Only 2.7% of British Columbia’s original productive old growth forests remain standing. So, what happened to the rest?
For decades, logging companies have been cutting old growth trees. The trees’ strength, firmness, and resistance to rot make them favorable for high-end value-added products such as shingles, decking, and fine furniture. Years of logging at breakneck speeds are leaving old growth forests bare, and in the next decade, nearly all of them will be clear-cut.
In Fairy Creek, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, blockaders are calling for a halt on clear-cutting ancient trees and are asking for a transition to only logging second-growth.
The Fairy Creek Rainforest, located in the Port Renfrew area, on Pacheedaht territory, is composed of 1,200 hectares of rich forest that houses old growth including some yellow cedar trees estimated to be up to 2000 years old. It supports some of the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems in the world. The trees in this region are some of the oldest and largest trees in Canada. So large in fact, that it would take more than 15 people holding hands circling the tree just to cover its circumference.
Teal-Jones logging group holds licenses to log and build roads in a portion of untouched, old-growth forest. Since August of last year, people from all over Vancouver Island and British Columbia have joined together to stand in solidarity with some members of the local Indigenous communities. For 10 months, these brave forest defenders of all ages have been delaying industry logging by creating physical blockades and chaining themselves to logs, gates, cars and each other, and by suspending themselves at the tops of the at-risk trees or in makeshift tripods. To date, over 230 people have been voluntarily arrested in an attempt to slow down industry and protect the sacred trees in Fairy Creek. If it weren’t for these efforts, many stands of old growth trees would already be gone.
On April 1st, the B.C Supreme Court granted an injunction to have the blockades removed to make way for Teal-Jones to continue logging and building roads. For more than four weeks now, every day the RCMP sends dozens of overt officers, special ops teams, and undercover staff accompanied by heavy machinery to intimidate, arrest, and extract blockaders.
Last week, the Province of British Columbia responded to the requests of Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht communities and announced a deferral of logging in a portion of Fairy Creek and Central Walbran. This announcement might look like good news, and it is. However, it is not enough. Most of the old growth the blockaders have been defending is outside of this deferral region, and RCMP continues to arrest forest defenders and demolish camps daily.
The announcement failed to address the long-term systemic crisis of forest management or the unfair agreements and licensing contracts that the Indigenous communities are locked into. It does not support reconciling Indigenous sovereignty or environmental stewardship.
Until a deferral includes the entire 2,080-hectare Fairy Creek rainforest -- which includes the intact old growth forest surrounding the watershed on all sides --and not just the Fairy Creek valley at its heart, the blockaders are continuing to call to the community for solidarity and support.