A group of environmentalists who have been blockading access to one of the last remaining stands of old-growth forest on Vancouver Island will soon have to decide whether to stand down or risk jail.
On Thursday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven granted an injunction to logging company Teal-Jones, in response to protesters who have been blocking access to a cut block near Port Renfrew, B.C., since last summer.
The blockaders say the Fairy Creek watershed is the last pristine stand of ancient trees in the area, with some yellow cedars exceeding 1,000 years in age.
Jens Witting with the Sierra Club of B.C. told Global News the order could lay the groundwork for another “war in the woods” showdown between demonstrators and police.
“Fairy Creek is the poster child for these last patches of intact old-growth forest,” Witting said.
“This is another example where a conflict between a company and activists is rising because the B.C. government is not showing the leadership needed.”
In granting the injunction, Verhoeven noted that Teal Jones holds a valid and legal licence to harvest timber in the disputed tract of land.
In its injunction application, Teal-Jones argued the activists were putting hundreds of jobs at risk, cutting off needed fiber to the company’s mills and preventing it form accessing about $10 million worth of timber.
“They have impeded Teal-Cedar’s ability to access valuable resources to which it is legally entitled. The blockades threaten not only Teal-Cedar’s right to harvest timber but also the continued operation of its mills,” the company claimed.
The Fairy Creek dispute has proved a rallying cry for others in the environmental movement, prompting a rally at the B.C. legislature on Saturday, as well as a blockade of the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver that saw six people arrested.
BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau called on the province to take immediate action to preserve the watershed. Furstenau said the government must revoke Teal-Jones’ cutting permits and provide conservation financing to support options to save Fairy Creek.
Asked about the dispute Thursday, which falls within his home riding, Premier John Horgan deferred to Forestry Minister Catrine Conroy.
Conroy said the government respects the right to peaceful protest, but that it expects people to follow the law.
If what blockaders Global News spoke with this winter are to believed, that might be a tough sell.
“Those giant cedars, they might be 2,000 years old,” protester Nicolas Mielle told Global News in February.
“If I get arrested for, what, protecting like the last ancient trees in Vancouver (Island)? Yeah, I will get arrested for that.”