Government and company officials continue to avoid comment as an environmental blockade near Port Renfrew reached its fifth day Friday.
Attempts by Black Press media to speak to representatives of logging company Teal Jones and area MLA and Premier John Horgan went unreturned, as protesters continued with a blockade launched Monday to stop Teal Jones Group from punching road access into the Fairy Creek watershed.
Conservationists said they have documented a old yellow cedar tree measuring 9.5 feet in diameter in the general area. They said the tree is wider than the ninth-widest yellow cedar in Canada, as recorded in BC Big Tree Registry.
TJ Watt, a conservationist with Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) measured record-sized ancient yellow cedars at the headwaters of Fairy Creek which the protesters say is the last unlogged old-growth valley near Port Renfrew on southern Vancouver Island.
“Yellow cedars are the oldest living organisms in the country,” said Watt and added, “these trees are the last of the ancient giants.”
Although AFA conservationists were able to measure only a dozen or more of these giant trees over the weekend, Watt said that there may be much larger undocumented big trees in the valley. The group also located a number of exceptionally large western hemlocks as well.
“Unfortunately there are no rules in place to preserve big trees. The government continues to delay and stall policy to protect these trees and in the meantime logging companies cut and raze them,” said Watt
Calling it a chance encounter, Watt said that no one would have known these record sized trees existed at this place if the logging company had gotten to it first.
Teal-Jones Group recently began building roads along the ridgeline above Fairy Creek, about four kilometres up from the popular Fairy Lake recreation spot. 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, protesters worry boundary tape found within the valley headwaters indicates that it could be part of their future plans.
These giant yellow cedars add weight to the Fairy Creek blockade and gives protesters even more of a reason to stand firm. “This is an exceptional area of biodiversity,” said Watt.
Watt is worried that building these roads opens the door to future fragmentation of Fairy Creek.
Dr.Saul Arbess, a spokesperson for the Fairy Creek protesters told Black Press Thursday that they have not received any response from either the provincial authorities nor Teal Jones.
Arbess suspects Teal Jones Group might get a court injunction. But the protesters are still holding strong and maintaining the blockade, he said.