Fairy Creek watershed blockades and protesters are growing in numbers

WatchA group of protesters are growing in numbers at a series of blockades on access roads leading to the Fairy Creek watershed.

A group of protesters are growing in numbers at a series of blockades on access roads leading to the Fairy Creek watershed.

There are at least three roadblocks preventing access for workers from forest company Teal Jones into the watershed and the old-growth trees they have a licence to harvest.

The newest blockade, which sprung up Saturday, is located on Caycuse Main, a major logging road near Cowichan Lake.

Despite a BC Supreme Court injunction, which orders the dismantling of the blockades, being served to protesters this week, they remain defiant — and are digging in for a fight.

“This is a main logging road — was — and massive old-growth trees were being taken out right up until this blockade came and stopped that,” said protester Laura Mitic.

Forestry workers who showed up Sunday morning were turned away.

In 2020, the province granted Teal Jones permits to cut timber within three areas of its tenure of about 595 square kilometres.

In August, members of the group the Rainforest Flying Squad set up the first main blockade, northeast of Port Renfrew, to prevent Teal Jones from accessing its forest timber license.

In a statement, B.C. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said she recognized the right for people to engage in peaceful protest, but said she expected protesters to respect the court’s decision to grant the injunction.

RELATED: B.C. government faces rising criticism for failing to protect old growth forests from logging

“We want to make sure people can appreciate old growth trees for years to come, while supporting a sustainable forest sector for workers and communities,” said Conroy.

“When our government released the old-growth report last September, we took immediate action on four of the recommendations and committed to implementing all 14. Our commitment to this important work has not changed.”

Conroy said the government worked in collaboration with local First Nations to implement protections for old-growth in nine regions at high risk across the province.

“This was an important step in acting on the top two recommendations from the old growth report.  We know there is much more work to do. To get this right, we will follow the advice of the old growth report and fully engage Indigenous leaders, industry, workers, communities, and environmental groups to find the right way forward for old growth forests in B.C.”

Conroy said calls for an immediate moratorium to all old-growth logging would risk “thousands of good family-supporting jobs.”

But protesters, like Ty Cooke, won’t be dissuaded from leaving the watershed.

“There are a lot of people up here, myself included, who are willing to be arrested to stand up for these trees. Not to confront the law, but because this is something that needs to be changed.”

Donations for the fundraising efforts of the blockaders is now surging at more than $205,000.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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