Carole Tootill is taking a day or two off at her home in Nanaimo to catch up with daily life after spending a few sleepless nights at the Fairy Creek blockade in Port Renfrew.
In its fifth week, the morale of nearly two dozen people that have tried to stop a B.C. logging company from clear-cutting areas of old-growth forests remains strong.
Tootill is one of several protestors that want the provincial government to step in and stop Surrey-based Teal Jones Group from building roads into Fairy Creek watershed, home to many old-growth yellow cedars.
Toothill said they’ve set up two main blockades, after repositioning their first blockade and hosting a third pop-up one.
“Our biggest concern is that we feel like the Ministry of Forests has ignored us,” said Joshua Wright, one of the protest organizers. “We’re sorting out how to sustain this long term because people are committed. Not everyone at the blockades are unemployed hippies.”
The 17-year-old isn’t on the front lines as he’s based in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Across the Juan de Fuca Strait, he’s kept protesters informed about their next plans since they first stepped foot onto the Fairy Creek logging roads on Aug. 7.
“Being out here blockading is scary,” said Will O’Connell, a Metchosin-based wildfire fighter and teacher.
“We’re afraid of losing a job, a potential lawsuit or aggression from loggers. But I’m more afraid that we’re losing the last of our old-growth forests, and no one is doing anything about it.”
O’Connell further explains in a video posted to social media that the groups of protesters have been successful in turning back machinery from Teal Group, but worry about the logging company coming back later and clearing other parts of the old-growth forest.
The protesters have three demands from the provincial government.
First, they’re asking for the release of the recommendations of B.C.’s Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, which hasn’t been made public since the panel submitted its report in April.
Second, they demand the immediate halt of all old-growth logging across Vancouver Island.
Lastly, they request the province to work with First Nations to build a comprehensive plan for sustainable and restorative second and third growth forestry models.
Dan Hager, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that old-growth tourism has played a vital part in Port Renfrew’s economy. Hagar declined any further comment.
Neither Teal Jones nor the provincial government responded to Black Press Media request for interviews.
– with files from Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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