A Cortes Island blockade of Island Timberlands went into its third day Thursday as swelling ranks of environmentalists, residents and their children maintained a human shield against the logging company’s crews and equipment.
Zoe Miles, a member of Wildstands, says, “For more than four years, community members have attempted to work with the company to develop an ecosystem-based approach to forestry. As road-building equipment moves in, the community is now left with no choice but to stand in its path to defend these ecologically significant forests.”
On Tuesday Island Timberlands trucks were stopped at a logging road gate at Basil Creek by two protesters lying on the ground. Company personnel filmed the protesters, likely in preparation for an application for a civil injunction, Miles told the Mirror. On Wednesday, a number of children joined the cause waving placards.
Protester Leah Seltzer says the ranks of the blockaders are swelling daily with the arrival of off-islanders and offers of financial and legal support are coming in.
“People are here because they want to make it known that the industrial forestry model doesn’t work for local communities and it doesn’t work for the province. Island Timberlands will destroy ecologically-sensitive ecosystems and leave nothing beneficial in its wake. We will be left with devastated ecosystems, a contaminated water supply and no long-term jobs. All the benefit is going to people who live far away and who aren’t aware of the cost of their profits to our community and our province.”
Island Timberlands’ Director of Human Resources Mark Leitao says access to “our private property” has been blocked and the company is reviewing its options. He will not say whether those options include seeking an injunction.
“As a result of community feedback we have made significant changes to our logging plans,” Leitao says. “We will log outside the tourist season. We’ve reduced the size of the blocks and changed the configuration of the openings. We plan to retain the veteran old growth trees – which are by government definition 250 year old trees – where it is safe and operationally feasible to do so.”
Activist and Cortes Island land-owner Tzeporah Berman says, “The majority of their logging is traditional clear-cut logging with devastating ecological implications that result in either a change of land use or a dramatically weakened and simplified ecosystem. Cortes resident and Greenpeace co-founder Rex Weyler agrees: “There’s no excuse for industrial-scale logging in these times. Forward looking and economically viable alternatives exist that are based on community health and ecosystem health. Residents have sought Island Timberland’s participation in this kind of forestry model but have been met with disregard.”
Miles says the community protesters hope the blockade does not escalate.