Blockade of old-growth B.C. forest heading to B.C. Supreme Court

Click to play video: 'Protesters willing to risk arrest in attempt to stop old-growth logging near Port Renfrew' Protesters willing to risk arrest in attempt to stop old-growth logging near Port Renfrew
A confrontation is looming on southern Vancouver Island where a group of environmental activists is facing a court injunction after months of blockading logging roads in an effort to halt old-growth logging near Port Renfrew. Paul Johnson reports – Feb 27, 2021

The battle over a pristine Vancouver Island valley of old growth forest is set to go to court next week, as activists continue a months-long blockade of the Fairy Creek watershed.

The group has been camped out at a pair of blockade sites near Port Renfrew since the summer, and some say they’re willing to risk arrest to protect the trees — some of which may be 1,000 years old.

“In B.C. we have the last ancient temperate rainforest in the world and we’re still cutting it down, and it’s not worth it. I think it’s worth more alive,” Rhia Ironside told Global News.

Read more: Sierra Club report sparks debate over old-growth forests and climate change

Just how much old-growth forest remains in British Columbia is a figure disputed by industry, government and activists,

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The province touts some 13 million remaining hectares of old-growth forest, but a 2020 report from ecologists argues just three per cent of that, about 380,000 hectares, actually supports large trees.

What’s clear is that the area of ancient forest in the province is at its smallest footprint to date.

Logging company Teal Jones, which holds the timber licence in the area, did not respond to a request for comment.

Click to play video: 'Environmentalists plan to continue old growth logging blockades' Environmentalists plan to continue old growth logging blockades
Environmentalists plan to continue old growth logging blockades – Sep 12, 2020

However, in an injunction application set to be heard March 4 in B.C. Supreme Court, the company makes its position clear: that it holds the legal right to log within its licences, and that the activists are causing financial loss and cutting off needed fibre to its mills.

The company estimates the blockades are preventing it from accessing about $10 million worth of timber.

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“These blockades have caused significant disruption to Teal Cedar’s business and that of its contractors,” states the application.

“They have impeded Teal Cedar’s ability to access valuable resources to which it is legally entitled. The blockades threaten not only Teal Cedar’s right to harvest timber but also the continued operation of its mills.”

Read more: B.C. government protecting nine areas of at risk and old-growth forest in logging policy shift

Some of the blockaders Global News spoke with weren’t sure what they would do if the injunction was granted. Others, like Nicolas Mielle, say they’re willing to go to jail if necessary.

“Those giant cedars, they might be 2,000 years old,” he said.

“If I get arrested for what, protecting like the last ancient trees in Vancouver (Island)? Yeah, I will get arrested for that.”

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