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Old-growth forest at centre of dispute in B.C.

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 06 Apr, 2021 10:25 PM
  • Old-growth forest at centre of dispute in B.C.

Advocates for old-growth forests say they are digging in as they try to protect parts of a valley on southwest Vancouver Island from logging.

A dozen or more people who belong to the Rainforest Flying Squad set up camps last August and blocked access to the Fairy Creek watershed northeast of Port Renfrew, where Teal Cedar Products has built roads and plans to harvest in one of its tenures.

"We're not anti-logging," said Erika Heyrman from Shirley, west of Victoria. "We're not there to fight with workers. We're there to protect the old growth because it is special and it shouldn't be part of the working forest."

Heyrman has been involved in the volunteer-run blockades since September, sometimes staying overnight, she said in an interview.

There's been a surge of donations and people turning up to support the blockades, she said, since the B.C. Supreme Court granted Teal Cedar, a division of the Teal-Jones Group, an injunction against protesters last week.

The judgment says Teal reported the blockades to the RCMP in December.

In his written decision, Justice Frits Verhoeven said police enforcement terms would be required since "there appears to be little or no likelihood that the injunction order will be respected, otherwise."

The blockades are designed to interfere with Teal's work and influence the province over its policies on old-growth logging, Verhoeven said.

The B.C. government granted Teal permits last year to cut timber within three areas of its tenure of about 595 square kilometres. The company was also granted road building permits and it plans to apply for cutting permits in three additional cutblocks, the judgment notes.

Most of the Fairy Creek watershed that falls within Teal's tenure is unavailable for logging and the company's plans have been "mischaracterized," vice-president Gerrie Kotze said in a statement.

"We are planning to harvest only a small area, up at the head of the watershed well away from Fairy Lake and the San Juan River," he said.

"We will harvest with the care and attention to the environment British Columbians expect, and mill every log we cut right here in B.C."

Supporters of the blockades come from all walks of life, said Glenn Reid of Ladysmith, who has been making supply runs since the camps began.

"It's doctors, it's lawyers, it's firefighters, it's tree planters," he said.

Last weekend, Heyrman said members of the group headed north and set up a new blockade to prevent logging crews from working in cutblocks around the Caycuse watershed near Cowichan Lake.

The Caycuse area has been harvested since the early 1970s as part of the same tenure that includes Fairy Creek, Kotze said.

The tenure was not among the nine areas where the province temporarily deferred harvesting in 1,960 square kilometres of old-growth forest last September. The government made the move after receiving an independent report that recommended B.C. set the most at-risk ecosystems aside from logging while it developed a more sustainable strategy.

B.C.'s commitment to implementing the panel's recommendations has not changed, said Forests Minister Katrine Conroy.

Teal was granted injunctions in 2015 and 2016 prohibiting blockades at the tenure encompassing Fairy Creek, the court decision says. The company told the court during the injunction application that the current blockades are "better organized, better attended, and more numerous" than in previous years, the judgment says.

Verhoeven recognized the environmental concerns of those opposed to old-growth logging, saying there's "no doubt climate change is real, and poses a grave threat to humanity's future."

"But as I have said, the effect of old growth forest logging on climate change and biodiversity is not before me, and is not for me to say."

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