A group of locals formed through the ongoing blockades at Fairy Creek is monitoring logging activity on the ground in the Sea to Sky.
Essentially a Sea to Sky chapter of the Last Stand for Forests, an activist group that has helped organize the protests in Fairy Creek since last summer, the group is using photography and drone footage to document logging activity in the corridor.
“I feel like people have learned so much at Fairy Creek and are taking that home and want to be proactive at home,” said organizer Emily Kane.
Most recently, the group captured aerial footage of logging taking place near Meager Creek, northwest of Pemberton, and snapped a photo of a large Douglas fir tree that had recently been cut down in the area. (Although the tree appears to be old growth based on its diameter, the group had not at press time confirmed its age.)
Old growth hasn’t been logged commercially in Whistler’s Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) since 2018, and at the height of the Fairy Creek protests, in June, the CCF board announced it was deferring old-growth logging until 2022 as the partners look to alternative revenue sources. Pique was unable to verify who held the forestry licence for the area near Meager Creek where the group captured the footage, but, whether permitted or not, Kane believes it important to keep eyes on the ground to ensure timber harvesting is following the proper guidelines and also highlight the ongoing logging of old-growth throughout B.C.
“I think sometimes there’s the perception that this is happening elsewhere,” Kane noted. “That was one of our main reasons for going up there: we want people to know this is happening right in our backyard and it’s happening right across B.C.”
Each year around 200,000 hectares of forest in B.C. is logged, with about 27 per cent of that coming from old growth, according to the province. Data shows that only about three per cent of B.C.’s remaining old forest supports large trees, and ecologists and conservation groups have for years warned that old-growth trees in areas where trees grow the largest are being cut down at a rate that isn’t sustainable.
Last year, a report by independent scientists, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, found that more than 85 per cent of B.C.’s productive forest sites contain less than 30 per cent of old growth expected naturally, and nearly half of these ecosystems have less than one per cent of the old growth expected there naturally.
“This current status puts biodiversity, ecological integrity and resilience at high risk today,” the report read.
The momentum spurred by Fairy Creek led to a protest held in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza on Saturday, July 23 organized in part by sisters and university students Hailey and Kayla Chutter. The event featured a march through the village, a lineup of speakers that included Whistler’s recent MLA candidate and Green Party chair Jeremy Valeriote, as well as an overnight tree sit-in at Olympic Plaza.
“Adults tell us that we are the generation that will save the world,” said Hailey in a release quoting from her letter to Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy that was read aloud during the event. “I want to live in a province where adults question why they are asking 18-year-olds this, instead of their elected government officials.”
(Hailey could not be reached for comment by press deadline.)