A monumental old-growth yellow cedar tree in the at-risk headwaters of Fairy Creek. Port Renfrew protesters have said the blockade that was launched on Aug. 10 will continue till the government meets their demands. Photo courtesy TJ Watt.

Vancouver Island protesters call B.C.’s response to new old-growth report a ‘diversion’

Port Renfrew blockade continues as protesters want Fairy Creek Watershed included in deferral areas

Protesters in Port Renfrew are “devastated” that the Fairy Creek Watershed was not included in B.C. government’s list of old-growth deferral areas announced last week.

On Sept. 11, after the release of ‘A New Future for Old Forests’ prepared by foresters Al Gorely and Garry Merkel, Forest Minister Doug Donaldson announced that nine forest areas in B.C. will be protected from logging, pending consultation with local Indigenous communities.

Three of these areas– H’Kusam, McKelvie Creek and Clayoquot Sound– are on Vancouver Island.

READ MORE: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

Protesters at the Fairy Creek blockade called the move a “diversion.”

“They’ve included areas that are mostly protected, ” said Saul Arbess, a spokesperson for the protest group at Fairy Creek Watershed.

Despite the recommendation for an immediate response to “ecosystems at very high risk,” Arbess said nothing was done about other areas on Vancouver Island that are under immediate threat, or where active logging is taking place.

In a statement, the protesters highlighted other areas on Southern Vancouver Island under immediate threat where active logging is taking place, including Caycuse, Edinburgh Mountain, Central Walbran, Nahmint Valley.

“All of these areas deserve, and must receive, permanent protection from logging.”

The group also pointed out other intact watersheds on Vancouver Island that are at at imminent risk from new logging and road building such as the West Kauwinch River, and the Zeballos Lake watersheds.

“Fairy Creek has spectacular yellow cedar stands, a highly endangered and underrepresented species in B.C.’s forest inventory. The report calls for further protection of these species, yet the headwaters of Fairy Creek, and several adjacent old growth forests remain slated to be logged. Surely, the last intact watershed in the immense San Juan River drainage deserves a permanently protected designation.”

The group said that the “blockades of the accesses into Fairy Creek will remain in place” until the government defers Fairy Creek and the other contiguous old growth forests from further incursions and permanently protects them from logging.

The Fairy Creek blockade was launched on Aug.10, by a group of ‘forest defenders,’ to prevent Teal Jones Group’s construction crews from building a road to the watershed.

READ MORE :Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

In an e-mail, Donaldson had told Black Press that approximately 50% of Fairy Creek watershed is protected under a Marbled Murrelet Wildlife Habitat Area.

“Our government knows there is more work to do when it comes to protecting old growth forests. That’s why we launched the independent review and engagement into how B.C. manages old growth forests,” said Donaldson.

Following the release of the report last week, the forest minister had also issued a statement suggesting a departure from a”patchwork approach”of management of old-growth forests in B.C.

“We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” he said.

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