December 2, 2020
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.