The Pacheedaht First Nation has condemned the cutting of several young trees by old-growth logging protesters in the Fairy Creek watershed area, among several other “disrespectful and anti-social actions” at camps and blockades.
In a statement released on Sunday, July 25, Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones and Chief Councillor Jeff Jones expressed concerns about tree cutting, violence, vandalism, unsafe behaviour, unsanitary conditions and increased lawlessness at the ongoing protests.
Protesters cut down 18 young trees in the Gordon River Mainline area on the weekend, in order to block RCMP vehicle access to one of their camps.
The statement points out that, by law, no trees on public land can be cut in the territory without prior and informed consent of the Pacheedaht. The Pacheedaht reiterated that they did not provide consent to the cutting of the trees by protesters.
“The local forest management planning and regulatory structure is in place to ensure that the forest is managed wisely — and that cultural, environmental and economical values are protected,” the statement read.
Cedar is an iconic species, deeply connected to coastal First Nations culture, the statement explains. Pacheedaht plans for the management of cultural cedar out to 400 years from now to ensure a steady supply of cedar logs for canoe carving, long houses, totems and other carving purposes. That strategy requires forest companies and the provincial government to retain select older cedar trees during timber harvesting and plant cedar seedling during reforestation.
“The unlawful cutting of the immature trees disrespects Pacheedaht planning and destroys decades of investment involved in getting trees established and growing strongly, and reduces the value of our growing timber crop.”
The statement listed several other specific concerns:
• vandalism, particularly to local infrastructure, roads and road safety signs
• unsanitary camp conditions
• conversion of the forest into an open latrine, which puts water quality and fish habitat at risk
• unsanitary catering facilities
• loss of Pacheedaht access to traditional berry-picking, bark-gathering, hunting and fishing sites
• increased wildfire hazards and risk
• disruption of lives, work and businesses
• distraction of the Pacheedaht people from serving their community and supporting their families
The statement also notes that the Pacheedaht did not provide consent for the protesters to block forest roads, which provide the people with access to traditional cultural sites.
“The Pacheedaht community does not believe that blockades, violence, vandalism, theft and destruction of the environment practiced by the protesters offers a productive path towards sound forest management decision making.”
The Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations have previously asked protesters to leave their traditional territories, at the same time that they asked the provincial government to defer old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas for the next two years.
The provincial government agreed to the deferral, but the protesters vowed to stand their ground, saying the deferral alone was not enough.
Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder who supports the protests, said he does not disapprove of the cutting of second-growth trees in order to protect the old growth.
In the July 25 statement, the Pacheedaht noted that the decision to defer logging was made by the local First Nations and not the protesters, calling it “a successful example of strong advocacy by the actual people with rights and title over the matters concerned.”
“There have been far too many dreadful examples throughout Pacheedaht history since the arrival of the Europeans where our rights and title has been ignored and abused by others whilst the authorities looked the other way, resulting in our land, resources and family members being torn away from us,” the statement concludes. “Pacheedaht nation urges the relevant regulatory authorities to make it a priority to take decisive enforcement actions to restore law and order in our territory.”