Blockade threat on Cortes

A Cortes Island anti-logging direct action group, is setting the stage for a blockade of industrial logging

“Island Stance,” a Cortes Island anti-logging direct action group, is setting the stage for a blockade of industrial logging by Nanaimo-based Island Timberlands Ltd.

Timberlands has earmarked three areas for logging and road building activities to tentatively start this month.

But Cortes Islanders are up in arms and “sit-ins” and “blockades on public lands” are available tactics in the Island Stance direct action toolbox. The group is a branch of “Wildstands,” a Cortes Island community alliance. News of the proposed logging on the island of 1,000 has attracted about 6,000 signatures to an anti-logging petition and planning is underway to stop Timberlands in its tracks.

The petition demands that Island Timberlands retain all remnants of old growth forest, protect all watersheds and salmonid habitat, respect all the goals of the BC Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory and ban use of clearcut logging methods.

Environmental bloggers have been promoting Cortes as the “birthplace of the green movement, a cradle for Greenpeace in its early days.” They are even bragging that revered Canadian poet and author Margaret Atwood and faded U.S. film noir diva Mia Farrow have “re-tweeted” news of the logging assault on Cortes.

Island Stance has even organized a protesters’ “legal observer” workshop for this weekend. A legal observer trainer from the BC Civil Liberties Association will offer training at the Linnaea Education Centre. A legal observer is defined as “a calm, independent, objective witness of the activities of police and security forces at a blockade or other direct action event.”

Island Stance describes itself as a “community initiative to encourage civic responsibility prior to anticipated industrial-scale logging by Island Timberlands on their private managed forest lands on Cortes Island.” The group’s goal “is to prevent industrial-scale logging by Island Timberlands on Cortes Island while securing options for the purchase of those same lands for the local community.”

Christine Robinson, a contributor to the island’s electronic newspaper Tideline, says Island Timberlands “is closing in on a starting date and nobody is clear on when that will be.

“They certainly were here at the beginning of December and at that time they announced they expected to be here in the first part of 2012.”

With regard to a potential blockade of logging operations, Robinson says “on a public access right-of-way that’s still considered peaceful and legal.”

She added that Island Stance has stated publicly that “Island Timberlands could anticipate that there would be peaceful community response should they arrive to do industrial logging. There are a lot of people beyond Cortes and perhaps even here in the community that may choose to do other actions.”

All efforts to reach Island Timberlands have failed. The company’s automated switchboard does not even recognize some of the company personnel attached to the project such as Operations Planner Wayne French. Its parent company Brookfield Asset Management (BAM) bought the land from Weyerhaeuser in 2005. The Wall Street giant says the Island Timberland endeavor “is focused on growing and harvesting high quality timber and other forest products for a broad customer base primarily located in Asia and North America.”

BAM describes the property as “one of the best sources of large Douglas-fir, hemlock and cedar in North America.”

It says Island Timberlands is the second largest private timberlands holding in B.C. and the second most valuable private timberland estate in Canada.”