Protests against old-growth logging, fracking, wolf cull mark start of legislature session

An old-growth sit-in. An anti-fracking protest. And a petition against the province’s wolf cull.

The legislature must be back in session.

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While MLAs returned to the legislature building for the fall session Monday, multiple groups held demonstrations outside.

Small groups of people protesting old-growth logging were sitting outside several entrances to the legislature building. They said they had gathered to remind MLAs of the conflict playing out at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew, where hundreds of protesters have been arrested while trying to prevent Surrey-based forestry company Teal Jones from logging old-growth in the area. They demanded that the government take action to prevent further logging of old-growth forests.

As people entered the building through a side entrance, a small group sang quietly. On another side, a giant slab cut from a felled old-growth tree stood on its side at an entrance. Protesters said the slab came from a tree estimated to be 1,200 years old. “Want to breathe? Save the trees,” read a nearby sign.

“The plan is to hold vigil to deliver a message to the provincial government that it is really time for them to deliver on their promises to protect at-risk old-growth forests,” said Bobby Arbess, who has been involved in efforts to stop logging in Fairy Creek since August 2020.

Around the front, people were singing and drumming outside the main entrance, where hundreds of teddy bears cover the steps in honour of Indigenous children who died in government-funded residential schools.

Protesters were not blocking people from entering the building and said they intended to remain peaceful.

On the lawn, a separate group gathered for a demonstration against fracking, organized by the environmental group Dogwood. They called on the province to put an end to subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

“The way the government is handing out subsidies and handouts to oil and gas companies is in direct contradiction to what they say they’re doing on climate. So we’re here today to call on the government to stop funding fracking, to stop pumping public money into funding the climate crisis,” said Dogwood campaigns manager Alexandra Woodsworth.

The province gave $1.3 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies in 2020-2021 and that figure is set to increase to almost $1.8 billion by 2023-2024, said a report by environmental group Stand.earth.

On Monday afternoon, Pacific Wild, a Victoria-based conservation group, planned to deliver a petition with about 500,000 signatures to Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development demanding a stop to the province’s wolf cull.

The cull is intended to protect endangered caribou from predation by wolves, but a 2020 study published in the international journal Biodiversity and Conservation found that killing wolves had no detectable effect on addressing the population decline of mountain caribou in B.C. and Alberta.

The study, by scientists from the University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said population decline is more likely the result of loss of caribou habitat due to logging, snowpack variation and snowmobiling.

“This cull has gone on far too long. One species should not be scapegoated for another. We need to see an end now to this shortsighted, dangerous approach by the provincial government,” Karen McAllister, Pacific Wild’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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