Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

With peaceful protests, sit-ins and a blockade, the battle to save old-growth forests has intensified near Port Renfrew.

Calling Fairy Creek the last intact unlogged watershed of southern Vancouver Island’s San Juan River system, “forest defenders” are adamant they will not allow logging in that area.

On Aug. 10, the group of 20-30 protesters from several communities across Vancouver Island annunced a blockade of the road leading to Fairy Creek. Members say they will continue to block forestry company Teal Jones’ road crews from any further constructions until the provincial government intervenes, or Team Jones Group abandons plans to log the area around the creek.

READ ALSO: What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Surrey-based Teal Jones is the license holder of Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 and protesters maintain the company has “felled and graded several hectares of old-growth forest” on a road network that will soon breach the ridegline and enter the watershed. Black Press Media has reached out to Teal Jones for a comment.

Protesters called on B.C. Premier John Horgan’s office to establish an “immediate and permanent protection of the entire Fairy Creek Valley, thereby nullifying all cut blocks and road construction approvals in the watershed and contiguous old growth forests.”

Arbess said that when he contacted the premier’s office Aug. 6, the deputy called back to assure him that it was an urgent matter and asked him to submit a written letter.

“I haven’t heard back since,” he said.

Protesters want the provincial government to release the recommendations of the Old Growth Forest Review Panel submitted to the Forest Minister, Doug Donaldson’s office.

The report prepared by an independent panel of Garry Merkel and Al Gorley was received by Donaldson’s office on April 30 and a public response was announced within six months of receiving the report.

“The report has been sitting on the minister’s desk for months now and we want to know what is the direction they are planning to move forward in,” said protester Saul Arbess. He said that while the ministry delays the report, logging companies continue to wipe out old-growth.

Protesters are also asking for an immediate end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island.

“It is unconscionable for the government to approve continued industrial destruction of the last old-growth temperate rainforest and new road developments into unlogged watersheds within the premier’s own electoral riding while it sits on the recommendations made by the Old Growth Review Panel,” stated Bobby Arbess, another protester at Fairy Creek.

Donaldson said in an email that the ministry will release the report well in advance of the said six months.

“The panelists (Merkel and Gorley) asked government to release the report within six months of its receipt on April 30. We expect to release it well in advance of that, likely later this summer or in the early fall,” said Donaldson.

However, last week, in a reply to MLA John Rustad’s questions about his ministry’s $489 million budget at B.C. legislature, Donaldson said that the ministry isn’t considering a moratorium on old-growth logging for an industry that has seen steady increase in protected areas and restrictions on the Crown land base.

READ MORE: Big old trees almost gone forever in B.C., scientists warn

READ MORE: Nanaimo men holding hunger strike to protest logging of old-growth forests

Over the past few weeks protests have been erupting on Vancouver Island to save old-growths. On August 8, James Darling and Robert Fuller completed a 14-day hunger strike in Nanaimo to protest against old-growth logging.

Earlier in June, an independent study undertaken by Nelson based research firm showed that there’s only three per cent of old-growth trees left in B.C. The report calls on the government to update forest management strategy for the current mix of forests, and to place a moratorium on old-growth logging in any area with less than 10 per cent old-growth remaining.

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