Forest Defenders are Occupying an Old Growth Forest to Prevent Imminent Logging in the Last Intact Watershed of the San Juan River System
Victoria, B.C. 8/10/2020 An informal, grassroots collective of people from across Vancouver Island alerted to Teal Jones’s road building incursion into the headwaters of the unlogged Fairy Creek watershed are prepared to block road crews from further work.
Forest defenders are prepared to remain occupying the roadway until the Provincial Government releases the recommendations from its Old Growth Forest Review Panel which Minister Donaldson said they will not release for at least another six months.
“It is unconscionable for the Government to approve continued industrial destruction of the last old growth temperate rainforest and new road developments into unlogged watersheds within the Premier’s own electoral riding while it sits on the recommendations made by the Old Growth Review Panel,” stated Bobby Arbess.
Forest defenders establishing this peaceful road blockade will escalate our tactics to stop the logging of adjacent cut blocks if the Government will not heed this demand to stop road development and release its own panel’s recommendations.
Teal Jones, the licence holder of TFL 46, over the past month has begun road construction in the old growth hotspot of Fairy Creek that would enable them to clear-cut the upper Fairy Creek watershed, near Port Renfrew. The company has felled and graded several hectares of old growth forest on a road network that will soon breach the ridgeline and enter the watershed.
Forest defenders have set up a blockade and tree-sits on a critical road under construction on the north-western ridge of the Fairy Creek watershed to prevent Teal Jones from continuing to build roads into the old growth rainforest. Protesters will continue their forest defence until the Teal Jones Group abandon their plans to log Fairy Creek and the BC Premier implements our demands.
Here is a dramatic drone video of Ferry Creek watershed by a young firefighter recently captured of road-building crews cresting the ridge into the very last unlogged watershed in the San Juan River valley rainforest.
In view of the forthcoming release of the Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) report and recommendations, being held up by the BC government for up to 6 months from early May, with no firm release date to the public, we are asking the Premier to establish:
1. The immediate and permanent protection of the entire Fairy Creek Valley, thereby nullifying all cut blocks and road construction approvals in the watershed and contiguous old growth forests.
2. An immediate end to old growth logging on Vancouver Island.
In an article in The Narwhal, Jan.27, 2020, Gary Merkel, one of the two commissioners of the OGSR states: “I think the thing that surprised me the most is the degree of unanimity and common thinking around ‘we need to get back to the land’ and about moving past political cycles … we’re hearing it from almost everywhere,” Merkel told The Narwhal in a joint phone interview with Gorley: “We’re managing ecosystems — that are in some cases thousands of years old — on a four-year political cycle. The management systems change from government to government,” said Merkel, the former chair of both the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation and the Columbia Basin Trust.
After completing their 14-day hunger strike for the old growth forests, James Darling and Robert Fuller met with two NDP MLAs last Saturday, and were rebuffed by them, giving questionable justifications for continuing the destruction of the OG.
We are now at the stage of final eradication of the ancient coastal temperate rainforest, reduced to less than 3% of its original extent by logging. Port Renfrew has billed itself as the Big Tree Capital of Canada and this form of tourism has become the backbone of its economy. Once again, this future is threatened by the indiscriminate eradication of the ancient forests in this region.
Blockade Directions: GPS coordinates: 48.6422452 N – 124.3608828 W
10 km on the Gordon River Main Line at Braden Creek Main Line (on your way to Fairy Lake after leaving Port Renfrew, turn left just past Deering Bridge and take the road up the hill to the right just before the bridge). Map
Editor’s Note: One of the indicators of the success of any movement is the level of oppression by the powerful. The protests against logging at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, Canada, are an illustration of this. Fairy Creek is home to old-growth forests and has been targeted by forest product industries. Two years ago, activists joined hands with indigenous people to protest the logging. Now renewed efforts to protect the old-growth forests have been met with force by the RCMP. We thank Brenda Norrell for permission to repost this piece.
By Brenda Norrell/Censored News
Background to Fairy Creek
The last time the world was watching Fairy Creek, we witnessed the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Well over 1,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous forest defenders were arrested by the RCMP over months of tense standoffs in 2021 as activists sought to halt the logging of rare ancient trees.
The courts hammered that movement, with charges and bail conditions keeping many away, and the tussle in the trees went dormant for most of the last two years.
A new blockade, led by Indigenous youth and supported by non-Indigenous allies, has just been erected on a key bridge crossing an arterial logging road. The RCMP’s specialized tactical team that responds to land defense actions is present and surveilling the camp. A raid could come any day, and having media on the ground is of crucial importance to keep tabs on police and document the latest developments as land defenders seek to protect their unceded territories from old-growth logging.
Brandi Morin, an Indigenous journalist and author who has won a number of major awards, including a Canadian Digital Publishing Award and an Edward R. Murrow award in the U.S., is getting there to bring you the story from Fairy Creek’s new front lines.
She’ll be joined by World Press Photo of the Year-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken, reuniting a dream team that last joined forces to tell the story of First Nations communities fleeing wildfires in Alberta.
Latest crackdowns by RCMP
Three forest protectors were arrested on Tuesday [August 15] protecting the old-growth forests west of Victoria, as Canada continues to target Native people with police operatives protecting the interest of destructive industries. The police ops are British Columbia’s C-IRG, the Community Industry Response Group.
Mourning the invasion of the militarized police squad who arrested the forest defenders, who were his guests, Pacheedaht First Nation Elder Bill Jones said,
“We are at the end times of our great forests.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin, and photojournalist Amber Bracken, were there.
“The militarized RCMP of the C-IRG unit was also at the Savage Patch raid yesterday. At 6: am Amber and I saw some of them loading their gear to Lake Cowichan and then we raced out to the blockade, cause the raid was on its way.
“Turns out these guys hiked in behind the bridge where the old growth area is, tore the owl structure down and threw the wood in the river below. And then were guarding the bridge.”
Calling on the international community, Peace Brigades International Canada said,
“We draw the attention of the international community to the RCMP C-IRG raid against land defenders and allies protecting old-growth forest on Pacheedaht territory in Canada.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin said,
“RCMP C-IRG unit raided and dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old-growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders were arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch, and two settler supporters.”
Morin described the Canadian police raid on Tuesday,
“RCMP Sgt. Charney grabbed me after he and others threatened me with arrest when I refused to follow their media exclusion zones during the C-IRG Unit raid of the Savage Patch blockade against old growth logging. I did, however, inform them that I knew of my rights as a journalist and their exclusion zones are illegal.”
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in 2021 in its Fairy Creek decision:
“Exclusion zones, checkpoints, searches, and restrictions on media members clearly interfere with important liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression (including freedom of the press), and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
RCMP’s federal watchdog agency opened a probe into the operations of the C-IRG, a special unit that polices protests against resource extraction in British Columbia, CBC reports.
Abolish C-IRG said,
“Due to the increasing amount of indigenous-led anti-resource extraction movements in British Columbia, the Community-Industry Response Group was born. C-IRG is unique to British Columbia. They are militarized, have no budget limit, and the officers get paid handsomely to force pipelines, mines, dams, and logging through unceded indigenous territories, without consent. This is just another extension of the RCMP’s original task – to remove and separate people from the land and enforce colonial rule. They do not keep us safe, they protect capital.”
Statement from Elder Bill Jones on August 15, 2023
Today, we mourn once again as the militarized police squad raided our peaceful and Indigenous-led camp near Fairy Creek on Trunk Road 11. Again, these brave people were there on my unceded land as my guests, guests who had come to protect what’s left of the old growth forests. Once again, they put themselves on teh line after hearing that the NDP government had approved several cutblocks up that forestry road. Some of those cutblocks include old-growth forests.
We cannot keep cutting our great Mother Earth like this. Once these great forests are gone, they are gone forever. We set up these camps as a last resort. The government refused to change their forestry polices and Tal Cedar has stated in their forest “stewardship” plan that they will harvest every last old-growth tree available to them. The loss of every tree is an affront to my Indigenous rights, sovereignty and title, as it is to every Indigenous person. It is also a loss to all peoples as we are as once and we must learn to stand together as one.
I say again, the forest is my cathedral and my place of spiritual meditation. Government and industry cannot come to my lands and destroy my cathedral and expect us to do nothing.
I say thank you to all those forest defenders who built the amazing screech owl sculpture on the bridge and held the camp.
Thank you to all those who donated and supported the camp.
And I applaud the three brave forest defenders who were arrested and released today. I admire your courage in facing the relentless force of the dozens of CIRG officers who showed up to destroy your camp and arrest you.
I also remind government and industry that it is laughable to charge us with offenses and call us conspirators when we are at the end times of our great forests.
We will continue to do what we can to protect out great Mother Earth.
You can also listen to our latest Green Flame episode on Fairy Creek blockade with Joshua Wright:
Photo by DDP on Unsplash
This article is a follow-up of yesterday’s article. Featured image from the Fairy Creek Blockade Facebook page.
Fairy Creek is home to a number of species at risk, and should be protected, say several scientists. At-risk species sighted in recent months include a variety of birds, little brown bats, and a lichen described as “cute” and sensitive.
Could these species help Fairy Creek find true protection — beyond its present two-year deferral of logging?
Last Friday at Fairy Creek, three scientists and a citizen scientist showed the assembled forest protectors evidence gathered since May on several federally listed species at risk. Although they described their inventory of species in the old-growth forest as just a beginning, many species were sighted.
Citizen-scientist Natasha Lavdovsky described the Oldgrowth specklebelly lichen which she found in the area. As a multi-disciplinary artist with a science background, Lavdovsky appreciates the lichen’s uniqueness. “They are really cute, because they have a speckled texture on their underbelly. It’s bluish on top, and pinkish underneath. When you look at them with a hand lens, they’re really quite exquisite.”
The rare lichen is generally found farther north, she told the group. Yet, “This is very likely to be the largest population of this lichen ever found in B.C.”
The main reason it still exists is because blockades have been protecting the area for the past year, she said. Most of the lichens are within an approved Teal Jones cut-block in TFL 46, which has been partially logged.
“Many of these lichen communities are right beside clear-cuts. They’re dying now from too much sunlight.” The speckled-belly lichen only grows in old-growth forests.
Dr. Loys Maingon explained that the importance of lichens is vastly underestimated: “They are a crucial, foundational part of our living world. They play an outsized and poorly understood role in global photosynthesis and nutrient cycling.”
An old-growth forest hosts communities of lichens, which, in a highly synchronized way, process rainfall and atmospheric humidity. They capture vital nutrients out of the air, and provide nutrients that support the forest, and the food chains that support all of its creatures, he said.
“Their abundance and diversity are indicators of ‘healthy forests’,” Dr. Maingon added. “Lichens are the basis of nitrogen-cycling in old-growth forests. They’re the foundation of the pumping mechanism that goes into the “biotic pump model” – the capture of water out of condensation and evapotranspiration processes of water, and its transportation inland, far beyond what would normally be expected by passive wind-driven processes. The forest’s biotic pump creates much of our climate.”
Some researchers recently reported that lichens may actually sequester even more carbon dioxide than the old-growth trees they live upon, he said. They also neutralize acidic rainwater as it runs over them to the ground.
Despite providing countless ecosystem services, the specklebelly lichen “is very sensitive,” and a vulnerable at-risk species, Lavdovsky noted. She read a BC Timber Sales document that called for a 200-metre buffer zone to protect the lichen’s habitat from logging. One tree on which she found the rare lichen growing had been marked with red falling-boundary tape. She also found dying lichens along the newly built roadside and in an area that directly bordered a recent cut-block.
“Many people trust that endangered species are protected by law in BC, but they’re not,” said Kathleen Code, a Rainforest Flying Squad spokesperson. “Although there are government ‘guidelines’ requiring logging companies to complete a wildlife inventory and management plan before they log, in practice there is no penalty for inadequately prepared inventories and management plans. No penalty, in other words, for erasing habitat and killing endangered species.”
Dr. John Neilson, a fisheries scientist who has worked for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, noted that the federal Species at Risk Act applies only to federal lands in BC, such as national parks.
“In spite of explicit election promises made by Mr. Horgan in 2017, BC still does not have a provincial act to protect at risk species, placing the province in a minority nationally.” A very small number of species are covered by BC’s Forest and Ranges Practices or Wildlife Acts.
“I expect that information from our surveys will inform public reactions to the government’s passive and inadequate response to protecting BC’s biodiversity on southern Vancouver Island.”
Along with Dr. Jim Cuthbert, Dr. Neilson helped organize several “BioBlitz” inventories at Fairy Creek since May. Using the i-Naturalist app, he noted that, “With minimal survey effort, we have now documented 322 species, from 903 observations.
“Our data provide evidence of a significant number of species at risk. We have seen 62 observations of 14 vulnerable species.” A more thorough inventory is still needed, which would consist of returning through different seasons, and better coverage of the central part of the Fairy Creek valley and watershed.
At-risk species documented during the BioBlitzes include:
– recordings made of little brown bats near Fairy Lake
– many sightings of Western toads and Northern red-legged frogs
– many sightings of Marbled murrelets and Western Screech owls, as well as other bird species such as Northern Goshawk, Olive-sided flycatcher, and Band-tailed pigeon.
– many plant species, including Western Rattlesnakeroot, Coastal Brookfoam, Carolina Bugbane and Stink Currant.
– fungi species including Northern Red Belt
– other lichen species, including Cabbage Lung lichen
Dr. Neilson’s presentation to forest protectors ended with “a huge thank you” to the forest protectors, “for your passion, dedication and tenacity in your essential efforts to protect old-growth forests.”
Dr. Neilson and Dr. Jim Cuthbert wrote the BC government last week, to alert the ministers of environment and forests about the presence of endangered species in the Fairy Creek area (excerpt below).
“Perhaps enlightened public pressure might lead to long-term protection for these threatened species and their entire ecosystems,” Dr. Neilson said.
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent by the scientists July 25th, to Minister Katrine Conroy (Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development), and Minister George Heyman (Environment and Climate Change Strategy):
“In spite of your Ministry’s initial lack of support for our right to scientific freedom of inquiry, we have used the iNaturalist app to gather together much of the existing knowledge of the biodiversity of Fairy Creek. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fairy-creek-research
“Please refer to the link, and you will see evidence that federally-listed species at risk occur in that watershed. Note that these publicly-available data already exist, even without complete survey coverage of the watershed, which was the issue that we hoped to address by seeking access. We are sure that British Columbians will be deeply interested in hearing your plans to protect the habitats of those species, beyond temporary measures in certain parts of the watershed.
“It seems shocking that logging activities are being contemplated for an area where so little is known — and what little we know is indicating an area of great species diversity, including a significant proportion of species at risk. Please take time to explain your plan to protect the habitat of Fairy Creek for listed species found so far, and those yet to be found.
“We appreciate a prompt and positive response to this critical matter.”
– The iNaturalist Fairy Creek Project link:
(many bird sightings are also listed on ebird)
– how BC compares to other provinces in species protection<:
“Failure to Protect: Grading Canada’s Species At Risk Laws” –
Dr. Jim Cuthbert, bioblitz organizer: Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 250 896-6379
Dr. John Neilson, bioblitz organizer: Email – email@example.com Phone: 250 465-1728
Natasha Lavdovsky, citizen scientist: Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 250.646.2333
Dr. Loys Maingon, limnologist: Email — email@example.com Phone: 250-331-0143,
Kathleen Code, Rainforest Flying Squad spokesperson: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*A copy of Dr. Neilson’s slide presentation is available by emailing him at: email@example.com
Featured image from the Fairy Creek Blockade Facebook page.
On August 9th, exactly one year after the first Fairy Creek blockades began, the RCMP went on a rampage that appeared to be a tyrannical temper tantrum. They bulldozed down the kitchens at HQ, destroyed the pedal bikes, stole our medical supplies, fire-fighting equipment and communications devices, slashed car tires, towed away cars and tore down all the other buildings and toilets. The current RCMP operation includes the use of three helicopters, a surveillance van with satellite, about 100 officers from a special tactical team, police dogs, about 70 vehicles, arrest wagons, extraction equipment, gates and gate-builders, as well as team overtime and accommodation for nearly three months. The cost for this overwrought response to peaceful protestors is now undoubtedly in the millions.
*Four RCMP picked up a forest defender and appeared to deliberately drop him on his head. *He could see that the tow truck driver was about to hook up his friend’s car next, and was walking over to talk to him, when he was attacked:
Towed vehicles are being released at a cost of $2500.00. City of Victoria councillor, *Ben Isitt’s take on the written legal decision *on illegal RCMP exclusion zones: “In an important decision published yesterday, BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson has concluded that the RCMP is acting unlawfully by blockading public forestry roads on southern Vancouver Island (so-called ‘exclusion zones’)” This is difficult to justify when a survey by Sierra Club of BC found 92% of British Columbians want old-growth forests protected.
A BioBlitz survey, recently conducted by a team of volunteer scientists, focused on *endangered species near* *Heli Camp*. Evidence was found of at least *seven *endangered species living there. Realizing that further destruction in the area is increasingly likely as the raids on River and HQ continue today, biologist Loys Maingon say, “Professional biological inventories carried out in the Heli Camp area have resulted in a formal complaint to the BC Forest Practices Board, because they show that Teal Jones disregarded BC Timber Sales’ own guidelines, and BC government’s own official commitment under the Species at Risk Act, to protect Old-growth Specklebelly lichen, which is a rare listed endemic species, unique to the West Coast. “Management guidelines in BC show that there should be a minimal 200-metre setback from this species,” he added. “Teal Jones has built roads through this unique population and caused ‘irreparable harm to the environment’. The area is also home to other listed species which were not inventoried prior to the issuance of forestry licenses.”
Dr. John Neilson, a past member of COSEWIC (the national scientific group assessing the status of endangered wildlife in Canada) stated: “The blockade has bought time for citizen scientists to start to do the biological survey work that government and industry was obliged to do, but apparently did not. “Already, many rare and unusual species have been found in the Fairy Creek area, and road construction has already destroyed rare communities. Teal Jones and the Provincial Government have been made aware of these findings. The ball is now squarely in their court to respond with meaningful long-term protection for British Columbia’s biodiversity in the already too-scarce old growth habitat of southern Vancouver Island.”
There were no consequences when Teal Jones began clear-cutting in Caycuse this spring, despite the Sierra Club of BC’s warning that nesting Western screech owls had been found there:
Meanwhile, on Saturday Monday August 14th, 220 Elders marched into HQ and up the mountaina and scolded the RCMP who did not make any arrests. On Monday, August 16th, when Fairy Creek Forest Defenders were not looking, RCMP were caught slashing their drinking water bottles. We have seen repeatedly how this State sanctioned targets Indigenous and People of Color over settler forest defenders and brings home the hard facts of an extractive, destructive, nature-destroying post-colonialism.
Editor’s Note: Celebrate this Earth’s Day with Eden’s Last Chance. We congratulate Joshua on the completion of his film, and hope that it will encourage more people to get involved in the environmental movement. View more of our coverage on Fairy Creek here.
TEENAGER’S RELEASE OF 2023 EARTH DAY FILM CHALLENGES OUR FUTURE
Amazon will be releasing Eden’s Last Chance – One Teenager’s Journey into the Environmental Movement, before Earth Day 2023 on April 18th. Winner of an Impact Docs award, the full length documentary is 19-year-old Joshua Wright’s first film. Known as a champion of British Columbia’s defense of Fairy Creek’s old growth forests, his aim is to mobilize citizens to take immediate action on the ecological crisis.
“If this is the end of the world, then what do we do? That is the question I wanted to answer with this film” says Wright, the young producer, director, second cinematographer, and editor.
In 2018, Wright dropped out of grade nine when he learned of scientists’ dire warnings that the planet had 12 years to address global warming before passing the 1.5C mark. He would be 27 years old when that milestone was reached. So at 14, Wright picked up a camera and dedicated the next three years seeking an answer to his existential question.
Academic studies and white papers became part of his self-schooling curriculum. He followed climate change experts and was determined to find every new energy project that would further add to an already fragile ecological balance. Wright has become an outspoken climate activist, criticized by corporations seeking to hide their impacts.
While filming in Australia, Wright explored the damage coal has done to communities including the $16B Adani Carmichael coal mine, and the coral die off of the Great Barrier Reef. He documented the destruction of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest in the Tongass Rainforest of Southeast Alaska and forest defenders protecting Mattole Valley in California’s Humboldt County. More than 15 leading authors and scientists from Europe, Australia, and the US were interviewed for the film.
“Climate change is only half the story,” says Wright, referring to destructive industries. “We as a society are ignoring the reality that civilization itself is the route of the ecological crisis, and that saving the planet does not mean electric cars, it means a radical transformation in the way we live, and the centering of the more-than-human world our society ignores.”
The bootstrapped crew included Joshua at the helm with his uncle, Andrew Wright as first cinematographer and second editor. Wright’s father, Chris Wright, acted as executive producer, and second cinematographer, as well as managing the group’s travel.
Wright refuses to give into despair, choosing instead to work to motivate others into action.
“Do something—do anything,” he says. “Don’t be a bystander in the death of the living world.”
The trailer for Eden’s Last Chance is posted on edenslastchance.com and the press kit is found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uvsmPNrO3hFcHs7_8bF3DlRqQTswq9jdUVuBYcU7Lbg/edit?usp=sharing
Joshua Wright, Filmmaker
Valerie Elliott, Media Relations
Featured image by Megan ✌🏼 on Unsplash