BC Greens want Ancient Forest Protection

Tensions rise as court injunction sides with Teal Jones Group over protestors, who continue to hold a blockade against logging of the Fairy Creek area.

Premier John Horgan promised on the campaign trail to uphold the findings of an independent old-growth review panel, consisting of forestry experts, who conducted research into the Fairy Creek area. The BC green leader, Sonia Furstenau, stated in a previous interview with Global Green News that the panel found a need “to consider biodiversity, ecosystem health, water protection, other values including tourism and recreation.” However, Horgan’s New Democratic Party (NDP) government is now siding with the Teal Jones group and their logging interests. Furstenau believes that the current administration only views the forests for their economic value.

While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have not been called in as yet to enforce the injunction, protestors are prepared for such an eventuality and intend to hold the blockade. A profane and violent altercations between indigenous activists and logging workers at the site was captured on on cell phone video footage.  Third party investigators were hired by the company and are looking into the matter.

“We must hold each of the 57 NDP MLAs to account on these promises…and to do that, they need to feel the pressure from the public”

Sonia Furstenau in a previous interview with Global Green News on Old Growth protection.

The importance of old growth

Old growth forests are large patches of trees that have existed for many years, some growing since before the time of European colonization. While these trees may be aesthetically pleasing with their large trunks and canopies, they also have very important ecological functions. These ancient trees have become the cornerstone of many ecosystems providing habitats for many smaller plants and animals, as well as ecosystem services such as clean air and filtered water.

Sonia Furstenau, said to Global Green News in a past interview, “We are getting to the point in BC where we have very few of these intact old-growth forests left. They represent a wide myriad of important values that we should be very urgently working to protect.”

The claim that by replanting a new tree in place of old growth trees provides the same ecological functions and services is false. New forests take years to reach the scale and efficiency that these old growth forests have provided for many generations. It takes hundreds of years for these trees to reach the size and level of importance to the surrounding ecological life. Therefore, their removal creates a sudden void in the ecosystem that can take hundreds of years to fill. This can be quite damaging to the plants and animals that depend on such trees and could potentially lead to an ecosystem collapse. While sources vary in their estimate of the percentage of old growth forests remaining in British Columbia, experts agree that the numbers are overestimated by the government.

“An old-growth forest is a biodiverse ecosystem that has, over hundreds or even thousands of years, come to be what it is.”

Sonia Furstenau in a previous interview with Global Green News on Old Growth protection.

Calls to action

While blockades are still ongoing in direct opposition to the injunction, an appeal has been filled to ensure proper dialogue continues. However, Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief, Frank Queesto Jones and Chief Councilor, Jeff Jones have made statements calling for any third-party, non-indigenous groups to not protest on their behalf. They are determined to face this opposition on their own terms and are trying to avoid altercations like the violent altercation seen recently between protesters and lumber workers.

BC leader, Sonia Furstenau, feels that this matter should be dealt with by Premier John Horgan. She urged the NDP to mediate with the Pacheedaht First Nation and Teal Jones Group to ensure a fair and just agreement is made with the protection of the old-growth forests in mind.

“Pacheedaht needs to be left in peace to engage in our community-lead stewardship planning process so that we can determine our own way forward as a strong and independent Nation.”

Pacheedaht hereditary chief Frank Queesto Jones and chief councilor Jeff Jones in a publicly released letter

Historical conflicts

The RCMP, who have historically had clashes with First Nations, have not been called to uphold the injunction to stop the blockades as of yet. However, they are expected to be called in eventually, and protestors are ready for such an eventuality. This not the first time that clashes have occurred between First Nations and industries over natural resources in modern times.

In 1983, clashes and arrests occurred in Clayoquot Sound, BC over logging of that area as well. In 1990, during the ‘Oka crises’, there were quite violent altercations and a blockade in Kanesatake, Quebec over the right for companies to bulldoze trees for a golf course on traditional Mohawk land. However, hopefully in this matter at Fairy Creek, consultations with First Nations will lead to a resolution of the dispute.

Mark Harracksingh

Mark is a final year undergraduate student at Concordia University in a specialization in environmental science. He was born and raised in Trinidad. He moved to Montreal to pursue a higher education and career in the environmental field. He has a strong interest in global politics and social justice.

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