An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. (Submitted)

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. (Submitted)

Protesters defy court order, stage Easter weekend logging blockades near Cowichan Lake

Group says members willing to risk arrest to save old growth forest near Caycuse, Fairy Creek

Protesters erected illegal blockades over the Easter weekend that cut off logging access to six approved cut-blocks in the Caycuse Valley, just days after a court ruling against them.

Court proceedings that wrapped up on April 1 granted Teal Jones an injunction against blockades in Tree Farm License 46, but protesters said they are willing to risk arrest to save old growth forest. The Caycuse Valley and Fairy Creek watershed, which has also been subject to blockades recently, are both covered by the same timber licence.

“Enough is enough,” Will O’Connell, a member of the Rainforest Flying Squad, said in a press release. “The people need to take a stand for these forests because the government clearly won’t.”

According to Teal Jones, large sections of the tree farm licence were removed nearly 30 years ago and designated as parkland, while Caycuse and Fairy Creek were identified as appropriate for harvesting.

“The timber in these areas is vital to sustaining Teal Jones’s operations, supporting hundreds of jobs and the creation of wood products we all rely on every day,” the company stated. “The judge was clear in his decision that blockades impeding our access to the area are illegal. We are not in a position to get into next steps at this time, other than to say it is time for our work to get underway.”

READ MORE: Protesters rally in Duncan against logging at Fairy Creek

READ MORE: Fairy Creek blockades must go, B.C. Supreme Court rules

The provincial NDP government is not living up to a commitment it made to prioritize ecosystems and biodiversity in the management of old growth forests, the RFS stated.

“Instead they are continuing to grant logging approvals and auction off cut-blocks in some of the province’s rarest ancient forests like those in the Caycuse,” said RFS member Joshua Wright. “These ancient, coastal rainforest trees, growing in fertile valley bottoms, are among the biggest on the planet. It’s a huge betrayal.”

Another RFS member, Carole Tootill, called the situation “short-sighted.”

“We are squandering these huge trees, during a time when the world desperately needs their incredible efficiency at sequestering carbon. Not only that, but these areas filled with monumental, awe-inspiring trees could also have been magnets for eco-tourism. Instead of only providing a few jobs this year, to cut them down, move and process them, they could have been the basis for sustainable eco-tourism jobs and businesses that would be there year after year, into the future.”

The provincial government promised last September to implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned about the future of old growth forests, but activists are disappointed with the speed at which that is happening.

“It’s high time they keep their promise,” said O’Connell.

Provincial Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations Katrine Conroy said the government took immediate action on four of the recommendations last September, and committed to implementing the other 10.

“Our commitment to this important work has not changed,” Conroy said. “In September, we worked collaboratively with First Nations on a government-to-government basis and protected old growth in nine different areas that were at high-risk across B.C. This was an important step in acting on the top two recommendations from the old growth report.

“We know there is much more work to do. To get this right, we will follow the advice of the old growth report and fully engage Indigenous leaders, industry, workers, communities, and environmental groups to find the right way forward for old growth forests in B.C.

An immediate moratorium would risk thousands of jobs, Conroy noted. She also acknowledged that making no changes to current logging practices would damage key ecosystems.

“There is a better way for B.C. to manage old growth forests and our government will work collaboratively with all our partners to do this,” Conroy vowed.

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