Valley residents take a stand on old-growth logging

A group of people gathered in front of MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard’s office Wednesday to make their point

A group of around 25 people gathered in front of MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard’s office with signs emblazoned with phrases like “Save Old-Growth Forests.” Many had letters they were hoping to hand deliver to the MLA, expressing their concerns about the destruction of old-growth forests and asking for an immediate moratorium on the logging practice.

The group of concerned citizens came together as part of a province-wide initiative by Sierra Club BC, a provincial environmental advocacy group.

Galen Armstrong with Sierra Club BC helped organize the letter delivery and spoke about the need for change.

“The old-growth forests are an unrenewable resource and the government fully recognizes that and yet they’ve been completely dragging their feet,” said Armstrong. “We know that it’s not going to be much longer that we can have this debate and argument.”

While many communities rely on the forestry industry, Armstrong says the policy needs to be revisited.

“We all use wood and timber products, many communities rely on forestry, but how much longer can we rely on cutting old-growth forests,” he said. “We’re calling to preserve these critical hotspots, for the government to work with Indigenous communities in some of these areas on Vancouver Island but also to come up with a province-wide forest strategy that’s good for all of us.”

The group did not get a chance to hand deliver the letters to Leonard as the door was locked when the group arrived. Some left to mail their letters on their own while others left their letters in a box outside of the door.

Many, including Monica Hofer, expressed their disappointment that Leonard or a representative was not available to speak with them.

“I think they were elected to be our representatives and to listen to our concerns so they should be open,” said Hofer.

Leonard responded to a request for comment later in the afternoon saying she was in a meeting at the time of the protest and elected to keep the office closed during that time to ensure the safety of her staff.

“I recognize the right for people to engage in peaceful protest – there’s absolutely no question about that,” she said. “But given the nature of some of the protests that have been happening around the province recently, I decided to take steps, as have others, to make sure that my staff are safe.”

She says that those with concerns are invited to make an appointment, but adds that she did meet with a similar group of protesters last Saturday and heard their concerns at that time.

As for the government’s work to save old-growth forests, Leonard says the provincial government has taken steps including protecting 1,000 hectares of endangered coastal Douglas fir and ensuring the safety the habitat of marbled murrelets and northern goshawks.

“I can say that I absolutely am proud to be a part of a government that has a concern for the value of old growth and its impacts around biodiversity. We are in the process of refining the old growth strategy,” she said. “I do know they’re updating the forest inventory for Vancouver Island and they’re looking at how they’re monitoring the effectiveness of the best management practices related to protecting legacy.

“We’re definitely taking steps, we’re not turning a blind eye.”

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Some letters were left in a box outside MLA Rona-Rae Leonard’s office on Wednesday morning. Photo by Jolene Rudisuela

Many people who stood outside the MLA’s office held signs expressing their desire for change. Photo by Jolene Rudisuela

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