After eight months of camping out to protect old-growth forests from logging, Fairy Creek activists have been told their blockades must go.
In its decision Thursday morning, the B.C. Supreme Court stated logging activities by Teal Jones Group are completely legal, and by denying access to cutblocks, activists are in fact the ones engaging in illegal activity.
“There’s no doubt that climate change is real and poses a grave threat,” Justice Frits Verhoeven said. But, the concerns the defendants – the Rainforest Flying Squad – raised are matters that need to be broached with the government, not with Teal Jones, Verhoeven concluded.
Activists have been calling on the provincial government to stop old-growth logging and implement the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review since it was released in September 2020. They have been maintaining numerous blockade sites at the Fairy Creek Watershed, near Port Renfrew, for various lengths of time since August 2020.
Their argument is that old-growth forests are vital to the environment and increasingly rare.
Activists will see this decision as a failure on the part of the provincial government to implement the strategic review, Rainforest Flying Squad member Bobby Arbess told Black Press Media.
“We’re pushing for a real moratorium on what’s left of biologically reproductive ancient forests in B.C.,” he said.
According to environmental group Sierra Club B.C., approximately 140,000 hectares of old-growth forest – those with trees at least 120 years old – are logged each year. And, according to a report by Veridian Ecological Consulting, B.C. has 13.2 million hectares of old-growth forest left.
But, only a tiny proportion of that remaining forest – 3 per cent or 380,000 hectares – supports large trees. The fear, Arbess said, is that by the time the government implements protective measures it will be too late.
Teal Cedar, which filed the injunction application on behalf of Teal Jones, argued the blockades have affected the more than 1,000 people it employs as well as sub-contracted employees. In its application, Teal Cedar estimated the end product value of the inaccessible timber is approximately $20 million.
“We respect peaceful, non-disruptive protest in our licenses, and only recently sought an injunction after many months of protesters blocking certain areas of our operations,” Gerrie Kotze, Teal Jones vice-president and CEO, said in a statement sent to Black Press Media. “It is time for our work to get underway.”
With the granting of Teal Cedars’ injunction application, blockades in the Fairy Creek Watershed will be removed until at least Sept. 4.
The battle is only just beginning though, Arbess said.
People are mobilizing and heading to the original Fairy Creek blockade at the watershed headwaters to make a stand.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t have a rash of arrests happening within the first week that the RCMP show up,” Arbess said.
–With files from Dawn Gibson
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