However, FLNRORD will not update the biodiversity guidelines to reflect the latest science, saying they will rely instead on land use planning over the next three years to determine the fate of remaining vulnerable old growth forests in the TSA.
Current requirements around biodiversity for the TSA are contained in the Biodiversity Order (“the Order”), a document that was negotiated with industry 17 years ago. “The Order is widely known to have been written to protect logging company access to the amount of old forest they want, where they want it,” explains Michelle Connolly of Conservation North. “It specifies minimum areas to be retained that are way below what the science says must be protected to avoid ecological collapse.”
The current Order allows licensees to get away with leaving as little as 26% of endangered old growth spruce forests behind after they log, when naturally 70% of these spruce forest landscapes would be old. “That’s why the Board recommended that the Order be updated,” according to outreach coordinator Jenn Matthews.
“We are relieved that something is happening to slow biodiversity loss in our region, but we need to protect all old growth now for long-term ecological resilience, not just set aside a minimum amount,” states field director Sean O’Rourke. “Decisions on biodiversity should be guided by science and traditional knowledge, not industry. We have high expectations of our government.”
The northern conservation group views land use planning as an offloading of responsibility for the public interest by decision-makers that also gives industry lead time to submit cutting permits. “If you want to plan in the future you need to preserve all options now. Companies could log everything that is not temporarily deferred in the 3 three-year time period given, and then we will be planning for ecological collapse instead of community stability,” explains Michelle Connolly.
Conservation North notes that there are other serious problems with biodiversity protection in the PG TSA that were never addressed in the 2020 Board investigation report. One example is that the work of keeping track of what has been logged and how much old growth remains in the TSA is left to a group of logging companies, as opposed to an independent scientific body or BC government staff. Conservation North views this arrangement as a serious conflict of interest that needs to be rectified if there is to be any hope of protecting nature in our region.
More information about this announcement will be posted at www.conservationnorth.org later this week.
December 17, 2020
Biodiversity at risk in Prince George Natural Resource District
AN INVESTIGATION OF A COMPLAINT about the management of biodiversity in the Prince George Timber Supply Area (PG TSA) has found that biodiversity, as it relates to old growth forest, may be at risk in the TSA [download report below].
While forest licensees are complying with legal requirements for biodiversity protection in the PG TSA, the investigation identified several concerns with how government and licensees are managing old forest.
“One of the key issues is that the legal requirements have not been reviewed or updated to reflect the impacts of the mountain pine beetle, updated science or society’s changing values,” said Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board. “The PG TSA is also one of the few areas in the province where the amount of old forest legally required to be conserved is not specifically identified on maps, but is measured as a percentage of the overall forest inventory. This creates risks to other forest values.
“The legal order for biodiversity protection in the PG TSA was developed nearly 20 years ago and much has changed on the land since it was written because of the mountain pine beetle infestation, wildfires and subsequent salvage logging. We are recommending that the remaining old forest be mapped and that government revisit its approach to protection of biodiversity in the PG TSA.”
Another issue is that the legal order uses a much younger age definition for old forest than is applied elsewhere. For example, in some ecosystems the order uses greater than 140 years to define old forest, where the rest of the province uses greater than 250 years for the same ecosystems. ”
The board is calling for the Province to update its objectives for old forest in the PG TSA,” Kriese said. “Updates to the order and identifying important old forest should be undertaken in partnership with Indigenous peoples.”
The PG TSA, located in north-central British Columbia, is approximately eight million hectares, or more than twice the size of Vancouver Island, and is the largest TSA in the province. Given the size of the area and the complexity of biodiversity, the complaint investigation focused on the old forest aspects of biodiversity management.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates public complaints about forest and range practices on public lands and appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.
Darlene Oman is the director of corporate performance and communications at the BC Forest Practices Board.
Management of Biodiversity in the Prince George Timber Supply Area: Investigation Report into zManagement of Biodiversity in the Prince George Timber Supply Area.pdf
Climate and forest activists pull a red light on endangered ancient forest log trafficking on Trans Canada Highway.
Forest and climate activists stopped logging trucks carrying old-growth forest on the Trans Canada north of Duncan
ON DECEMBER 2, grassroots climate and forest activists with the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) occupied a single lane at a red light crosswalk on the Trans Canada Highway at Mays Road north of Duncan. A truck carrying old-growth trees was held up in the highway blockade for an hour in an effort to disrupt the movement of ancient forest cargo from recent clearcut logging along the borders of Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park. In a simultaneous action, four large trucks that roared past the blockade in the passing lane were blocked near the entrance to the Western Forest Products’ log sort in Ladysmith and held for several hours. No arrests were made, though police did detain activists at the May Road site for identification purposes.
“Dozens of log trucks per day many carrying 500-800 year old Western red cedars, have been seen travelling up the island highway recently and people are aghast that this antiquated practise of destroying ancient forests is still legal in 2020,” said RFS organizer Bobby Arbess.
“We are in the full throes of a climate and ecological crisis. Logging old-growth forests has lost the social license it once had, and the government must catch up with the times and ban it. Full stop! We’re pulling a red light on old-growth logging today and asking Premier Horgan to do the same,” he added.
A clear message for BC Premier John Horgan
The activists, assembled in small pairs compliant with the current COVID public health orders, used the highway crosswalk to force a red light to bring logging trucks carrying rare Western Red cedar and other old-growth trees, many to be exported offshore, to a full stop. Banners were stretched across the road bed and stapled to logs, with the message that the government must stall no longer to stop the rapid rate of ancient forest destruction happening daily on Vancouver Island. The equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forest are logged every day on Vancouver island alone.
At the Western Forest Products (WFP) log sort, trucks were diverted into a nearby parking lot and stopped on the road for several hours before police threatened arrests.
WFP is the largest single forest tenure-holder on Vancouver island, with cutting rights to over 1 million hectares of forest land, with one billion dollars in forest product sales each year. In 2019 they locked union workers out for 9 months of stalled contract negotiations.
This action fully supported the recent demands of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) for the provincial government to “put down the power saws” while they engage in “intense consultations” with First Nations on the fate of the last remaining one percent of low-elevation old-growth forests on their unceded territories—recognizing that otherwise little will be left by the end of the consultation process. The government made a pre-election announcement of two-year logging deferrals in 353,000 hectares of old-growth forest pending the outcome of their old forest policy, but analysis has shown that only 1100 hectares—or one percent of that—was slated for logging in that time.
A recent independent study revealed that a total area of approximately 380,000 hectares of the most biologically productive, low-elevation large tree old-growth forests remain standing in so-called British Columbia today. These forests are being logged at a rate of 140,000 hectares per year—three years to liquidation.
These rare and irreplaceable forests, the very last of their kind anywhere on Earth, play a critical role in mitigating against runaway climate change, the cause of catastrophic wildfires, floods, drought and disease outbreaks. They are a critical repository for biodiversity, such as the red-listed Marbled Murrelet found nowhere else than in coastal old-growth forests. They are an important source of ethnobotanical wealth and building materials, especially Western Red Cedar, integral to coastal Indigenous culture. They are worth more left standing than as short-term corporate profit.
The demands of activists are:
1. The provincial government move immediately on their 2020 election promises to implement the 14 recommendations of the Old-Growth Strategic Review
2. The government declare an immediate moratorium on all further logging of the last one percent of the ancient forest pending the delivery of its old-growth forest policy.
3. The government immediately shift all forestry operations to sustainable management of the silvicultural land-base as a source of long-term employment in local and First Nations communities.
Rhia Ironside and Carole Tootill are climate and forest activists.
November 16, 2020
A brief history of the Fairy Creek Blockade
JOSHUA WRIGHT is a 17-year-old filmmaker from Olympia, Washington with an irrepressible passion for protecting the little that is left of the old-growth temperate rainforests. He has handy access to a state-of-the-art digital mapping program that allows him to track and monitor industrial logging activities in near-real time. In late July this year, he gave a heads-up to Vancouver Island veteran grassroots forest activist grandmother Eartha Muirhead of a road-building crew subcontracted to Surrey-based logging company and TFL 46 tenure-holder, Teal Jones, cresting the ridge into the old-growth Yellow Cedar headwaters of Ada’itsx/ Fairy Creek watershed. This is the last unlogged tributary of the San Juan River system; it is unceded Pacheedaht territory and near Port Renfrew.
Forest firefighter Will O’Connell surveyed the road-building operation with spell-binding drone footage that captured earth-moving machinery operating on dangerously steep terrain pushing into a watershed never before logged. Though no cutblocks are yet approved, the investment in road infrastructure foreshadows approval and logging of this rare wilderness valley.
A Teal Jones excavator about to crest the ridge above pristine Fairy Creek Valley (Drone photo by Will O’Connell)
O’Connell’s stark visual reveal of a logging road incursion into one of the last roadless places on southern Vancouver Island rapidly spread on social media and, in the midst of a pandemic, galvanized forest defenders into non-violent direct action.
On Sunday, August 9, thirty ancient-forest activists from all over the south island, including the nearby communities of Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley, gathered at Lizard Lake and decided to set up a road blockade above the clouds—1000 metres up a treacherous logging road on a steep ridge overlooking the Gordon River Valley, on the western flank of Fairy Creek, where road-building into the Fairy was slated the next work day. Tents were set up under the giant steel claw of a gargantuan excavator. A 10-foot-diameter cedar log round, from an ancient tree felled in the Klanawa Valley, propped vertically on a plywood frame, was installed as a barricade centrepiece across the road.
When the Stone Pacific road crew arrived in darkness at 5AM the next morning, they were politely confronted by a dozen people putting on the morning coffee around a small fire on the road end. They intended to hold the line at the very height of land and protect Fairy Creek from any further road incursion.
The blockade on Teal Jones’ new road
One week later, another blockade was set up to protect the watershed on its eastern flank and to stop clearcut logging in an area of contiguous ancient forest that is part of the 5100-acre Fairy Creek Rainforest, much of which is already under Old-Growth Management and Wildlife Habitat Area designation. People of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and island communities have been converging at the main basecamp ever since.
Pop-up blockades disrupting business as usual in surrounding remnant old-growth forest locales on Pacheedaht territory have also sent a message to government and industry that in a down-spiralling climate and biodiversity crisis, disruption to the status quo is to be expected until the government takes decisive action to protect what is left of these globally significant and irreplaceable forests. The objectives of all these blockade actions is to protect the last 1-3 percent of low-elevation old-growth rainforests left standing on so-called Vancouver Island.
Old-growth Red Cedar in Fairy Creek Valley
The Ada’itsx/Fairy Creek blockades are now entering their fourth month with no road-building or logging behind the two long-term barricades—and no injunctions or arrests. This blockade, now the longest land-based direct action campaign on this island in over two decades, has evolved quickly into a decentralized grassroots direct action movement under the banner of #oldgrowthblockade, aimed to stem the tide of the colossal destruction of the shocking equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forests per day on Vancouver Island alone.
Winterized infrastructure has been built at the main Fairy Creek Base Camp, 7 kilometres off the the Pacific Marine Road, including wood-heated Elder and Indigenous Warriors’ tents, bear-proof kitchen arbour, tool shed and hot water shower and change room.
Those blockading the road have prepared for a long battle to protect the Fairy Creek Rainforest from logging
Dozens of volunteers communicating via several online platforms have provided coordination and mobilized funds and material support to the frontlines, which have been steadily maintained by a gritty, dedicated crew of core forest defenders of all ages, predominantly women from many communities, who provide daily logistical coordination, elder care, camp leadership, hosting and reconnaissance on the ground. Over 500 people have visited the blockades and donated to the movement.
This settler-Indigenous blockade has been blessed with the solid support and wise leadership of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones who has asked that the entire valley, five kilometres from the Pacheedaht village and part of his childhood stomping ground and spiritual sanctuary of his people, be dedicated as an Indigenous Protected Area in honour of the victims of the smallpox epidemic. Indigenous youth from many territories have participated in camp life and prominent elders and artists like Joe Martin, Herb Rice, and Rose Henry have visited the camp to show support and provide counsel. Pacheedaht Chief and council have not responded for or against the blockade.
Pacheedat Elder Bill Jones on the road overlooking the San Juan River Valley
The area is in the electoral riding of Premier John Horgan who has yet to respond to the demands of the blockade to protect Fairy Creek rainforest and all remaining old-growth temperate rainforests on the island.
On September 29, the blockade received a strong statement of support from the Union of British Columbia Chiefs (UBCIC), who issued a breakthrough declaration calling on the Province to implement all 14 recommendations of their Old-Growth Strategy Review report and for the immediate protection of key old-growth forest hotpspots including Fairy Creek. Most significantly, their declaration called for government to assume responsibility in re-investment in supporting First Nations to break free from the economic dependency on the old-growth forest destruction of their land-base, a major policy piece in the transition away from the destructive legacy of old-growth logging, once and for all.
Bobby Arbess is a long-time forest defender.
Support the Fairy Creek Blockade at: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade
October 18, 2020
BC government gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets.
Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
SEAN O’ROURKE WAS HIKING in BC’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it—Pacific BioEnergy.
The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products—sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings—into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 percent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.
But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood.
Sean O’Rourke amongst old-growth Red Cedar in the Inland Rainforest north of Prince George (Photo by Conservation North)
O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern BC, took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the Province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest.
While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim.
“If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview.
“Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest into pellets to ship them overseas to burn, to feed into an electricity plant so that people can watch Netflix or play video games really late at night—we can’t allow that to happen,” she added.
The planned cutblock is set to be logged this winter for pellets, but Conservation North is asking the BC government to provide legal protection to all primary forests—those that have never been logged—in the northern region.
Rare ecosystem home to massive trees, endangered caribou, vast carbon stores
After O’Rourke showed his colleagues his photos, they went to the rainforest together to explore the areas slated for logging. The group walked for almost two hours to get to the flagged boundary. The forest is surrounded by clearcuts and second-growth stands of lodgepole pine. Connolly described it as an oasis.
“There are low carpets of moss and beautiful fallen old trees,” Connolly said. “The stands that we’ve seen have really large western red cedars and western hemlock, and we occasionally came across massive Douglas firs that are really large for this area…it would take at least three people to wrap your arms around them.”
More than 500 kilometres from the coast, the inland rainforest is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Temperate rainforests far from the sea are only found in two other places on the planet: in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.
The rainforest supports a variety of animals including moose and endangered caribou. The stands of old-growth trees have been absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the soil also stores huge amounts of carbon.
The rich biodiversity of these old-growth forest ecosystems is threatened by logging, according to a report published in June.
As The Narwhal reported last year, much of what remains of the inland temperate rainforest is at risk of clearcutting. Connolly said there is “little to no social licence” to harvest these old-growth trees.
“We talked to a lot of people who hunt, who trap, who fish, who guide, and among those people, we’ve sensed a lot of dismay about what’s happening,” she said. “We’re kind of at the limits of tolerance up here.”
BC government ramps up support for pellet industry while plants run out of raw materials
The Province’s promotion of the pellet industry focuses on using wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned in the forest to reduce the risk of wildfires, but rarely mentions the use of whole trees.
“The pellet pushers [including the present NDP government] originally said they would use only logging and milling debris as the source of wood fibre for pellets,” Jim Pojar, a forest ecologist wrote in an email.
However, a recent investigation by Stand.earth found that pellets made of whole trees from primary forests in BC are being sent to Europe and Asia.
“No mature green trees should be cut down and whole logs ground up to produce wood pellets for export, especially if the trees are clear cut from globally rare and endangered temperate rainforest,” Pojar said.
Connolly said a lack of legal protection allows the provincial government to greenlight logging whole trees for pellets—and the government’s language around the industry hides the fact that old-growth is being cut down.
“My understanding is that this is allowed because these forests don’t have any other use,” she said, meaning that they aren’t suitable for making lumber.
“The BC government has some really interesting language around justifying pellet harvesting,” she said. “What they say is that they’re using inferior quality wood.
This isn’t the first time a pellet facility has logged trees to meet its production needs. As The Narwhal reported earlier this year, both Pacific BioEnergy and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, another large-scale pellet company, use whole trees to produce pellets.
Over the past few years, BC has been ramping up its support for the wood pellet industry, but as sawmills shut down across the province, pellet facilities are running out of raw material.
Recently, the Province handed out a number of grants to support projects that take trees that would otherwise be burned on the forest floor in massive slash piles and convert them to pellets. Pacific BioEnergy has received more than $3.2 million from the Province through the Forest Enhancement Society for projects related to its operations.
Connolly said the Province’s push to support the pellet industry is problematic. “We’re kind of rearranging the deck chairs, you know? They’re making little modifications of things they already do, instead of actually looking at the value of keeping the carbon in forests.”
The Ministry of Forests could not comment on this story because government communications are limited to health and public safety information during election periods.
Pacific BioEnergy was also not available to respond by publication time.
Ecologists say burning pellets is not carbon neutral
Wood pellets, sometimes referred to as biomass or bioenergy, are often touted as carbon neutral and sustainable, but critics claim that’s a dangerous misconception.
Burning wood to generate energy is less efficient than burning fossil fuels, which means more wood is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity, according to Pojar. More carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere from pellet-fuelled power plants than traditional coal or natural gas plants, he pointed out.
The pellet industry and its supporters argue that replanting trees will eventually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which means burning pellets for heat or energy is carbon neutral. But even if that is true, it could take hundreds of years for those replanted trees to grow big enough to offset the emissions produced by harvesting, transporting, processing and burning the wood.
In a 2019 report entitled Forestry and Carbon in BC, Pojar outlined myths and misconceptions about emissions and the forestry industry. “The CO2 from the combustion of biofuel is released almost instantly, whereas the growth and regrowth of wood takes several decades at least (mostly more than 75 years in BC)”
Connolly, who was an editor of the report, said the green narrative around the pellet industry and industrial logging is misleading.
“It’s so ridiculous to claim that somehow logging is good for the climate,” she said. “What we’ve seen happen is that the BC government and industry have co-opted climate change to argue for more industrial logging. In this case, it’s for pellets, but they’ve been doing the same thing for harvested wood products for the last few years.”
As climate change, industrial logging and other resource extraction projects continue to impact forest ecosystems, maintaining intact primary and old-growth forests is essential, she said.
“BC claims to be exploring all emissions reductions opportunities, but they are not,” she said. “They’re ignoring basically the biggest, best and cheapest opportunity, which is protecting nature. If we’re going to meet our climate commitments, keeping primary forests intact is an important step and what all of us should be asking is, ‘Why are they totally ignoring this?’ ”
Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, BC, unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet'suwet’en Nation. He is the author of The Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert. This story was originally published in The Narwhal under the Local Journalism Initiative.
Conservation North’s short video interview of trapper Don Wilkins on liquidating BC rainforests for electricity in other countries:
September 14, 2020
Forests minister Doug Donaldson's announced 2-year logging deferrals of old-growth forest are almost entirely in areas that have little or no productive old growth on them—or were already protected.
BACK IN JUNE OF THIS YEAR, three BC forest scientists released an independent report quantifying the remaining scattered areas of forest containing “large” and “very large” old trees in this province. These are the “old-growth” forests that contain the highest levels of productivity and biodiversity—the forests that many thousands of British Columbians have fought hard to save from logging for decades. Karen Price, Rachael Holt and Dave Daust used forests ministry data to determine that only 35,000 hectares of “very large” old trees remained in BC, and only 380,000 hectares of “large” old trees. Those two areas amount to 415,000 hectares.
Their report, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, was issued in the hope that their findings would help inform, or influence, a strategic review of old-growth forests that was being conducted by Al Gorley and Gary Merkel. Gorley and Merkel were appointed by the BC government.
On September 11, forests minister Doug Donaldson released the Gorley-Merkel report and, at the same time, announced 2-year logging deferrals on 352,739 hectares spread over 9 areas in the province. The minister’s press release referred to these areas as “old-growth.” The 9 areas were indicated as points on a map of BC, along with a brief description of the values that are at stake in each area. No other details about the areas were released. Crucially, no mapping of the areas was provided.
Minister Donaldson’s map of where 2-year logging deferrals would be applied
The “352,739 hectares” of old growth on which Donaldson was deferring “old forest logging” for two years would amount to 85 percent of the spatial extent of remaining old forests containing large and very large trees identified by Price, Holt and Dauss. That sounds like it could be an impressive movement in the direction of conservation of forests with large and very large old trees. Of course, as everybody knows, the devil is in the details, and Donaldson didn’t provide any details.
Instead, his announcement was made simultaneously with the release of the Gorley-Merkel report, as if Donaldson’s announcement somehow reflected their findings. I expected to be writing about the Gorley-Merkel report, but instead, after obtaining some of the details about the 9 areas, details that Donaldson left out, it seemed pointless to review the report. In light of the details I found, the Gorley-Merkel report appears to have been used by Donaldson as little more than sugar coating around a bitter pill. The bitter pill is that, at best, Donaldson is deferring logging for 2 years on 64,191 hectares, almost all of it in Clayoquot Sound. At best, Minister Donaldson’s deferrals amount to 15 percent of the area identified by Price et al.
Here are the details:
1. Crystalline Creek, where Donaldson claims logging on 9595 hectares is being deferred. You’ve probably never heard of Crystalline Creek before. There’s been no logging road blockades, no media stories. That’s because there is little chance that it would ever be logged, let alone in the next two years. Except for one-tenth of one hectare (no, that’s not a typo), it lies entirely outside of BC’s Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) and a 2-year “deferral of logging” there is meaningless. The precisely estimated area—9595 hectares—is the total area of the small valley, which includes high, rocky ridges that are part of the Bugaboo Mountains. That precise number came from Canfor’s documentation of high value conservation areas within TFL 14, a requirement to obtain Forest Stewardship Council certification. Let’s subtract 9594.9 hectares from Donaldson’s total area where logging is to be deferred for 2 years.
For any readers unfamiliar with the term “Timber Harvesting Land Base,” this is, according to the Province, “Crown forest land within the timber supply area where timber harvesting is considered both acceptable and economically feasible, given objectives for all relevant forest values, existing timber quality, market values, and applicable technology.” It is reasonable to assume that if an area of forest is not currently inside the THLB, applying a 2-year deferral of logging to it is meaningless.
2. Stockdale Creek, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 11,515 hectares. Same particulars as Crystalline Creek, except in this case there is a 233.6-hectare overlap with the THLB. It is possible that logging of those 233.6 hectares could occur one day, but Canfor had no plan to do so within the next two years. But just to be safe, let’s subtract only 11,281 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
3. Incomappleux Valley, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 40,194 hectares. The Incomappleux Valley is part of Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal. Most of the magnificent Inland Rainforest along the Incomappleux River has been logged, but 1500 hectares of 1000- to 2000-year-old red cedar near the confluence of Boyd Creek and the Incomappleux River remain. Most of the remaining high-productivity old growth is within Interfor’s TFL 23. It was saved from being logged in 2005 by a 2-person blockade of a logging road. Days after the blockade was ended by a court injunction, a rockslide blocked the road and damaged a bridge, bringing a natural halt to logging. The Valhalla Wilderness Society confirmed there could be another 500 hectares of old-growth forest in the valley that is within the THLB and could be economical to log. Valhalla Wilderness Society estimates that within its 156,461-hectare park proposal (see link to PDF at end of story), which includes the Duncan River Valley to the east, there are 17,827 hectares that overlap the THLB. It is unknown what the “40,194 hectares” on which logging has been deferred for two years refers to, but that is over twice the area of the THLB within the entire park proposal, and much of that has already been logged. Subtract 38,195 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
4. Clayoquot Sound, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 260,578 hectares. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound have been fighting for years to protect all the remaining areas of old growth in the Sound and, by their reckoning, those areas—Meares Island, Flores Island, the Sydney Valley, Ursus River Valley, Clayoquot River Valley and Hesquiat Point Creek—have 54,120 hectares of old-growth forest remaining. It’s nice that Donaldson wants to protect 260,578 hectares of old growth in the Sound, but it’s too late. Over 206,000 hectares of his deferred logging is on land that has already been logged. (Edit: see my comment below this story about a more accurate number for Clayoquot Sound provided by David Leversee.)
5. Skagit-Silverdaisy, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 5,745 hectares. Canadian Press’ Laura Kane reported in December 2019 that Donaldson had banned logging in the “doughnut hole” of the Skagit Valley in response to an appeal by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and US environmental groups. Kane quoted BC Environment Minister George Heyman: “Heyman said when the [High Ross Dam Treaty] was signed decades ago, the BC and Washington governments signalled clear intent that, once the issue of mineral tenures was resolved, the doughnut hole would be returned to park status. ‘Somewhere along the line…there was a lapse in corporate memory,’ [Heyman] said. ‘We’re restoring that today.’” Somewhere along the line, between December 2019 and September 2020, it seems, there was a second lapse in corporate memory about this forest. Subtract 5,745 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
6. The Upper Southgate River, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 17,321 hectares. The area is within what Donaldson’s ministry describes as the Southgate Landscape Unit. A 2014 plan for Old Growth Management Areas in the unit notes the total area of the unit is 122,155 hectares, of which 5,380 are within the THLB, the area available for logging. In the entire Landscape Unit the plan identified 121 Old Growth Management Areas, and these covered an area of 3212 hectares. How much of that was in the THLB? Forty-six hectares. So while Donaldson promised to defer logging for 2 years on 17,321 hectares of old growth, there’s only 46 hectares that could be logged. Subtract 17,275 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
7. McKelvie Creek, where Donaldson claims 2,231 hectares. McKelvie Creek flows into the Tahsis River in the middle of the Village of Tahsis on Vancouver Island. Tahsis has been seeking to stop logging in McKelvie Creek Valley because the village believes logging there could result in flooding in the village. A hydrological study by the engineering consultancy McElhanney has established the size of the watershed, which corresponds to the area on which Donaldson says he will defer logging for 2 years.
8. H’Kusam, where Donaldson claims 1050 hectares. No information on this area, other than it is likely within sight of Mount H’Kusam, has been found. For now we’ll leave Donaldson’s 1050 hectares in the total.
9. Seven Sisters, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 4510 hectares. When the 39,206-hectare Seven Sisters Provincial Park and Protected Area were created, a 6,287-hectare bite out of the west side of the park was named the Coyote-Hells Bells General Resource Development Zone, where logging has been ongoing. I have no information on the extent of old growth in this area, so to be sure we will leave Minister Donaldson his full 4510 hectares.
As mentioned above, what’s left is 64,191 hectares of old-growth forest, at best.
There’s been lots of response to Donaldson’s announcement of logging deferrals, much of it simply reporting what he claimed in his press release. Vicky Husband, the den mother of old-growth forest activism in BC and an Order of Canada recipient in recognition of her 40-year-long effort to conserve such forests, didn’t mince her words when I pointed out some of the details Minister Donaldson left out. Husband responded, “The government’s response to the Gorley-Merkel old growth report is a shoddy piece of spin-doctoring in advance of an election. It is duplicitous in intent; short on facts; and intentionally misleading for the electorate giving the appearance of doing something when the reality is to keep the industry logging the little remaining productive old growth.”
I’ll leave it at that.
David Broadland lives amongst rare old-growth Douglas fir in the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic Zone on Quadra Island. He notes that Donaldson’s ministry’s maps of BC’s biogeoclimatic zones, published in the Gorley-Merkel report, don’t show any such forest type on the south end of Quadra Island, Read Island or Cortes Island.
The Gorley-Merkel old growth report: A New Future for Old Forests A new future for old forests.pdf8.04 MB · 106 downloads
Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposalVWS Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal.Incomappleux.pdf5.79 MB · 67 downloads
August 26, 2020
Two weeks into a campaign to halt logging of ancient rainforests in the last intact watershed of the San Juan River system, activists have set up a third blockade on unceded Pacheedaht Territory.
by Saul Arbess and Joshua Wright
IN THE MIDST OF AN ONGOING CLIMATE EMERGENCY, logging of the ancient rainforests continues at an unfettered rate. The amount of old-growth forest logged each day on Vancouver Island is equivalent to 32 soccer pitches according to the Wilderness Committee. These forests are not only vital for carbon sequestration, but also fundamental for the integrity of complex, interconnected ecosystems that support keystone and culturally significant species, such as salmon. Alarmingly, less than one percent of largest stature forest was found to be remaining on the Island according to the scientific report BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity recently authored by Dr Rachel Holt, Dr Karen Price and David Daust. And most of that is going at an accelerating rate on Vancouver Island, with an estimate of three years remaining before it is all gone, except the meagre areas that have been protected.
Grassroots forest defenders from across Vancouver Island have prevented Teal Jones Group from blasting logging roads into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed for the past two weeks. The road would have penetrated the last remaining intact, unlogged tributary in the entire San Juan River system. The tributary is near Port Renfrew on unceded Pacheedaht territory.
Last Sunday, August 23, saw a second blockade established east of the Fairy Creek watershed. A third blockade was set up August 24 on a logging road on Edinburgh Mountain (also unceded Pacheedaht Territory).
With the exception of Eden Grove on Edinburgh Mountain, contiguous old-growth corridors have been severed between the rich valley bottom and the protected upper reaches. The infamous Big Lonely Doug stands in stark contrast to the clear cut it stands in on Edinburgh, the sole remaining giant fir in the cut. Big Lonely Doug has become an internationally recognized symbol for BC’s devastating logging practices. Just up the mountain, logging is ongoing. This is what the newest blockade will stop.
Zoe Cilliers, a forest defender at the blockade, says, “If we pick and choose where our actions line up with our words, our words don’t mean anything. I’m an ecologist; I work with kids, I teach them about old growth, I teach them the value of these ecosystems. Being here means keeping a promise. If I don’t stand for this, how can I stand behind what I say to these kids?”
K.L, also at the blockade, states, “Anyone who wonders why people are blockading, they should go and spend some time in an old growth forest, and they will understand. It’s the mosses, the spongy floor, the smell, it’s the stillness, the spaciousness.”
Old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek Valley
In April 2020, the BC government finalized its commissioned review on the current state of Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests. The report has not yet been released to the public by the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development who may sit on the report until October for reasons not understood, given the crisis in our forests. Meanwhile, old-growth logging persists; roads are blasted into pristine mountains; massive, ancient trees are falling. Time is of the essence. As protester J.C. says, “Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. It’s short-sighted to be logging like this.”
Gary Merkel, one of two Old Growth Strategic Review commissioners, said in an interview with the Narwhal, last January: “We’re managing ecosystems—that are in some cases thousands of years old—on a four-year political cycle. The management systems change from government to government.”
The demands for the Province from the forest defenders at the frontline of the Fairy Creek blockades are the following:
(1) Immediately release the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, which have not been made public since the panel submitted its report in April 2020.
(2) The immediate and permanent end of all old-growth logging in BC.
(3) Work with sovereign First Nations to implement a comprehensive plan for a sustainable and restorative second-growth forestry model.
Saul Arbess has been a forest activist since the late 1980s on southern Vancouver island and a retired professor of anthropology. Josh Wright is a forest activist maintaining a watching brief on old growth destruction across the Pacific Northwest.
Support the blockade: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade
On Sunday August 9, a group of concerned citizens set up a protest camp to block logging road construction into the headwaters of Fairy Creek, the only completely unlogged tributary of the San Juan River. On Tuesday, workers removed their machinery from the site, but at the time of this release, no contact has been made with Teal Jones, the logging company holding Tree Farm Licence 46, that includes Fairy Creek.
This action is prompted by anger and frustration that logging of old growth continues unabated in spite of the fact that only 2.7% of the forests capable of growing our iconic giant trees remain standing:(https://veridianecological.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/bcs-old-growth-forest-report-web.pdf).
The camp is centred around a 1000+ years-old red cedar that was cut in the Klanawa Valley in 2018. Yellow cedar trees in the Fairy Creek Watershed are some of the oldest trees in B.C. (yellow cedars can live up to 2000 years). Logging in the headwaters will exacerbate flooding in the San Juan River Basin.
This blockade is a demand for the protection of the entire Fairy Creek watershed and to pressure the NDP government to release and act upon their Old Growth Report, which they have been holding since May. From this latest flashpoint, we call for an end to the logging of these remnant ancient forests on Vancouver Island and the province as a whole and immediate transition to ecosystem-based logging of the second growth.
Dr. Saul Arbess
Rare old-growth trees in Fairy Creek headwaters near Port Renfrew, where protesters have been blockading Teal-Jones’ road building efforts since Monday, at risk of logging unless BC government intervenes.
VICTORIA, BC – Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) have identified spectacular, near record-sized ancient yellow cedars at risk of logging by Teal-Jones Group in the headwaters of Fairy Creek, the last unlogged old-growth valley on southern Vancouver Island (outside of parks), located northeast of Port Renfrew in Pacheedaht territory.
AFA campaigners explored the unprotected headwaters - the site of an ongoing logging blockade - over the weekend and documented the massive trees, which appear to be within a proposed cutblock. One of them measured 9.5 feet in diameter, making it wider than the ninth-widest yellow cedar in Canada, according to the BC Big Tree Registry. The group also located a number of exceptionally large western hemlocks as well.
“These are some of the biggest, most remarkable yellow cedars we’ve ever seen,” stated AFA campaigner and photographer TJ Watt. “Yellow cedars are among the longest-lived life forms in Canada, with the oldest one, located on the Sunshine Coast and cut down in 1993, recorded as being 1,835 years old. At 9.5 feet wide, the largest one we measured in the Fairy Creek headwaters could very well be approaching 2,000 years in age.”
Teal-Jones Group recently began building roads along the ridgeline above Fairy Creek, about four kilometres up from the popular Fairy Lake. The company also has approved permits to build roads extending down into the headwaters and on the ridgeline on the opposite side of the upper valley. While there are currently no pending or approved cutblock applications at this time, falling boundary tape found within the valley headwaters indicates that it could be part of their future plans.
“Blasting these roads in opens the door to future fragmentation of Fairy Creek,” stated TJ Watt. “While thankfully much of the mid-valley is protected in an Old Growth Management Area and Wildlife Habitat Area for threatened marbled murrelets, it’s critical this remarkably rare, unlogged valley remains fully intact and functioning. Most of BC’s old-growth forests exist in small tattered fragments, putting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity at great risk. We can’t allow this to happen here.”
In response to Teal-Jones’ incursion into the Fairy Creek headwaters, a group of protestors set up a blockade on Monday to stop road building crews and demand that the BC government intervene to protect the entire valley. The protesters, who are not affiliated with any organization, are also calling on the province to immediately release the results of its Old Growth Strategic Review. As a result, the contractor has removed their road building machines from the site.
“This blockade, the recent two-week hunger strike by James Darling and Robert Fuller in Nanaimo, and yesterday’s protest outside Claire Travena’s MLA office in Campbell River illustrate how outraged and frustrated people are,” stated AFA campaigner Andrea Inness.
“There’s now a growing movement to pressure the NDP government to enact immediate moratoria in the high productivity, most endangered, and the most intact old-growth tracts like Fairy Creek - termed old-growth "hotspots" - while it works to develop its proposed Old Growth Strategy.”
In May, an independent panel tasked with conducting a province-wide Old Growth Strategic Review submitted their recommendations to the province on how best to manage old-growth. As the BC government stalls on releasing those recommendations and announcing its policy intentions, old-growth is becoming increasingly endangered throughout BC.
“A recent independent analysis found that only 2.7% of BC’s high productivity, big tree old-growth forests are standing today and over 75% of what remains is slated for logging in coming years,” stated Inness. “Despite these alarming statistics, the BC government has failed to embrace the study’s findings, has failed to act, and continues to allow logging in these irreplaceable ecosystems.”
“The province needs to recognize the importance of BC’s old-growth forests for ecosystem and climate resilience, as well as human health and wellbeing,” stated Inness. “We need to hear strong commitments from the BC NDP and details of its plan to protect old-growth forests, based on recommendations from the independent panel.”
“BC’s strategy to ‘build back better’ following the economic downturn that’s resulted from COVID-19 must also include an economic plan to help forestry workers transition to a value-added, second-growth industry.”
“We’re calling on the BC government to develop a science-based plan with targets and timelines to protect old-growth forests in all forest types. It’s also vital the province commit funding to support First Nations land-use planning and development of a conservation-based economy tied to the creation of Indigenous Protected Areas and the protection of old-growth forests in their unceded territories.”