The Return Of The War in the Woods: A Call to Action

When talk turns to the logging of ancient forests, unfortunately, time has proven that the more things change, the more they remain the same. 28 years ago, a heated battle to preserve Clayoquot Sound began on Vancouver Island. It was called, most appropriately, The War in the Woods. In 1993, concerned citizens joined forces to form a series of blockades to protest the clear cutting of old growth forests in Clayoquot Sound. This was to culminate in a movement that saw over 900 people arrested, and is acknowledged today as the largest act of civil disobedience in the history of British Columbia. In that fateful year, an estimated 11,000 thousand individuals arrived to take part in those protests.

People from all walks of life united, gaining the support of prominent members of the Tofino community, the indigenous leaders of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. Media from all over the continent attended, and on every single day for months on end, defenders blockaded logging roads to prevent loggers and their equipment form reaching the forests. You see, Mike Harcourt’s BCNDP government, which had actively campaigned for the preservation of British Columbia’s old growth forests, had reverted to that age old policy of talking and logging. They were not intending to fulfill their promises. What they did not anticipate was the passion of the people, and a good portion of Clayoquot Sound was preserved, in the end!

How much have things changed since then? Read the rest of this story and decide for yourself!

Fast forward to the year 2021, and those days have arrived once again. 2020 was a year of unprecedented stress, not only in Canada, but worldwide, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, and British Columbia once again sees an NDP government in power. Incumbent premier John Horgan even called an election and was re elected during the pandemic. In his campaign he pledged to begin implementing the conclusions of the Old Growth Forest Review panel which he had commissioned. Just as Mike Harcourt had once vowed to protect the old growth forests of our province, so too did Horgan. It appears that John has made the same fateful decision Mike once did, which is to betray his campaign promise to the people.

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Just as it happened in 1993, people have banded together today to save the ancient trees. Now is the time, yet again, in 2021!

Nearly seven months ago, a 17-year-old named Joshua Wright literally launched the Fairy Creek Blockade from his bedroom on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Wright had grown up visiting the cedar groves of southern Vancouver Island as a child, and, during the first week of August, was alarmed to see Teal-Jones’ new road-building plans on the government GIS site iMapBC. Soon after, he reached out to Nanaimo resident Carole Tootill, and within a week a roadblock was in place.  From that modest beginning grew a strongly committed group of people, who call themselves the Rainforest Flying Squad. They had decided they had seen enough, and that it was time to remind Premier Horgan of his obligations. More significantly,  all were convinced that the only way to get results was to take a leadership role through direct action. Writing letters wasn’t going to be enough, there had to be boots on the ground to save the trees!

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 As I detailed in my previous story, For the Love of Fairy Creek , their plan  worked well, preventing logging operations access to their targeted cut blocks. Efforts were also made to reach out to indigenous voices, as Fairy Creek falls within the traditional territories of the Pacheedaht First Nation. Respected elder Bill Jones has joined them in support of the cause and has become a strong voice for the forests. Meanwhile, they hurriedly built camps in a number of other locations threatened by logging.  This has been a staggering amount of work,  performed entirely by volunteers. The only funding has come from the donations of everyday citizens who support their cause (see the image below for an address if you would like to donate). 

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Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones has been consistent in his support of the blockades. He believes that we must see the value in preserving places like Fairy Creek

 

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Ancient forests like these can never be replaced. It takes many centuries for them to mature, not just decades!

Considering the fact that there are now seven different blockade locations, the Rainforest Flying Squad has been working overtime to keep these efforts going, but that is no deterrent! So who is it, you might ask, are they fighting? Their opponent, up to this point in time, is just one company, and that is Teal Jones.

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Teal Jones is the company doing all the old growth logging in TFL 46, currently the province’s most contentious timber license. It includes potential cutblocks in Fairy Creek, Eden Grove and Edinburgh Mountain, as well as more in the vicinity of the incredible Walbran Valley, to name but a few. What do these areas have in common? They contain some of the last prime stands of ancient forest that ought to be preserved in their entirety, not destroyed. Logging companies have already harvested 97.3% of forests like these on Vancouver Island, leaving a mere 2.7% remaining. The clock is ticking on these treasured places, whose biodiversity and ability to sequester carbon is unparalleled on this planet. The benefits of thousand year forests to our environment cannot simply be replaced by the silviculture of tree farms.

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If you need more information on endangered forests in British Columbia, please visit the websites of the Ancient Forest Alliance, Wilderness Committee , and the Sierra Club of BC . They are dedicated organizations whose attention to detail in documenting logging activities in our forests has been invaluable, but remember, it is everyday citizens who must stand for the trees if they are to be saved.

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Will this be the fate of our ancient forests? The BCNDP and Teal Jones need to be stopped!

Teal Jones, for their part, cares little about preservation. Recently they decided they were no longer even interested in processing second growth timber and now intend to focus almost exclusively on old growth harvest. Why should a single private company hold these vital interests in their hands, when the forests mean nothing but profit to them?

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Map of Tree Farm License 46, owned by Teal Jones. The map shows the blockade areas in red and was served in a recent injunction to the defenders of the forest.

Most British Columbians want to save what remains of our ancient trees,  but the NDP government is ignoring those wishes. Almost every imaginable effort has been made to negotiate a solution to this problem, but to no avail. Previous incarnations of BC Liberal  and NDP governments have been equally unhelpful. All they do is talk and log, talk and log, talk and log… What needs to happen is an immediate moratorium on logging prime stands of ancient forest and the commencement of real work toward proper solutions. 

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Premier Horgan seen here with former Forests Minister Doug Donaldson. The new Minister for Forests is Katrine Conroy. Join the cause, email them, call them, and demand action. The sign here says they are working for you, after all!

But that is not what Teal Jones intends to do. They have now served a notice of injunction to the Rainforest Flying Squad. If successful, this injunction would permit them to call upon the RCMP to remove the blockades and arrest people, with force, if necessary. This is reprehensible!

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The suit names Bobby Arbess, who has taken a leadership role and become an exemplary spokesman for the Rainforest Flying Squad

Time is of the essence! We need to assemble in massive crowds, just the way folks did in 1993. Nothing speaks more loudly than a call to action, because there is no second chance for these forests. Once they are gone, they are gone forever! I implore each and every individual to take an active and vibrant interest in saving these trees. Write and e-mail the politicians, attend a live protest, contribute what you can to the cause, and let’s build a movement that cannot be ignored. Contact anyone in the public eye that you think can help. The more publicity raised, the better the chances of success! 

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The words of Bobby Arbess, a spokesman and organizer for the Rainforest Flying Squad, speak clearly:

“After six uninterrupted months of blockades at Fairy Creek and nearby ancient forest frontlines on Pacheedaht territory, in the heart of John Horgan’s own electoral riding, logging company Teal Cedar Ltd. has served a notice of application for an injunction hearing in  BC Supreme Court, March 4th on Eden and River camps.

A successful application will result in a court order that wll be used to break the blockades, cut down these last stands of ancient forest and subject forest defenders to arrest for contempt of court. 

There is anticipation of a protracted civil disobedience struggle to defend these critical ancient forest carbon sinks and to put the brakes on the catastrophic loss of old-growth temperate rainforests, being logged at a rate of 34 soccer fields on the island per day. 

It is incumbent on government to deliver on their promises to protect the last stands of ancient forest, implement the recommendations of their own ground-breaking report and ensure a just transition strategy for workers and First Nations communities that depend on old-growth logging for jobs and revenues.

The law should not be used as an instrument of continued ecosystem destruction in a climate and biodiversity crisis! We need provincial government legislation to protect the last less-than 2% of what is left of these globally significant rainforests, once and for all, not more arrests of conscientous citizens standing up to protect them!

Please reach out, this campaign needs:

*People prepared to take bold action in a Last Stand for the Ancient forests campaign

* Artists who can contribute their skills making big , bold, beautiful banners, masks, puppets and costumes!

* People trained as legal observers 

*People trained in de-escalation

* Videographers

* People prepared to come to the frontlines in a wide variety of 100% non-arrestable roles to witness and protest the on-going destruction of these irreplaceable, globally significant, carbon-storing ecosystems

Please message rain4estflyingsquad@gmail.com to get involved in this important last stand for the ancient forests! and to receive legal information on the risks and implications of being arrested for contempt of court.”

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We’re going to need participation like this to win the battle today! Join the cause, and make yourself heard, there is no second chance for these forests!

*********AUTHOR’S NOTE*********

 

“If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear?
Anybody hear the forest fall?”
 
The words of Bruce Cockburn ring as loudly and clearly today as they did when he wrote this song so many years ago. These lands do not belong only to those who would devastate them, but to all. We must save them for the planet, and for future generations!
 

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