The last major fight to protect the temperate ancient Old Growth Forests on Vancouver Island started occured in 1991, ending in 1995 with the creation of the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. Many thought this was the start of change finally, but here we sit in 2021 still fighting to defend the sliver of what remains. Many of those original brave and devoted Friends of the Carmanah Walbran have stood again but this time alongside the newly created Rainforest Flying Squad.
This is the year of the 30th anniversary of the Walbran Valley “Road Stops Here Campaign” of relentless road blockades, tree-sits, hunger-strikes and office occupations that were instrumental in preventing road-building throughout the lower Walbran watershed, unceded Pacheedaht territory– and led to the creation of Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park, the last large tract of intact ancient temperate rainforest on south “Vancouver Island”.
As someone who loves these untouched old growth forests, whom wants to see them remain they way they have stood for centuries, I felt the need to share the message of the hard work being done. In blog posts such as Walbran Valley : Hike an Ancient Forest and Ancient Old Growth Forests of Port Renfrew on my website I have tried to share why these places are worth taking a stand for. Well, the logging hasn’t stopped amidst endless promises from government and industry to change.
This is where the story changes, to our present day and the urgency is at the highest level it has ever been. I reached out to a friend and frontline defender to share his words on the start of the very first blockade.
Fight for Old Growth Forests Renews at Fairy Creek Blockade
In early August, 2020, there was no current grassroots direct action movement to protect the last ancient forests on this island. In this vaccuum of grassroots leadership, we watched the social media stream imagery of the daily plunder of these dwindling last stands with helplessness and angst and clicked on the online petition campaigns of engos enjoining us to become part of a movement that offered little other recourse to meaningful action.
We wished the engos with their huge fundraising and organizational capacity would drop their charitbale tax status in favour of mobilizing citizen’s to the frontlines to directly defend the living planet, the 10, 000 evolutionary history embodied in the last 1% of the old-growth temperate rainforests, being rapidly liquidated at a rate of 32 soccer fields per day on this island alone, as we stand by, clicking buttons on the internet.
Finally, on August 9th, twenty-five people met at Lizard Lake and decided we couldn’t stand by anymore and passively wait for the government or engos to deliver protection for the ancient forests. We would drive up the treacherous steep logging roads to where road crews were cresting the ridge into the headwaters of the unlogged Fairy Creek watershed the very next day.
With tents and banners and a barricade of a 10′ diameter wood cut from an ancient Western red cedar felled by industry in the Klanawa Valley, we surrounded the giant claws of an excavator used to scrape through the delicate forest floor to bedrock before blasting and spent the night. At 4:30 am members of a road crew arrived to find a dozen people around a campfire, coffee mugs in hand and smiling faces besides a banner reading No Roads into Fairy Creek and retreated. Two days later they removed their equipment from that mountain and have not returned since.
A new grassroots direct action campaign began at Adia’tsx/Fairy Creek and with the warm and adamant support of a dear elder from the Pacheedaht nation has developed into a movement, with another blockade, closing industrial access to another road entrance into the intact Fairy Creek watershed and surrounding ancient forest, in the 5100 hectare Fairy Creek Rainforest, at the well-known River Camp.
At this location, in the midst of a pandemic, hundreds of volunteers, day-trippers, overnight campers and a dedicated crew of gritty bush workers have built an appropriately-scaled village of land-based resistance around this forest to hold the line and keep people warm and dry in rainforest weather.
They have been supported by a collective of frontliners and behind-the-scenes organizers from several geographic communities using multiple online platforms to communicate and manage supply runs, logistics, media messaging and campaign strategy. This 100% volunteer campaign has been generously supported by a heartening influx of donations to an online fundraising platform.
To date, there has been no court injunctions to have this blockade removed and no arrests have been made. This campaign has always been about protecting all that is left of the ancient temperate rainforest wherever people have the will and capacity to directly defend it. Recent actions putting the brakes on road-building into the last ancient forest habitat in the Bugaboo creek watershed have brought further retreat from industry.
Gratitude to all who have supported and participated in this important work. In a climate and biodiversity crisis that threatens the future of all life on earth, the imperative of protecting these globally-significant temperate rainforests, found very few places on Earth, is a responsibility we all bear. It is a sobering fact that over the past 20 years, BC forests were so heavily logged that net carbon emissions caused by the industry are now twice as large as Alberta’s oil sands. These old trees, some of the planet’s most important carbon sinks, apart from their spiritual beauty as ancient organisms and the habitat they provide, must remain standing! – RainForest Flying Squad
Learn More , Spread the Word and Donate to Protect Ancient Forests on Southern Vancouver Island
- Friends of the Carmanah Walbran
- Ancient Forest Alliance Campaign for Old Growth Protection in BC
- Sierra Club BC – 10 Reasons to save Old Growth Forests
- For The Love of Fair Creek – BC TreeHunter
- A Fairy creek mapping project was created by SFU Geography student and environmental activist, Maddie Smith; Mapping Fairy Creek
- Wilderness Committee – Protecting Old Growth
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