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Injunction sets stage for showdown over old-growth logging on Vancouver Island

Click to play video: 'Company wins injunction to go ahead with logging in Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island' Company wins injunction to go ahead with logging in Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island
WATCH: Teal-Jones has won an injunction against an eight-month blockade of its operations in the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew, B.C. Protestors say they are fighting to protect one of the few remaining pristine ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. Paul Johnson has the story – Apr 1, 2021

A group of environmentalists who have been blockading access to one of the last remaining stands of old-growth forest on Vancouver Island will soon have to decide whether to stand down or risk jail.

On Thursday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven granted an injunction to logging company Teal-Jones, in response to protesters who have been blocking access to a cut block near Port Renfrew, B.C., since last summer.

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

The blockaders say the Fairy Creek watershed is the last pristine stand of ancient trees in the area, with some yellow cedars exceeding 1,000 years in age.

Jens Wieting with the Sierra Club of B.C. told Global News the order could lay the groundwork for another “war in the woods” showdown between demonstrators and police.

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“Fairy Creek is the poster child for these last patches of intact old-growth forest,”  Witting said.

“This is another example where a conflict between a company and activists is rising because the B.C. government is not showing the leadership needed.”

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
Protesters willing to risk arrest in attempt to stop old-growth logging near Port Renfrew – Feb 27, 2021

In granting the injunction, Verhoeven noted that Teal Jones holds a valid and legal licence to harvest timber in the disputed tract of land.

In its injunction application, Teal-Jones argued the activists were putting hundreds of jobs at risk, cutting off needed fiber to the company’s mills and preventing it form accessing about $10 million worth of timber.

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

“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,” the company claimed.

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The Fairy Creek dispute has proved a rallying cry for others in the environmental movement, prompting a rally at the B.C. legislature on Saturday, as well as a blockade of the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver that saw six people arrested.

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

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau called on the province to take immediate action to preserve the watershed. Furstenau said the government must revoke Teal-Jones’ cutting permits and provide conservation financing to support options to save Fairy Creek.

Asked about the dispute Thursday, which falls within his home riding, Premier John Horgan deferred to Forestry Minister Catrine Conroy.

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

Conroy said the government respects the right to peaceful protest, but that it expects people to follow the law.

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If what blockaders Global News spoke with this winter are to believed, that might be a tough sell.

“Those giant cedars, they might be 2,000 years old,” protester Nicolas Mielle told Global News in February.

“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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