Anti-logging protesters at Fairy Creek are determined to maintain their demonstrations even as a forestry company prepares to wind down operations during winter and a B.C. court revives an injunction that allowed the RCMP to make more than 1,100 arrests this year.
Protecting ancient forests remains a long-term mission, said Kathleen Code, a spokeswoman for the Rainforest Flying Squad, a grassroots group seeking to preserve old-growth trees at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
“We started this movement to save the old growth,” Ms. Code said in an interview, referring to the protest camps that began in August, 2020.
She made the comments after a B.C. Court of Appeal justice reinstated an injunction aimed at banning blockades in an area where Teal-Jones Group, through its division named Teal Cedar Products Ltd., had been logging in Fairy Creek, which is in Tree Farm Licence 46 (TFL 46).
“Nature has balanced everything quite beautifully to produce this entire web of life that incorporates plants, trees and wildlife,” said Ms. Code, who added that conservation of intact ecosystems should take priority over economic gain.
RCMP officers have made their arrests since May, when enforcement of the injunction first took effect. On Sept. 28, a B.C. Supreme Court judge criticized the RCMP’s enforcement tactics and declined to extend the original injunction, only to have that decision overturned late on Friday by Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein of the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The interim injunction will be in place until the merits of the case are heard on Nov. 15 before a panel of the appeal court.
The RCMP largely reduced their presence at the Fairy Creek watershed in late September, but are now expected to ramp up again when needed. “The RCMP will be reviewing the injunction and assessing resources with respect to enforcement,” the RCMP said in a statement.
Conrad Browne, director of Indigenous partnerships and strategic relations at Teal-Jones, welcomed the interim injunction during a time when the company is striving to wind down seasonal forestry operations in TFL 46 without having to face more disruptions at Fairy Creek.
“We’ll keep going until the snow starts to fly at higher elevations. So, that could be as early as November, but the rains also have an effect,” he said in an interview, adding that workers still need to recover many trees already felled.
In June, the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations asked for a two-year deferral of logging at Fairy Creek but wanted forestry operations to continue in other parts of the region. The company and the B.C. government agreed with the request.
The Indigenous groups say they are resource stewards with financial stakes in logging activities on their lands and have asked the demonstrators to leave. The protesters, however, counter that long-term solutions for Fairy Creek are needed, and that individual members of Indigenous communities support the Rainforest Flying Squad.
The slowdown in forestry activity typically lasts from late fall until March or April, depending on the weather. “Teal-Jones Group has been intentionally just trying to abide by what we’re legally allowed to do, what we’ve been approved to do through all the regulations and through our Indigenous consultations,” Mr. Browne said.
In a written submission on Oct. 1 to the appeal court, lawyers for the company said an interim injunction would be warranted. “Every day Teal Cedar is prevented from exercising its lawful rights in TFL 46, it suffers irreparable harm, as do its contractors,” the lawyers wrote. “The courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion.”
But a conservationist is warning that British Columbia’s forestry rules are so lax that lumber derived from old-growth trees is easily exported to the United States.
The B.C. government needs to learn lessons about the management of public lands in Oregon, where forestry companies extensively logged old-growth trees on private lands in past decades, said Ken Wu, founder of Vancouver-based Endangered Ecosystems Alliance.
He said Oregon is still a case study in how it’s possible to implement more stringent rules to protect old-growth trees on public lands. The state has almost two-thirds of its forested land designated as public property, mostly under federal jurisdiction, while one-third is privately owned.
In sharp contrast, provincial Crown timber accounts for 95 per cent of B.C.’s land base, while only 5 per cent is private. “The public lands are way better managed in the U.S. than in B.C.,” Mr. Wu said.
In 1994, the U.S. government introduced the Northwest Forest Plan, targeted at protecting federal public lands and the northern spotted owl in Oregon, Washington State and northern California.
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