*Featured image source from The Conversation
What started as a peaceful protest has transitioned into a civil disobedience campaign for all of the right reasons – to defend the last of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests.
With images of people chaining themselves to trees and hundreds of arrests over the past few months, the Fairy Creek Blockade is making noise. The kind of noise that receives international attention and embarrasses a government. The type of noise that begins to draw awareness to something very wrong.
Below is a brief rundown of what the Fairy Creek Blockade is, who the players are and why it matters.
Where is Fairy Creek?
Fairy Creek is one of the last unlogged old-growth stands on Southern Vancouver Island, near Port Renfrew. Among towering Douglas firs, Sitka spruce and Hemlocks, massive giant Red and Yellow cedar tree trunks shoot upward towards the sky with thick branches that filter sunlight, creating a welcome canopy of shade for plants and animals below. Roots protrude wildly at the base and expand deep under the soil, generating an interconnected web of lush life on the surface. Life that has been thriving for hundreds if not thousands of years. Ferns and moss grown on everything. It is truly a magical place.
What is the Fairy Creek Blockade?
The Fairy Creek Blockade is a movement. It is an organized demonstration of protestors working together as the last line of defense for the 2.7% remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island.
The blockades are essentially areas where groups of people come, camp and peacefully demonstrate together in numbers to prevent further road construction into the unprotected, ancient forest. Camps are set up at different potential entrance points to halt road construction. This action is essential in halting logging, as some of the biggest, oldest trees dwell in remote pockets of temperate rainforest. The blockades were successful in stopping this construction through the winter.
Who is involved?
The Rainforest Flying Squad
The Rainforest Flying Squad is a non-violent, direct-action grassroots organization responsible for organizing the blockades. They have successfully recruited volunteers from all walks of life in British Columbia, many of whom have quit their jobs and are willing to be arrested for a peaceful demonstration.
Pacheedaht First Nations
It is essential to recognize that this land is on Pacheedaht First Nations territory. Some of the Pacheedaht have joined and support the protests. However, some (like Chief Jeff Jones) believe it is up to the First Nations to decide the future of the resources on their land.
*For further reading on this controversy, check out The Narwhal journalist Sarah Cox’s interview with Chief Jones here.
The Teal-Jones Group is a privately owned logging company based in Surrey, BC. They are the company responsible for logging this particular area of old-growth rainforest. Sadly, they are one of many logging companies that rely on old-growth forests for their products.
The B.C. Government
The current destruction and future of B.C.’s ancient forests per old-growth logging lie heavily in the hands of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Premier John Horgan. While B.C. has relied heavily on the logging industry for decades, they are on the brink of losing one of their most valuable resources without any viable protection plans in place.
Last fall John Horgan pledged to put in measurements to protect the remaining old-growth forest. He accepted a lengthy proposal created by two foresters outlining how to protect the diminishing coastal forests and old-growth interior stands and agreed to recommendations including one that required immediate deferral of old-growth logging in areas of irreversible biodiversity loss.
Nearly a year later, the only thing taking place is more old-growth logging.
*Side note: For a taste of how the B.C. forest advocates feel about these outright lies, check out John Horgan’s Instagram page and read the comments on almost any of his posts.
When did this start?
The first blockade began in August 2020 after satellite imagery captured road construction on the outskirts of Fairy Creek.
In February 2021, after six months of peaceful protesting, the Teal-Jones logging company officially requested an injunction against the protesters.
In April, the B.C. Supreme Court passed the injunction to allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to arrest protesters who interfere with the logging in Fairy Creek.
However, the presence and actions of the RCMP did not stop forest defenders. Instead of backing down, they leveled up. Willing to defend the forests at all costs regardless of arrests, they initiated tactics to defer the old-growth logging. Some have chained themselves to PVC pipes cemented into the ground, others to massive stumps, both creating a human roadblock. A few protesters have even attached themselves to trees to prevent them from being cut down.
“Blockades spread across access points to the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas, and the number of people camping out in the forest grew exponentially. Dozens of protestors keep continuous watch over the blockades, but the crowd has swelled up to an estimated 2,000 people over the weekends,” – Vogue
The Government Pretends to Make a Move
On June 9, after protests and arrests made international news, John Horgan announced to defer old-growth logging in Fairy Creek for two years. However, the nearby areas surrounding Fairy Creek remain unprotected, and logging continues daily.
“The deferral is really more of a distraction than a protection,” says Joshua Wright, Rainforest Flying Squad spokesperson.
“The two-year timeline means hundreds of hectares of old-growth forest could disappear before the panel is able to develop a strategy for old-growth management. With numerous studies already pointing towards protection as the optimal solution, RFS continues to stand as the last line of defense for these rare old trees.” – The Last Stand
Current Events: The Blockade Continues
With over 400 arrests made since this past spring, the forest defenders are still standing and calling more to action.
On July 18, the RFS made a post acknowledging they do not have the numbers to establish a heavy presence in the areas currently under attack. These areas include Bugaboo Creek, Eden South, Upper Caycuse, Edinburg Mountain and Camper Creek, and they are asking for help. (insert pics of some of these areas)
Why is old-growth so valuable?
To better understand what is going on with the Fairy Creek Blockade, we must understand the demand for old-growth trees over younger, more sustainably managed forests. Older trees offer aesthetically pleasing ‘clear’ wood. They are also sturdier for lumber (can bear more weight), and the pulp fibers can be made into things like super soft toilet paper.
What is the risk of losing it?
It will take hundreds of years to restore the type of biodiversity that currently thrives in ancient forests. Some trees have been thriving above and below the ground’s surface for hundreds of years, others for thousands. Coastal temperate rainforests are especially unique as they have more living mass than any other type of forest.
On a global scale, clear-cutting old-growth releases large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to things like climate change and natural disasters.
Old-growth forests also provide homes for wild animals, including endangered species like southern mountain caribou, marbled murrelet birds and northern goshawks.
Also, ancient forests are freaking awesome to visit.
How to help
- Share and sign this petition to get companies to boycott the Teal-Jones Group.
- Follow and spread the word:
Rainforest Flying Squad & Fairy Creek Blockade
- Join the movement, donate or keep yourself informed here: The Last Stand
- Please read some of our other articles about small daily buying decisions you can make to help keep old growth out of our products, clothing, packaging, and toilet paper.
- If you are updating your home or building, please opt for alternative materials to wood. Western Red Cedar is exceptionally popular and a massive export among the old-growth forests. Same for Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce.