Protesters maintaining logging road blockade for five months to protect old-growth

A group of protesters trying to protect old-growth forests have been blocking a logging road near Port Renfrew for nearly five months and say they’ll remain as long as the trees are threatened.

Protesters set up a blockade in early August to prevent logging company Teal Jones from building a road into the Fairy Creek headwaters and have maintained a constant presence for more than 140 days.

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They’ve spread to two other locations in the area, at ­Edinburgh Mountain and ­Bugaboo Creek, near Avatar Grove, to prevent Teal Jones from advancing with logging equipment.

Joshua Wright, an environmental activist based in ­Washington’s Olympic Peninsula who is closely connected to the protest group, said they’re playing a “cat-and-mouse” game, blocking the company’s equipment until they move to another location and following workers to set up new blockade wherever they go.

“Essentially, what we’re ­trying to do is shut down any logging or road building into any old-growth forest ­anywhere,” Wright said.

The area is part of Tree Farm Licence 46, which is held by Surrey-based Teal Jones, and home to western red and yellow cedars, hemlocks and Amabilis fir that are hundreds of years old.

The group is demanding the province declare an immediate moratorium on all old-growth logging.

“There is so little growth left that the end to old-growth logging is going to come in the very near future. It’s just a matter of is there going to be anything left?” Wright said.

More than 500 people have participated in the blockades since August, with a core team of about three dozen maintaining a camp at Fairy Creek and the two mobile camps.

An independent review on old-growth forests released publicly in September ­recommended deferring ­development in old forests “where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of ­irreversible biodiversity loss” until a new forest management strategy is implemented.

The Old-Growth Strategic Review found that, despite good intentions, forest management has not lined up with legislated objectives.

“This has not come about because of any one group or decision, but through a pattern of many choices made over ­several decades, within an outdated paradigm,” the review says.

In response to the review, the province said it would ­create a new old-growth strategy that includes deferring old-growth logging in nine areas of the province totalling more than 350,000 hectares and working with Indigenous leaders and organizations on policy development.

But Wright said the government is not moving quickly enough and by the time the province implements a new management strategy, it could be too late.

“There’s only a few years of old-growth logging left on south Island, and only a decade or two left on the north Island and in the rest of B.C,” he said.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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