The Fairy Creek Blockade: Examining the costs between Nature and human existence
Updated: 5 days ago
Recently on April 1st, the BC Supreme court granted an injunction against the Fairy Creek blockades that had been set up long ago in the month of August 2020 (1). The blockades are set up along the logging roads in unceded Pacheedaht territory, around Port Renfrew where the old-growth forests are located (1). The movement started as a way to intercept old growth logging in the northern headwaters of Fairy Creek, and resulting in the expansion of eight different blockades set up to prevent Teal Jones logging Group to access the premises (1). The Fairy Creek Valley is the last unlogged valley in southern Vancouver, and while the middle of the valley is reserved as an Old Growth Management Area and Wildlife Habitat, the headwaters and sections of the lower valley is vulnerable to logging (2).
Photo: Jimmy Thomson / Capital Daily: https://www.capitaldaily.ca/news/fairy-creek-blockade-explained
The significance of Old-Growth Forests
Forests play a pivotal role in mitigating climate change--from sequestering carbon to housing many species in the ecosystems. Large old-growth trees store carbon in live woody tissues, acting as “carbon sinks” (3,4). The rate of carbon capture increases as the tree increases in size but are often released back into the atmosphere as soon as trees are deforested (5). Apart from that, old-growth trees help in preventing floods and act as a protector and filter for watersheds (4). They are also resilient to wildfires and serve as a buffer to communities when there is a wildfire threat, but recent policies permitting the removal of the trees will largely leave forest-based communities vulnerable (6).
The provincial government claims that BC is home to many old-growth trees...
However, an independent study-- B.C.’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, claims that ecologists found only 2.7% of the trees are actually old, as opposed to provincial claims stating at 23%, roughly 13 million hectares (3). The research reveals most of the areas the government considers “old-growth” are in fact incapable of supporting big trees that provide shelter for species, store high amounts of carbon and make forests resilient to wildfires and floods (3); and concluded that there are approximately 35,000 hectares of forest with large old-growth trees that remain in B.C (3).
Rachel Holt, one of the authors of this study remarked “We’re talking a tiny fraction of a fraction. We’ve basically logged it all” (3).
While old-growth forests are crucial in maintaining biodiversity and sequestering carbon, it also largely contributes to BC’s timber industry. Within the 2018-2019 fiscal year, BC Timber Sales produced $221 million net revenue in spite of facing financial losses to forest fires (3). As a publicly funded agency, they are allowed to log thousand more hectares in Vancouver Island in the coming years (7). To offer some perspective--Sierra Club BC claims that old growth is cut down “at the rate of more than 500 soccer fields per day” (3).
Jim Pojar, who used to work for the province as a seasonal ecologist says that new forests are unlikely to grow due to impacts of climate change; and that they are “irreplaceable and essentially non-renewable resources” (3). He confirms that provincial data does not truly reflect the current remaining state of BC’s old-growth trees and explains the result is largely because of industry deregulation under the Liberal provincial government between 2001 and 2011 (3). Under the current NDP leadership, no new substantive measures are in motion and the administration left things unchanged as a ‘desperate way to keep people working’, says Pojar (3).
Activists and experts are urging an immediate moratorium on logging while forestry companies and the government pursue logging as a way to protect jobs in an industry that has suffered major economic losses (8). As they find themselves in crossroads between short and long term benefits, tension rises within blockaders who call themselves the Rainforest Flying Squad, refusing to move the blockades from the premises (9).
A logger, Trevor Simpson told the Guardian that what they are doing is illegal, and that he has been a faller contractor for 29 years--”this is my livelihood”, he says (8).
Teal Jones logging company says the plans for logging Fairy Creek is misunderstood as they only plan to cut a small portion of the area at the head of the watershed, and pursue the process with care (9).
BC’s strategies into action?
In September, the government released a report, what is known as “A New Future for Old Forests” -- a strategic report led by two foresters Al Gorley and Garry Merkel, on how to conserve and manage old growth trees (8). In this report, the authors cited 14 recommendations in response to risks such as “high biodiversity loss” and “widespread lack of confidence in the managing systems of forests”--all of which the government accepted (8). These recommendations are an updated version to the previous old-growth management strategy that was written more than three decades ago, but were never fully implemented (8). Fast forward to now, critics claim that after more than six months since the release of the new recommendations, deforestation remains to be a faster process than governmental process in conservation (8).
BC Minister for Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Katrine Conroy, responds in an email to APTN news that “we took immediate action on four of the recommendations and committed to implementing all 14. Our commitment to this important work has not changed” while emphasizing the need to support a sustainable forest sector and its workers (10).
Blockaders claim they have nothing against loggers--if anything, their grievance is with the government, and their remarkable ineptitude in conservation plans (8). Shoshanah Waxman, one of the blockaders claims, “it says right there in the strategic review that if they had only followed their own plans 30 years ago we wouldn’t be in this mess” (8).
Photo: Jesse Winter / The Narwhal: https://thenarwhal.ca/fairy-creek-blockade-bc-old-growth-forest-policy/
Polarization within the movement
As the Rainflyer Squads adamantly protest logging on Fairy Creek, recent news reveals hereditary chief Frank Queesto Jones and chief councillor Jeff Jones of Pacheedaht Territory, strongly opposes the blockade (11).
The Pacheedaht First Nations has a band council under the Indian Act, and the three members in the council are: Chief councillor Jeff Jones, councillor Tracy Charlie, and councillor Roxy-Merle Jones; and are currently negotiating a treaty with BC and Ditidaht First Nations (12).
The Indian Act is a federal law enacted in the year of 1867 that holds authority in all aspects of Indigenous communities--ranging from political authority in the form of band councils to controlling over their rights to practice their own traditions and practices (13). While some provisions of the act were designed to protect Indigenous communities, it is vastly an extension of colonial legacy and impingement (14). According to Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, who is the co founder of Native American Journalists Association:
“The band councils are not sovereign, do not abide by ancestral law, have no definitive connection with traditional culture and govern nothing outside of their respective reserves. If they do have police services the laws that are imposed and enforced come from federal regulations and provincial statutes” (15).
The Pacheedaht council shared an agreement with the BC government about sharing revenues from logging back in 2017, which inhibits Pacheedaht First Nations to fully speak out against the logging industry (12). The agreement clearly states they cannot “support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities” (12). The council benefited from the logging industry, including old-growth logging--an article published by Ha-Shilth-Sa, Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council newspaper claims that Pacheedaht harvests roughly 145, 000 cubic meters per year through secured tenures (12). Chief Jones told Ha-Shilth-Sa, “we just watched logging trucks go by out of our territory” but “now we’ve got tenures in our traditional territory with revenue coming back.” Revenues have helped finance past debts, campground with Parks Canada and a lodge for tourists (12).
Both chief councillor Jeff Jones, and hereditary chief Frank Queesto Jones said in their statement that “the Pacheedaht do not support “unsolicited involvement or interference by others” in their territory, “including third-party activism” (11). They said that it is up to the nation to decide solutions and that they are currently in the process of creating a resource stewardship plan to guide forestry activities. All operations are suspended for the time being (11).
This has given the provincial government political leverage on this issue to fight back the protestors (16). Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, accused protestors for not respecting Indigenous rights, and by continuing the blockade, they are not only ‘disregarding the requests of the elected, but hereditary leadership as well’ (16).
Taken from Jesse Winter / The Narwhal: https://thenarwhal.ca/fairy-creek-blockade-bc-old-growth-forest-policy/
On the other hand...
Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones has asked everyone to come to support the old-growth trees and the valley that has been part of his childhood (17). On April 13th, he released a statement asking for “people to continue to stand with [him] to protect forests from destruction and colonialism”; and that allies are needed to “stop old growth logging in [his] home territory, and for the future generations to come” (18). In his statement, he also took the moment to highlight that chief Frank Jones ‘claiming himself as hereditary chief is false’ and the Western/colonial society has no place in deciding ‘who or what is hereditary or non-colonial governance’. To learn more, read the full statement here (18).
Elder Bill Jones goes on to clarify that the letter released by chief councillor Jeff Jones and hereditary chief Frank Queesto Jones, backed up by the provincial government is a precipice of intending ‘to politically and financially profit off the “divide-and conquer” methods of colonialism’ (18); and that the letter was issued without calling a meeting to discuss with community members first (19).
The blockade also received strong support from the Union of British Columbia Chiefs (UBCIC) (17). Their declaration calls out the provincial government to implement on all 14 recommendations of their Old Growth Strategic Review report, and to support First Nations to cut loose from economic dependency on the forest industry, especially old-growth trees (17). The Rainforest Flying Squad also demanded that the government offer other economic alternatives rather than First Nations relying on logging that affects the last standing old-growth trees. They refer to the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest agreement as an example of strong conservation financing to prove that “solutions exist where First Nations can make more money long term from ancient forests while leaving them standing,” (17).
The federal government climate report of 2019 claims that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world (20). Given that old growth forests are crucial to carbon sequestration, and offer a strong solution in alleviating climate change, it is important that the government reconsiders its course of action, while affirmatively granting spaces to Indigenous leadership.
For more information, head over to the Fairy Creek blockade page on Facebook or at https://laststandforforests.com/.
How can you support?
Supporting, and joining in solidarity with Indigenous communities to gain sovereignty over their own ancestral lands (4)
Sign petitions (Sign the petition demanding a moratorium on logging BC’s remaining ancient trees , Petition to Protect BC’s Endangered Old-Growth Forests and Forestry Jobs , Petition to protect BC’s old-growth rainforests! , Stop logging in BCs old growth rainforests (4)
Donate directly to Fairy Creek at https://www.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade (4)
Phone calls and emails to the premier and MLAs (Premier John Horgan 1-250-387-1715, Minister of Forestry Katrine Conroy 1-250-387-6240) (4)
Engage in peaceful protest. Please read the handbook written by the Rainflyer Squad before joining. (4)
Use TikTok, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, and other platforms to share the petitions, photos, and info that inspires others to join the movement to save old growth #OldGrowthBlockade #SaveFairyCreek #WorthMoreStanding #LandBack (4)
Talk to your municipal government to discuss solutions and push for a moratorium (4)
For BC Residents--if all fails, citizens can petition to remove MLAs from office. BC is the only province that can hold their MLAs accountable for lofty promises. For more information, head over to: https://elections.bc.ca/recall-initiative/recall/ (4)
My name is Aarisha Elvi Haider and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am happy to share my positionality as I see this as an opportunity not only to reflect on my roots but also to ground myself before I begin any work that is of profound spiritual significance to me. I am lucky to wake up everyday to live, play and work on the unceded territories of Kwantlen, sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Stz'uminus, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) peoples. Born and raised in Bangladesh up until the year of 2010, my family and I were humbly invited to be a guest in what is known as so-called Canada. It has been exactly 10 years enjoying these beautiful lands and each time I reflect my presence and the space I hold as a first generation immigrant, I cannot help but feel an insurmountable amount of gratitude for how these wonderful lands and communities have treated me. This pushes me to explore in becoming a better ally, better ancestor and a community member. As an immigrant on unceded territories, I have come to notice how our society is deeply fragmented regardless of its multicultural presence and with that, I find myself feeling a deep urgency to bridge this distance amongst us and stand in strong solidarity with our Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities (BIPOC). My sense of drive in community mobilization is primarily due to the shift in privilege that I have experienced the moment I stepped foot in these territories. As a Bangladeshi Muslim woman and with respect to safety, I could not dream of exercising my autonomy in public spaces and therefore, was very limited to the confines of my settlement. However, my first bus ride in Canada gave me a sense of freedom that later materialized into a realization of how gendered and hierarchized power relations are manifested in regards to spatial forms in Bangladesh. Not only that, but my accessibility to clean water, air and food is also highly incontrovertible. From boiling water everyday to enjoying fresh tap water is a gift, and I give thanks to Nature for enjoying such a luxury. Yet I notice Indigenous communities that are void of the same resource. This is an example of the essence of colonialism that still thrives deeply in the form of systemic oppression in “Canada”. With that, I am cognizant of the privilege I experience is because of my parent’s hardship to provide their children with the best quality of life they can afford; I recognize that my privilege to a clean and healthy environment is due to the hardships of many BIPOC communities who work and strive for sustaining good life for our communities at the expense of theirs and lastly, I solemnly recognize that social, economic and racial injustices still continues to exist within our BIPOC neighbours. My main intention as a researcher is to make information accessible, to raise awareness that challenge and inspire readers towards mobilizing and more importantly, to recognize that allyship and participation needs attention, continuous education and strong solidarity. My shift in privilege only grants me this perspective as a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman which is relational to my experiences only, and naturally the content I create by no means are intended to speak on behalf of Black, Indigenous nor communities of colour. The purpose of this work is to bring additional grounding, expanding our consciousness and moving forward as a collective. The hope is rooted within strong connections, kindness, story-telling and intercultural dialogue--all of which shakes the establishment.
1. The Fairy Creek blockade, explained from the ground - Capital Daily [Internet]. The Capital. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://capnews.ca/news/fairy-creek-blockade-explained
2. Fairy Creek Blockade [Internet]. Watershed Sentinel. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://watershedsentinel.ca/articles/fairy-creek-blockade/
3. Narwhal T. B.C. old-growth data ‘misleading’ public on remaining ancient forest: independent report [Internet]. The Narwhal. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://thenarwhal.ca/b-c-old-growth-data-misleading-public-ancient-forest-independent-report/
4. Saving Fairy Creek and Why Ancient Forests are Worth More Standing [Internet]. Greenpeace Canada. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/story/47068/saving-fairy-creek-and-why-ancient-forests-are-worth-more-standing/
5. Luyssaert S, Schulze E-D, Börner A, Knohl A, Hessenmöller D, Law BE, et al. Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks. Nature. 2008 Sep;455(7210):213–5.
6. Narwhal T. Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change [Internet]. The Narwhal. [cited 2021 Apr 19]. Available from: https://thenarwhal.ca/fires-and-flooding-how-b-c-s-forest-policies-collide-with-climate-change/
7. Narwhal T. Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change [Internet]. The Narwhal. [cited 2021 Apr 19]. Available from: https://thenarwhal.ca/fires-and-flooding-how-b-c-s-forest-policies-collide-with-climate-change/
8. Narwhal T. Echoes of B.C.’s War in the Woods as Fairy Creek blockade builds on Vancouver Island [Internet]. The Narwhal. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://thenarwhal.ca/fairy-creek-blockade-bc-old-growth-forest-tensions/
9. Narwhal T. As Fairy Creek blockaders brace for arrests, B.C.’s failure to enact old-growth protections draws fire [Internet]. The Narwhal. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://thenarwhal.ca/fairy-creek-blockade-bc-old-growth-forest-policy/
10. Wilson L. Fairy Creek fight is on says conservation group after injunction served [Internet]. APTN News. 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/fairy-creek-injunction-old-growth-british-columbia/
11. B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old growth forests reveal First Nation split [Internet]. Global News. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://globalnews.ca/news/7758726/b-c-blockades-aimed-at-protecting-old-growth-forests-reveal-first-nation-split/
12. Divide-and-conquer, old growth, and hereditary leadership: inside the Indigenous takes on the Fairy Creek blockades - Capital Daily [Internet]. The Capital. [cited 2021 Apr 25]. Available from: https://capnews.ca/news/indigenous-takes-on-the-fairy-creek-blockades
13. The Indian Act [Internet]. [cited 2021 Apr 30]. Available from: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_indian_act/
14. The Indian Act | CBC News [Internet]. CBC. 2011 [cited 2021 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/background-the-indian-act-1.1056988
15. Opinion | The myth of band councils as First Nations [Internet]. thestar.com. 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 30]. Available from: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/02/24/the-myth-of-band-councils-as-first-nations.html
16. Vaughn Palmer: First Nation gives Horgan political cover as B.C. logging blockade moves toward showdown [Internet]. vancouversun. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-first-nation-gives-horgan-political-cover-as-b-c-logging-blockade-moves-toward-showdown
17. Fairy Creek Blockade [Internet]. Watershed Sentinel. [cited 2021 Apr 18]. Available from: https://watershedsentinel.ca/articles/fairy-creek-blockade/
18. Media Release Statement by Bill Jones – Last Stand for Forests [Internet]. [cited 2021 Apr 24]. Available from: https://laststandforforests.com/news-media/elder-bill-jones-kati-george-jim-respond-to-pacheedaht-request-third-parties-leave-pacheedaht-territory/
19. Pacheedaht First Nation says old-growth activists “not welcome” in Fairy Creek area [Internet]. vancouversun. [cited 2021 Apr 24]. Available from: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/pacheedaht-first-nation-says-old-growth-activists-not-welcome-in-fairy-creek-area
20. Canada warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, report says. BBC News [Internet]. 2019 Apr 3 [cited 2021 Apr 24]; Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47754189