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Whistler takes to Highway 99 to protest old-growth logging (PHOTOS)

Around 120 locals showed up to voice their support for the activists working to halt logging operations in Vancouver Island's ancient rainforests
"Cut the lies, not the trees." 

That's the message Whistler Secondary School student Sierra Haziza had for B.C.'s elected officials on Sunday, May 30. 

The president of the high school's Eco Club was one of approximately 120 Whistler locals— and their pets—who gathered around the intersection of Highway 99 and Lorimer Road for a rally on Sunday afternoon. Armed with signs and banners, demonstrators took to Whistler's highway to stand in solidarity with activists calling for the protection of B.C.'s ancient rainforest.

"The government needs to commit to sustainable logging practices," Haziza said. "Obviously, logging is an important resource, but I think that we need to look at how it can be done sustainably so we're not killing those massive old-growth trees that are so important and so diverse." 

The Fairy Creek activists, dubbed the Rainforest Flying Squad, have been working to block a forestry company from logging a section of old-growth trees on southern Vancouver Island since last summer.

"Logging old-growth is such a big issue," Haziza continued. "What they're doing in Fairy Creek hits really close to home, obviously, with what's going on in Cheakamus right now."

Sunday's event in Whistler was the last of three demonstrations that took place across the Sea to Sky during the last weekend of May, with similar events held in Mount Currie on Saturday afternoon and Squamish on Saturday evening

Many of those in attendance on Sunday were members of Whistler's student population. 

"I think it's super important that as students, we voice our concerns. We can't vote yet, so this is really one of our only options," Haziza said. "I think it's really important that we come out here and show what we're passionate about."  

On Vancouver Island, police said 137 people have been arrested at several blockades as of Friday, May 28, since the RCMP began enforcing a BC Supreme Court injunction allowing workers with the Teal-Jones Group to resume logging operations around the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew earlier this month. 

Teal-Jones has said it plans to harvest about 20 hectares at the north ridge of the 1,200-hectare watershed, out of 200 available for harvest.

Activists, however, say very little of the best old-growth forest remains in B.C. and Fairy Creek is the last unprotected, intact old-growth valley on southern Vancouver Island. 

When it comes to some of Whistler's oldest trees, between 30 and 55 per cent of the Cheakamus Community Forest’s old-growth is protected.

For many locals, that doesn’t go far enough. 

Another smaller protest was held last Sunday, May 16, that drew nearly 30 locals to Whistler Olympic Plaza to speak out against the removal of any old-growth trees from the local Community Forest. 

"We’re talking about these old-growth forests and it’s really important that we stand up for them … They are priceless and should not be touched," Tina Pashumati James, who organized the demonstration, told the group.

"We can do better; we should do better.”

- With files from Brandon Barrett and The Canadian Press