Community| 4 min read

Remembering Our Roots: The Old Growth of Southern Vancouver Island

Learn all about the last 2.7% of BC old growth in Fairy Creek: why it’s important, the threat of logging and how to help protect it.
WRITTEN BY Mia McBryde

Let’s begin with an overview of what old-growth forests and watersheds are, and why they are so important to our ecosystem.

What’s an old-growth forest?
Old-growth forests on the coast of British Columbia are made up of trees that are at least 250 years old. These forests are home to incredible biodiversity, are extremely resilient in the face of environmental changes, and are able to sequester carbon to slow climate change.

 

old growth aerial shot

 

What’s a watershed?
A watershed is an area of land where water drains to a central point (a lake, river or stream). Watersheds filter, store and clean water for us, other animal species, and plant species.

What’s Fairy Creek?
Fairy Creek is BC’s last intact old-growth watershed, with rainforest trees that have stood for thousands of years. This area sits on the traditional and unceded territory of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht people.

What’s happening?
In August 2020 peaceful protests began fighting for the protection of the Fairy Creek Watershed. Under the invitation of Elder Bill Jones, over 2,000 people assembled at Fairy Creek, and over the last year this fight for protection has expanded to saving the last 2.7% of productive old-growth forests in British Columbia. Blockades have been set up along logging roads near old-growth forests around Port Renfrew, each stopping the Teal-Jones Group logging company from accessing its cut blocks throughout southwestern Vancouver Island.

 

peaceful protest at fairy creek

 

Why are people protesting?
The BC NDP government created an ‘Old-Growth Strategies Review Report’ and committed to implementing the 14 noted recommendations. This included protecting the remaining old-growth forests, creating more sustainable logging for second and third growth forests and increasing Indigenous involvement and profit-sharing. The NDP government put forward a timeline to begin these recommendations, but since then, logging has continued as usual. In April 2021, the Supreme Court passed an injunction prohibiting blockades and allowing the cut of old-growth trees in at-risk old-growth ecosystems. The government has dismissed the voices of many members of the Pacheedaht Nation, whose sacred land the forestry is occurring on. The promises made to protect old-growth forests in BC and create stronger relationships with Indigenous communities are not being fulfilled.

This injunction is allowing for old-growth clear cut in Fairy Creek Watershed, as well as Caycuse, Bugaboo Creek, Camper Creek, Edinburgh Mountain, Upper Walbran Watershed, and the Central Walbran.

On September 13, 2021, it was ruled that the court injunction, which was set to expire on September 26, would remain in effect temporarily — prohibiting old-growth logging protests and allowing logging of these ancient forests to continue. Since the RCMP started to enforce the injunction in May, roughly 1,000 peaceful protestors have been arrested in the Fairy Creek area. It will be a matter of weeks before the court delivers a final decision on the request for an extension and during this time tensions at the blockades are rising.

 

caycuse before after

 

“I will continue standing for the land until I am dead. I feel like an old-growth tree is worth the same as my life.” – Bill Jones

Why do we need to protect old-growth?
Forests help sustain so much of our ecological world, but old-growth has a particularly important job. Old-growth forests….

  • Foster biodiversity and house many vulnerable and endangered species: Old-growth forests foster a complex ecological system filled with large trees, multiple canopies, rich soil, and are home to rare, threatened, and endangered species. Because of the immense diversity of this ecosystem, old-growth does an incredible job fostering biodiversity and provides food and habitat for many species that are unable to live elsewhere.
  • Protect water systems: Old-growth forests act as water filters, provide water storage, and prevent flooding.
  • Are resilient to wildfires: Older and larger trees absorb water, retain moisture and regulate a forest’s temperature. This means forests are shaded, damp, and less likely to fuel a fire.
  • Are global carbon sinks: The older a tree the greater its potential to sequester carbon and slow climate change. Old-growth forests sequester 2.4 tonnes of carbon per hectare every year.

 

BC aerial of old growth

 

How can I help?

Call and send emails: Contact the following government officials to voice your opposition to the logging taking place at Fairy Creek and lend your support to protestors.

Keep yourself updated: Stay up to date with the following accounts run by groups protesting at the blockades.

Have conversations about Fairy Creek with families, friends and colleagues: Amplify information about Fairy Creek, and encourage others to do what they can to support saving old growth.

Sign petitions: Below are multiple petitions you can sign to show your support for Fairy Creek and protecting our old-growth forests.

 

How can I learn more?

BC Old Growth Forest Information
Fairy Creek Website
Fairy Creek Instagram

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