A friend and I recently visited the logging blockade near Fairy Creek, which exists to, generally and specifically, protest continued old-growth logging in B.C.
Fairy Creek is a tributary of the San Juan River, on unceded Pacheedaht territory. It is the last intact and unlogged valley of the San Juan watershed, an area once famed for big trees, now mostly clearcut. Supporters believe passionately it is time to stop logging the remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island and southwest B.C., and focus on second-growth instead.
The camp is ‘COVID safe’, with social distancing and hand sanitizer. Each morning, volunteers get up at 4 a.m. to staff the blockade, but after the first day or two, there has been little contact with the logging company. In fact, not all forest workers are against the campaign, understanding that blockaders are fully in support of second-growth and value-added logging jobs, and are only against the logging of old-growth.
Talk around the evening campfire was thoughtful, ranging from concern for old-growth, the climate, water and salmon, to concerns about the Pacheedaht First Nation, and what might be the employment opportunities if indeed old-growth logging is stopped. In fact, on Vancouver Island and the SW Mainland, over 90 per cent of the valley bottom, big-treed old-growth, has already been logged; just 2.6 per cent is formally protected in parks. On Vancouver Island alone, 32 soccer fields of old-growth are logged every day, including some of the last old giants. Change will be forced upon the logging industry soon enough, why not make the necessary changes now, and save the last of the irreplaceable wonder that is old-growth?
The old-growth ecosystem is exceptional for its enormous cultural, emotional and spiritual appeal, its vital ecological values, its scientific value and its huge carbon storage. It has been likened to a cathedral, with its soaring height, filtered light and muted colours, a sense of mossy age, the quiet beauty of song, and the sparkle of wild flowers in spring-like light through a stained glass window. Once logged, the damage is irreparable. May as well raze Notre Dame, sell the bricks and try to rebuild. Just as there are colours in the stained glass windows of Notre Dame that cannot be replicated by modern science (colours due to impurities in old processes), so too, there are living connections in old-growth forests that have not yet even been discovered by science, let alone studied.
We stayed for two nights. We marvelled at the beautiful little grotto, complete with waterfall and crystal clear pool, two minutes from camp; we stood in quiet awe at the foot of a giant cedar, and we were up at 4 a.m. one day to staff the blockade. The brilliance of countless stars shone over the deep darkness of the forest, the campfire was soon kindled into flame, and we sat and drank tea, quietly talking until dawn broke and the others slowly awoke and joined us. I am so glad we went.