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Betty Krawczyk, 74, has seen the future of British Columbia and it's an ugly picture of tree stumps replacing majestic forests in the wilderness.

Mrs. Krawczyk is so devoted to the environmental movement that, in a Victoria courtroom yesterday, she pleaded with a judge to keep her in jail.

The great-grandmother had been in custody since she was arrested on Feb. 14 for willfully obstructing a peace officer, but she told B.C. Provincial Court Judge Anne Ehrcke that jail isn't so scary.

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Judge Ehrcke, unmoved by Mrs. Krawczyk's request, ordered that she be released and return to court for a March 19 trial. If convicted, she faces a maximum jail term of two years, less a day.

Outside the courtroom, Mrs. Krawczyk said the judge grew exasperated with her refusal to sign a declaration to report to a bail supervisor.

"I didn't promise to maintain the peace. I didn't promise anything," said a defiant Mrs. Krawczyk, who has attracted legions of fans in the West Coast's environmental movement for her willingness to clash with authorities.

On Valentine's Day, she and 20 other members of an environmental group named Women in the Woods staged a protest on the main road in front of the B.C. Legislature.

They made signs in the shape of hearts with the slogan, "We love our forests." And they brought along their good-luck charm -- a sculpture of a nude woman running through the woods.

Mrs. Krawczyk, who pleaded not guilty yesterday to the obstruction charge, said she will defend herself in court. "Nobody knows better my motives and my aspirations and my feelings for the forests of British Columbia," said the mother of eight children, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of one.

She was the lone protester arrested on Feb. 14 during what she calls principled civil disobedience. She spent four nights in a Victoria jail cell, which she described as "kind of hellish," then was transported to the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women in suburban Vancouver, which was "not bedlam".

She got her first taste of jail in 1993 after joining hundreds of people who protested against logging of old-growth trees in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island.

Since then, she's become an unabashed activist and has been named an honorary member of the Raging Grannies, a group of older women who support peace and environmental causes through their satirical songs.

Mrs. Krawczyk spent more than four months in jail when she defied a court order in 2000 by blocking a logging road into the Elaho Valley, near Whistler.

As a self-proclaimed tree hugger, she said spending time behind bars is the least of her worries when vast tracts of forests are on the line.

British Columbia's Liberal government is expected to introduce "working forest" legislation this spring to designate 45 million hectares of Crown land, or 48 per cent of the province, as property that can be logged.

Three months ago, the government unveiled its new forest practices code to give loggers greater flexibility to carry out their timber harvesting.

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